What makes a wristwatch great? Is it ultra-engineered complication? Ridiculous levels of hand finishing? Rarity? Artful expression? You won’t be surprised to hear, no one has a definitive answer. The attraction inherent to watch collecting is aa varied and deep as the threads of humanity itself. If you were to ask me why I like watches, this Tudor would fit almost non of that criteria. Despite that, I am still bizarrely pulled to this: an ultra-rare iteration from the second generation of Wilsdorf’s other screw-down pusher chronograph. It used to be the Big Block was considered a means to an end; a path toward Rolex. These days, it’s more of an end in and of itself. It’s just the right mix of Rolex aesthetic, collectibility, and value.
Not often discussed, Big Blocks were the Wilsdorf group’s first self-wound chronographs—a good decade ahead of Rolex. To accommodate the rotor, Rolex’s classic Daytona Oyster case needed to get what the kids call ‘thicc’. This is where the Big Block moniker comes from. By contrast to this Big Block, the same-period Cosmograph Daytona is utterly diminutive at just 36mm to the Tudor’s 40mm. The 94300 series introduced the movement while this 79100 updated the design. Just as Rolex differentiated their Daytona references by bezel type, so too did Tudor. The Big Block series 2 was delineated by three bezel types: the 79160 black plastic tachymeter, 79180 steel tachymeter, and this 79170 black 12-hour. This is one of the more aesthetic chronographs under Rolex or Tudor to my eye. As a bonus, one has to hold a relatively deep love of all watches to appreciate it. No one buys a Tudor for its shield/rose at 12 and that’s a good thing. Yet, the appeal of this example runs a little deeper.
Among Tudor Big Blocks, the first (reference 9400 series) are the most highly collected. By the time the second (79100 series) generation was released, Tudor had confidently entered the era of mass production. However, their 79100 series, two variants stand apart as highly collected. They are the silver dial with white subs and this: the true, ultra-rare albino 79160 with a white enamel dial (there is also a one-off prototype with a white dial and pink subs but let’s not get bogged down in details). In terms of non-exotic Big Blocks, this is right up there with the 9400s in low production, beauty, and nuanced differentiation. If you think depth and nuance exists only in watches with coronets or Geneva seals, think again.
In terms of condition, this example is a standout alike. The lug bevels are crisp, all engravings are clear, and the bracelet relatively unmarred. Its movement appears clear of fault. Importantly, that enamel dial is not cracked, with little to no patina. All lume pips are present and a light gold in color, matched through its handset. It comes as a naked watch from a well-regarded Italian retailer.
Find this albino 79160 here from L’ora del Gallo for 9200 USD.