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On March 6, 1946, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf announced his intention to create "a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous." Thus, the Tudor Watch Company was born. Originally produced by Rolex to respond to a growing base of sports watch consumers, Tudor was conceived as a more economic way to buy a quality tool watch. This was achieved by using generic ETA Swiss movements and housing them in Rolex Oyster cases, utilizing Rolex-signed crowns and Rolex crystals. These ETA movements were simple and robust, making them easier to service and locate parts for today than the Rolex equivalents.
In 1952, Tudor launched the Oyster Prince, and it was a resounding success. From the very first Tudor Oyster Princes that rolled off the assembly line in 1952, the model featured two technical innovations that were theretofore exclusive to Rolex: automatic movements and the trademark waterproof Rolex "Oyster" case. The advertising campaign that announced the Oyster Prince's introduction featured men working in harsh, forbidding conditions--miners or construction workers, all with a Tudor Oyster Prince strapped to their wrists.
The Tudor Oyster Prince's reputation for sturdiness and dependability was tested almost immediately. In 1952, the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom organized a scientific expedition to the northernmost reaches of Greenland. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the Longines Greenlander (Ref. 23088) that accompanied this expedition, but the Tudor Oyster Prince, one for each of the thirty crew members.
Captain J.D. Walker of the Expedition was so taken with the performance of his Tudor Oyster Prince that he wrote a letter to Rolex commending them for their superlative product:
Having recently returned to England after thirteen months with the British North Greenland Expedition, I should like to express my extreme admiration for the Rolex Tudor Oyster Prince which I wore on my wrist throughout my tour with the Expedition... Temperatures varied from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, and on many occasions during the thaw period the watch was unavoidably immersed in water... Despite these trials, occasional time signals broadcast from England proved that my Rolex Tudor Prince watch was maintaining a remarkable accuracy. On no occasion did it require to be wound by hand...
Our Prince is one of the earliest references, the Ref. 7909. The Ref. 7909 was launched in 1952, the year of that famous expedition to Greenland, and was issued until 1957. This reference takes for inspiration the "Hillary" Pre-Explorer (Ref. 6350) that accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary to the summit of Mt. Everest (along with, it's rumored, a watch by Smiths).
These early ref. 7909s were powered by a cal. 390, the same movement that powered early Tudor Submariners of the period. Ours is from the later end of the reference's run and contains a robust and reliable ETA movement. At 34mm, it's on the larger end of Tudor Princes, and distinguished by an absolutely delicious black waffle dial that is as unusual as it is beautiful.
Stainless steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding crown). Tudor Ref 7909, Cal. 390 automatic winding movement. Circa 1950s.
Overall Condition: The stainless steel case is in very good condition, showing light signs of wear and use in keeping with its age, including some light scratches on the bezel and several deep tool marks on the back of the lugs, but otherwise shows sharp bevels and no signs of over-polishing. Black waffle dial is in excellent condition, showing a fine even patina. Signed crown; unsigned case back.
Includes one tan Horween shell cordovan strap.