Review: Tudor Fastrider Black Shield
If there’s one thing that whets my appetite for spending money, it’s a bargain, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring an experience that might ordinarily be out of reach into the realms of the average spender. The Tudor Fastrider Black Shield is one of those bargains. Let’s take a look.
Why Is It Cheap?
The early part of the new millennium was a very interesting time for Tudor. The brand had been in stasis for quite some time, Rolex’s underachieving sibling that could quite simply never match the abilities of its bigger brother. There was rumour of it going away completely, and it kind of did after the horrible reception of its Hydranaut, Iconaut and Aeronaut series, which were, to be quite frank, odd watches.
So Tudor went away for ten years to sit in a hole and think about what to do, and it came to a realisation: nobody was buying its watches because, one, they looked like the work of Dr. Frankenstein, and two, nobody knew who in the living cripes Tudor even was. These two things had to be addressed.
Because the thing is, Tudor is a great watchmaker with proper heritage. It’s not a rebirth of an old name by some money-hungry investor, it’s a long-serving Captain Darling to Rolex’s General Melchett. When a country’s Navy came cap in hand to Rolex asking for a discount because it was either watches or new breathing apparatus and they couldn’t afford both, Rolex rather charitably sold its watches at a cheaper price with a more affordable movement inside—and that watch was called a Tudor.
Even the name carries a legacy, not just because of the infamous King who had a habit of misplacing his wives, but because Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf was a complete and utter Anglophile. He liked all things English, I mean, for the avoidance of doubt.
So from within its hole of solitude, Tudor realised that its heritage was what it needed to leverage in order to get people buying once again, and so that’s what it did with the unsubtly titled Heritage Chronograph. That way it could invoke trust and passion in its customer base and they would once again clamour to buy the new stuff, like the 2013 Fastrider Black Shield.
Silly Tudor. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t quite work like that. The Heritage Chronograph was a fantastic success, spawning the whole Heritage series and the infinitely popular Black Bay, but when it came to new stuff like the North Flag and the Fastrider Black Shield, the buying public still very much had cold feet, and both models were discontinued.
Why? Well, for one, the name Fastrider Black Shield is awful. It sounds like a knock-off Transformers character for a start. It evokes visions of dated perfume adverts with grizzly men riding around on motorcycles looking way too handsome for my fragile ego. Problem is, that’s exactly the kind of thing they were going for because, one, the watch industry seems to be one of the very few still making those kinds of adverts, and two, that’s exactly how they advertised it. It was a partnership with Ducati and it was exactly as cringe as you’re imagining.
The second reason it failed is quite simply because the world wasn’t ready for it, just like they weren’t the North Flag. Back then, for reasons we’ll explore in a moment, it was just a bit too avant-garde when all the public wanted was to buy something that looked like an old Rolex from a company that used to make watches out of old Rolex. Perhaps it might have stood a better chance today, but judging by the hefty focus on heritage and the limited number of images I see of the Pelagos, probably not. Tudor has its thing now and it’s sticking to it. The Fastrider Black Shield, though—should you get one?
Why Is It Good?
You have to be careful with bargains. My wife, when left unattended, has a habit of purchasing things I never knew existed let alone needed simply because they were on offer. Two fridge ionisers for the price of one! Half price on a lawn massager! Deep discounts on light bulb warmers! According to her, that’s all money saved.
The same is true of watches. You see a watch that would never ordinarily pique your interest, but its affordable price somehow turns your attention. Hey look, something I can have now. This is one of the cardinal sins of watch purchasing and must be avoided. It is easily confused with the genuine revelation of the newly discovered bargain. Which camp does the Fastrider Black Shield come under?
For starters, the price sits it firmly in line with a new Black Bay Fifty-Eight, so even by Tudor’s standards, that’s a chronograph for three-hander money. The ETA 7753 movement means it can’t sit toe-to-toe with the latest Tudor chronographs that borrow Breitling’s in-house B01, but between you and me, I’m not sure how much that really matters. Gazebo, gazahbo.
In terms of looks, it’s basically a beefier, sportier Rolex Daytona, and that’s no surprise since Tudor has been making beefier, sportier Rolex Daytonas since it was in diapers. At 42mm across and 14.5mm thick, it’s no dress watch, and the larger size was probably quite off-putting to many potential buyers—especially on paper.
The reality is that, because this watch is stealthier than a blackbird hiding in a B-2 parked in the shade, the size shrinks down considerably. It’s true; black really is slimming, and for the Fastrider Black Shield, Tudor didn’t cheap out. That’s not chip-magnet PVD coating you see here. It’s full ceramic, just like the £10,000 Omega Dark Side Of The Moon.
Alright, so Tudor didn’t go the whole hog and make everything out of ceramic, the crown and pushers PVD’d steel, but still, a fully ceramic case for the price of a Black Bay 58 seems unreal. It has 150m of water-resistance too and a rubber strap so you can actually test that out.
It doesn’t even suffer from the awkward issue many bargain watches face: it’s not ugly. So often I’ll see something incredible like a Breguet with a lower price than expected and my mind fills with the excitement of owning a watch from one of the greatest watchmakers to have ever existed—but then my eyes slowly talk me out of it. In this case, the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield is a handsome thing.
It’s contemporary, but not overtly so. It doesn’t scream modern for modern’s sake. It’s just simply appointed but a little sharper here and there. If I were to nit-pick it could do without the little round date porthole—although at least that’s been executed as subtly as possible—and the list of branding at the top looks a little like a foreclosure, but those are really my only complaints, and they’re pretty small. Beyond that, it’s just a great watch at a price you have to double-take on.
What itches my brain the most is just how favourably this compares to industry benchmark and bigger brother, the Rolex Daytona. Aside from the brand kudos and all the trappings that come with it, I don’t see any reason this would be considered an inferior watch. Different, sure, but worse? Given the benefits you get with it, some might even say that it’s better.
What do you think of the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield? Did you even know it existed? Should Tudor revive it, and if they did, should they change it? Do you wish I’d never mentioned it because you were hoping to take advantage of the price and now you’re worried it’ll go up in value? If you are, don’t panic. No one listens to me anyway.
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