Sunday Morning Showdown: The Tudor Pelagos Provocation — Pelagos Vs. Pelagos 39
This week’s Sunday Morning Showdown is a much-discussed topic that hadn’t been made into a proper match-up until now. But we read your comments, dear Fratelli! Last week, Jorg wrote an article about the best titanium dive watches and selected the recently introduced Tudor Pelagos 39 as one of them. Some of you, however, would have rather seen the Pelagos LHD or even the regular Pelagos on that list. That sparked the debate about which one to choose. But instead of leaving the decision out on the Fratello office floor, we decided to make it into a Sunday Morning Showdown. This time, you guys get to vote for your favorite and settle the matter of which Pelagos is better once and for all.
Tudor has turned the original Pelagos model into a great family of modern dive watches. For a long time, the Pelagos and Pelagos LHD were loners in the ever-growing Tudor collection, but for many watch fans, the Pelagos models are the true face of the brand. They are watches that have their own distinct identity and soul without the influence of big brother Rolex. And Tudor realized that there was a lot more to gain from the Pelagos collection. This is why we saw the introduction of the Pelagos FXD in late 2021. And not too long ago, Tudor added the 39mm version of the Pelagos. It’s a clever move that will attract many fans to the brand’s Pelagos line. But is this newest variant the best, or is the original the king? It’s time to find out!
Previously, on Sunday Morning Showdown…
But before we do, let’s take a look at last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown. And what a remarkable showdown it was! First of all, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph in 18K gold kicked some Patek butt. The Overseas took the win with a spectacular 70% of the votes. It was a result that the betters could have probably made a lot of money from. Most Fratello writers certainly didn’t see it coming! The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712/1R finished scooping up 30% of the votes. But in the comments, we also read that quite a few of you picked “neither one.” I guess it tells us something, first and foremost, about the relevance of these two timepieces. This week’s contestants are definitely more relevant in terms of budget. Whereas last week’s watches are unobtainable for most of us, these two Tudor Pelagos models are more in our ballpark. Now over to Nacho and Jorg!
Jorg: Tudor Pelagos 39
I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible, Nacho. I know I have a tendency to write long articles, and we want to keep this to the point. We also covered the Tudor Pelagos 39 in a previous installment of this series, but going up against the Tudor Ranger felt a bit weird, after all. This week’s match-up is more logical in the sense that we keep it in the family — the Pelagos family, to be more precise. And we’ll leave out the marketing campaign that many found confusing, including Thomas, who mentioned it in the match-up against the Ranger. This time, we’ll focus on what makes this a better watch than the 42mm Pelagos.
The simple answers to that questions are versatility and style. But before I get into these two crucial aspects, let’s drum out some specs. The Pelagos 39 features a 39mm Grade 2 titanium case with a full-titanium bracelet. The case has a slightly bigger bezel at 40mm and is 11.8mm thick with a lug-to-lug of 47mm. It makes the Pelagos 39 substantially easier to wear than its bigger brother, which comes in at 42mm wide, 14.4mm thick, and 50mm from lug to lug. While I can perfectly pull off a watch of that size, honestly, I just don’t want to. As a fully licensed desk diver, I want my Pelagos to be a versatile daily wearer rather than a hardcore dive watch. And that versatility is exactly what this Pelagos 39 offers with its smaller size.
Not the ultimate but the perfect set of specs
While I love the original Pelagos for what it represents in terms of style, I don’t want a chunky 42mm diver with a helium-escape valve. Sure, the Pelagos is Tudor’s line of modern tool watches, and the regular 42mm version is the epitome of the line. But for what I want from a Pelagos, the Pelagos 39 boasts the perfect set of specs. The watch is water resistant to 200 meters, which is way more than I would ever need. The use of lightweight titanium makes the watch very wearable at just 107 grams, which is perfect in various situations. It also comes on a very comfortable titanium bracelet that is fitted with an impressive T-Fit clasp.
Tudor equips the Pelagos 39 with its COSC-certified manufacture caliber MT5400. This is a very capable and accurate automatic movement that is the perfect fit for a watch like this. And besides its great 70-hour power reserve and accuracy of +4/-2 seconds per day, the movement offers another benefit over its bigger brother — the lack of a date function. I simply love seeing the dial design of the Pelagos without a date. It looks so much better with a full set of square and rectangular indices. The layout is supremely symmetrical, and the stark white shapes provide a perfect contrast to the black sunburst dial.
One Pelagos is not like the other
And that’s a dial that we also have to talk about now. I also prefer the dial and bezel of the Pelagos 39 over those of its bigger brother. You see, Nacho, the one big issue that I have always had with the 42mm Pelagos is that it comes across as rather lifeless. The brushed titanium with the matte black dial and the matte black ceramic bezel lacks the sparkle that I want from the Pelagos. While some have accused the new Pelagos 39 of being boring, its overperforming brother is the boring one out of the two for me. And I think Tudor also recognized that the new smaller model needed a little bit of zing added to its overall looks.
