The launch of the Black Bay GMT in 2018 was heralded as smash hit for Tudor, with a ‘family’ launch alongside the release of the Rolex ‘Pepsi’ GMT-Master. Where the Rolex Pepsi bezel was manufactured from the 21st century ceramic, its Tudor stable mate was fitted with a vintage-style aluminium insert that gave the watch a true heritage look. Many headlines celebrated the first GMT watch from Tudor, but in fact this wasn’t the case. During Tudor’s interregnum from the UK and US markets, they were still producing watches for the Far East and European mainland. One such model was the Iconaut – a 43mm beast of a watch with dual time-zone complication. It was this watch that was Tudor’s first GMT model and recently Carl Moody acquired one from a client in virtually unworn condition.
Carl Moody’s recently discovered Iconaut ref 20400
An original Tudor print advert for the Iconaut
The word naut is most commonly used as a suffix. Its most well-know use is probably astronaut or as the Russian’s prefer – cosmonaut. Defined as a traveller or person on a journey in a given environment, over the years we have learnt of the adventures of aeronauts, aquanauts, oceanauts and even gastronauts. Tudor created its own ‘naut’ watches in the Hydronaut, Aeronaut and Iconaut. The Hydronaut replaced the Submariner in the pantheon of dive watches. The Aeronaut and Iconaut were a new chapter and represented Tudor’s first foray into the world of traveller watches, more specifically the dual-time zone complication or GMT.
A Tudor catalogue picture of the Iconaut from a 2008 brochure
In the mid-2000s Tudor were producing watches that were still faithful to the Oyster-based wristwatch that was the Wilsdorf Stable’s staple, but developed into a new silhouette with a profile more akin to the revamped Rolex sports watches, such as the Submariner and GMT-Master. Thicker lugs and increased case sizes were the new recipe, with very often more than a sprinkling of diamonds!
The Tudor Sport ref 20020 with carbon dial and thick lugs
The Iconaut was released as reference 20400 and was both a sports chronograph and a dual time-zone watch. It was housed in a steel case measuring 43mm and was waterproof to a depth of 150 metres. Driven by a modified Valjoux movement, the Tudor calibre 7754, it was the brand’s first multi-functional sports watch. You could dive in it, time your racing car and monitor two time-zones. Perfect for any adventurer!
The most common version of the watch features a striking dial layout with, what I see as, an upside down shark fin at nine o’clock. The within this shark fin is a running seconds hand. The top sub dial is a 30-minute register and at the bottom of the dial an elapsed hours register. Whilst the three sub dials look wildly different in size, it is just the dial design and each of the sub-register hands are the same small size. The centre seconds hand as the stopwatch seconds hand, which also functions for the tachymeter reading. Large, almost ‘exploded’, 24-hour numerals are painted onto the fixed steel bezel. The watches were available with three variation of dial – black, white and grey.
The version that Carl found is a black dial watch that was sold in 2014 in St Kitts in the Caribbean. It retains its original box, papers, booklet and warrantee card.
The Moodys 20400 full-set Iconaut with black dial
There is another dial version, which is a lot less adventurous than the vast majority of examples that were produced. I’ve called these dials the ‘Mono Dials’, but I am unsure if referring to these as ‘rarer’ is actually true, but certainly there are fewer available out there as far as my research indicates.
The ‘Mono Dial’ in black
This really was an era of unusual and short-lived models. Below I have included some other interesting examples that to me are cool and I have no doubt could in the future will be interesting to collectors.