Let Me Address That: The Poor Man’s Rolex — Revisiting The Tudor Black Bay Pro
In April of this year, I asked myself if the Tudor Black Bay Pro was a sort of “poor man’s Rolex,” exactly as Hans Wilsdorf once intended. Wilsdorf created Tudor as a watch brand that would offer Rolex quality and service at a lower price point — more affordable timepieces that would appeal to a larger audience. The new Black Bay Pro, I argued, was like a vintage Tudor Oyster Prince; it looked like a Rolex, was just as qualitative as a Rolex, but it didn’t cost as much as a Rolex. The discussion in the comments saw the denial of any resemblance of the Black Bay Pro to the Explorer II 1655 “Freccione,” but was also very much about my use of the idiom “poor man’s Rolex.” Let me address that.
Let’s first take a look at the expression that I used in my article about the Tudor Black Bay Pro earlier this year. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the idiom “poor man’s” can refer to either a person or an object. In the case of an object, it is “used to refer to something that is like something else but not as expensive.” The example that the dictionary provides is, “Pewter is the poor man’s silver.” I want to concentrate on the words “like something else, but not as expensive.” The Tudor Black Bay Pro is like an Explorer II 1655, and because of that, I used the expression. I used it as a polite euphemism, just as many other people do. But some took offense. Why? Is it because the term “poor” is now politically charged? Or is it because the poor can’t afford a Rolex, but a Tudor is also a far out-of-reach luxury watch for the happy few?
Revisiting the Tudor Black Bay Pro — Who are you calling poor?
When people read or hear the word “poor,” their brains start to heat up, and so do emotions. And when you, like Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the prime minister of Bangladesh, think that “poverty is the root of all evil,” I get the agitation. The World Bank estimates that around 685 million people — 8.5% of our planet’s population — could be extremely poor by the end of 2022. And the World Bank signals that poverty is declining at a very slow rate of only 2% per year.
What you also see is that the degree of inequality in the distribution of income/wealth saw sustained growth over the last two centuries. The Gini coefficient that measures income distribution — the higher the number, the greater the gap between the incomes of a country’s richest and poorest people — shows that Nordic and Central Eastern European countries score a low number and that African countries dominate the top 10 spots with high numbers.
Some numbers from the USA
What is also interesting is that poverty is a growing issue in the United States. In the US, an estimated 12.3–17.8% of the country’s population lives below the poverty level. These are people who live a paycheck-to-paycheck life without sick days, pension, or health insurance. According to Bloomberg, in 2021, the top 1% of US earners owned a record 27% of the total wealth. That means that the ultrarich 1% held more wealth than the nation’s entire middle class.
Meanings of the word “poor”
After looking at poverty, it is worth taking a look at the meanings of the word “poor” itself. The word has multiple meanings. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, poor refers to a lack of money, financial means, and material possessions. However, the word also describes the quality or value of something. Did your teacher ever grade your work as poor? The word also means inadequate and small in worth, as in, “That was a poor performance from the Dutch football team.” And “you poor thing” is always a phrase that we say out of pity, never out of admiration.
Do all the different meanings and the context mean that using the word poor in an expression like “poor man’s Rolex” makes it offensive? Well, knowing all this does make it easier to understand why some considered my use of it inappropriate or offensive. And the trouble with offending someone is that you can do that without meaning to. Offense is often taken when none is offered. It’s in the brain of the taker whether the giver intends to be offensive or not. Some say that being offended is a choice. Allow me to quote former Mormon leader Brigham Young, who said, “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”
“Freccione” vs. Black Bay Pro
When you ask if a poor person could afford the new Black Bay Pro with a starting price of €3,480, the answer is very obviously “no.” The watch is a luxury product with a price befitting a luxury product. Yes, a Tudor GMT watch is less than half the price of a Rolex with that same function. Therefore, it follows Wilsdorf’s original philosophy. Still, there’s no doubt that acquiring a Black Bay Pro requires serious funds.
When looking at the meaning of the word “poor” in terms of performance, stating that the Tudor Black Bay Pro is a poor man’s Rolex Explorer II 1655 “Freccione” does make sense. I wrote it before, and I will write it again: the similarities between the two watches exist because, as the Tudor execs during Watches and Wonders 2022 told me, the designer of the watch used the “Freccione” for inspiration. They also explained that they created this GMT watch because the legendary Explorer II 1655 of yesteryear is unreachable for a large majority of people — find them on Chrono24 starting for around €25K.
In retrospect, should I have used the term “the poor man’s Rolex”?
The resemblance between the Rolex and the Tudor leads me to state that the design of the Tudor is not original. In this light, you could label the design strategy poor. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Black Bay Pro is a good-looking watch. But I keep seeing the source of inspiration, no matter how hard I try not to. Still, that’s nothing new. Many (famous) Tudor watches of the past were Rolex lookalikes with different names on the dials. So, should I or shouldn’t I have used the term “poor man’s Rolex”? Well, it was never my intention to money shame anyone. If I did, it was unintentional. But as I wrote before, offense is in the brain of the taker, whether the giver intends to be offensive or not.
So let me leave you with something that might offend you. A “poor man’s Oyster” is not a mussel, it’s a Tudor. There’s great wisdom to be found in this expression. Just think about it. Mussels are budget versions of oysters. They offer most of the taste for a fraction of the cost of an oyster. The Tudor Black Bay Pro sure is a tasty mussel.
Find and follow me at Lex Stolk • Instagram.