When I read that Tudor applied a sunburst texture to the dial and bezel, I was a bit apprehensive. A black sunburst dial can be too shiny and flashy. And a sunburst texture on a bezel inlay too? Well, seeing is believing. As soon as you see the watch in the metal, you immediately realize that the texture adds to the watch’s depth and presence. The finish has great finesse and adds more texture than any kind of loud sunburst feel. I think Tudor hit it out of the park by adding that to the Pelagos 39. It elevates the watch to a piece that’s interesting to wear every single day and from every single angle that you look at it. Speaking of the bezel, from some angles, it looks grayish, like a ghost bezel. This is another visual element that makes the Pelagos 39 the much better daily wearer and my choice over its bigger brother. But I’ll let you explain why that is not the way to go, Nacho.
Nacho: Tudor Pelagos
Thanks, Jorg! You made some pretty good arguments in favor of the hype beacon that is the Pelagos 39, and I can’t say that I wholeheartedly disagree. The only issue is, when you boil it down, the only true advantage is that it has the right size today. But you know what they say: here today, gone tomorrow. And much like the unmentioned abstract that this expression refers to, current taste (in terms of watch size, among other things) is not here to stay. Watches are — or should be — products to last a lifetime, so you have to think with the long term in mind. And let’s face it, hasn’t the 42mm Speedmaster Professional been better than the smaller, compromising Reduced?
Sure, the Pelagos 39 is a good-looking alternative to its older brother, but it falls short in a critical way. I’m referring to the fact that, though the 39 has its fair share of Pelagos DNA, it also must be looked at as a betrayal of the original concept behind the watch. The Pelagos was introduced back in 2015 as the brand’s ultimate dive watch. It took everything that Rolex did so well in the Sea-Dweller and gave it a more toolish, no-nonsense makeover and a fantastic titanium shell. The original Pelagos — especially the black version, which I’ve chosen as the best one to compare to the 39 — is like a brutalist building. Its beauty lies in its unforgiving starkness.
The fact is that this is the watch equivalent of a dead-eyed great white gently floating along the water. It is a picture of calm innocence, which would not fool those who knew what this creature is capable of. And boy, is it capable!
Why compromise when you can have the real deal?
For exactly €300 more, you can upgrade (and I use this word in the strictest sense) from the Pelagos 39 to the Pelagos. Even the name betrays the fact that the Pelagos 39 is just not the original — “39” is the “Diet” where “Pelagos” is “Coke”. And while you may feel differently, if you’re spending over €4,000 on a watch, I think it’s well worth that 7% price hike. Who knows? Your AD may even give you a bigger discount as you buy the older model. Now, I said that the Pelagos is truly an upgrade from the 39, which necessarily implies the opposite — that the Pelagos 39 is a downgrade from the original Pelagos. This is (chronologically speaking) a more accurate way to look at it. Sure, the new model has a size advantage and an enthusiast-pleasing lack of date, but it remains a compromise to the original’s brutal form and world-class functionality.
How, exactly, is the OG Pelagos better than the 39? Well, there are several things I’d like to point out — some technical and others aesthetic. The first thing to mention as a clear technological advantage is the 42mm version’s more than doubled water resistance. With a rating of 500m and a helium escape valve, it truly can take on anything you throw at it. The watch would not be out of place on a commercial diver’s wrist, and its no-nonsense looks only add to that. The other technical advantage is the fact that it’s equipped with the best watch clasp ever made. Sure, T-fit is a great thing, but it quivers in the shadow of the original spring-loaded Tudor bracelet-extension system.
The Tudor Pelagos mic drop
Now, I’ll keep this final section brief. I mentioned some critical aesthetic differences that, to me (and many others), make a world of difference. The first one, which you can see above, is the wonderful rehaut that lines the inside of the dial, hugging the lume blocks that make up the hour markers. This adds so much depth to the dial, and though it’s a subtle detail, it was always one of the things I loved about the original Tudor Pelagos. Did I know this before the new one came out? No; actually, it was only when I placed the new one on my wrist the day after it launched that it dawned on me. Also, I truly don’t mind the date on the Pelagos. It’s one of the best-integrated date windows on a watch, disappearing on the dial like one of the hour markers without disrupting its symmetry.
Finally, there’s the matte finish. In my hands-on article on the Tudor Pelagos 39, I mentioned that I do like the watch but that it almost feels like we’re being told how to feel about it in the marketing of it. Its sunburst finish on both the bezel and dial makes it (whatever this means) more “unisex.” I think, honestly, the brand doubted itself and made a change for the sake of change. Would a matte 39mm Pelagos look too much like the Tudor Subs of the ’60s and ’70s? We may never know. But what I do know is that Tudor got it right the first time, and as the expression goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Maybe you guys agree with me that the 42mm Pelagos certainly didn’t need any fixing. Make sure to vote below!
Time to vote!
There you have it, folks — a battle of the Tudors, with the two titanium titans going toe to toe for the win! Will it be the daily-wear king, the Pelagos 39, that gets your vote? Or are you an uncompromising fan of the original? Make sure to vote for your choice below, and let us know why you picked it in the comments as well. See you next week for another Sunday Morning Showdown!