By Patrick Lukow
When Tudor reentered the US market in the summer of 2013, I was less than impressed. Unfortunately, I knew little about the brand or the great things they had in store for us. The cloud that hovered over the brand was their parent company, Rolex, which I have little affection for.
Over the past eight years Tudor has put forward some extremely compelling offerings. Several of their collections over the past years have had their moment in the sun, but none have been as compelling as the Black Bay. Offered in a variety of case materials (ceramic, stainless, gold, silver, bronze) sizes (32- 43mm) and complications (time only, gmt and chrono). I want to focus specifically on the new Tudor Black Bay chrono and the space that this piece has come to occupy not only in my own collection, but from what I can tell, the watch community in general.
When the new Black Bay chrono was announced earlier this year I instantly knew I had to have one to the extent I went to my local AD three times until I finally was able to buy one after a client missed their appointment to secure the watch.
The three-piece leather bund strap the watch comes on has a rustic, old school feel to it. However, to me, the strap feels out of place on this watch. A strap is one of our first tangible interfaces with a watch which will guide our experience with it. We will judge a watch by how comfortably it wears, and how what secures it to our wrist helps the watch serve its purpose. As a 200m dive watch a leather bund style strap seems to just be out of place on this. Thankfully, I also own a Tudor Heritage chrono on a steel bracelet and was easily able to make the swap to the bracelet (which in my opinion is of Rolex quality, if not better).
The next thing (which was impossible to miss) that I noticed was that gorgeous silvery cream-colored dial. The dash of red at 6 o’clock noting the depth rating and the red tipped chrono seconds hand provide a welcome pop of color on this monochromatic pallet. The black sub dials provide the full “panda” experience. Thankfully Tudor elected to forego any texturing on the sub dials which never sat particularly well with me. This beautiful dial is rimmed by a (totally useless) tachymeter bezel, an odd choice for a diving watch, in black aluminum. To cap it all off a wonderfully transparent sapphire crystal that is easy to forget is even there completes the package.
The movement is a serious upgrade from previous offering from Tudor, many of which using base ETA movements with Dubois Depraz modules on top. Although not quite in house, its good enough for this sports fan. Through a surprising collaboration with Breitling, Tudor now has access to a modified version of the B01 chronograph movement, albeit with less emphasis on decoration and more on overall specs. Tudor has upgraded the standard hairspring to one of silicon and added a variable inertia balance, all in the pursuit of chronometric perfection. This movement sports a column wheel to control chronograph functions and a vertical clutch to ensure smooth start and stop motion on the chrono seconds.
The case that houses all this goodness is 41mm in stainless steel. For this style of watch, I have no issue that the case back is solid, speaking for to the function of the watch as a true diving tool. The pushers for the chronograph are screwed down to get every inch of water resistance the case can offer. I also appreciate that the case back, for the exception of text around the periphery, is brushed and left without any inscriptions or engravings (they have gotten a little out of control in my opinion). As a chronograph lover, screw down pushers are something I struggle with, but in this execution find totally appropriate and welcome. The chronograph provides a satisfying amount of feedback when either starting, stopping or resetting the movement.
Tudor seems to riding a wave momentum with success after success with the Black Bay line. They are existing in a rare moment in time, backed by the clout of Rolex, and the seeming unwillingness of Rolex to increase production to match market demand or at least quench the publics thirst. Good luck walking into any Rolex boutique and finding anything other than a Cellini or a 28mm ladies Datejust. This offers Tudor the unique opportunity to capitalize on the ever-growing appetite for stainless steel sports watches, in particular chronographs. Many moons ago the Daytona was not the unobtainable piece of luxury that is it today. At one point it was so unpopular dealers would not buy them. The Daytona was a function driven, every day sports watch, using outsourced movements for the discerning middle class. If you wanted one and had the means, you simply went and purchased one. Not so much the same story today.
This is the realm that Tudor has come to occupy on multiple fronts with the Black Bay collection. Want a Submariner? Good luck finding one at an AD or anything less than 30% over retail on the grey market. A Black Bay on the other hand can be had in spades. Now that these are also offering “in house” or proprietary movements, it makes the argument even more compelling. 70+ hour power reserves for long weekends unwinding away, silicon hair springs provide additional anti magnetic resistance, a must for the modern world, all backed by a five-year warranty to boot!
The Black Bay has come to definite Tudor much in the way the Daytona and Submariner has for Rolex. It is a go anywhere, do anything, kind of watch that feels at home at your desk, on a date or at the beach. Tudor has a real hit on their hands and I believe we have yet to see the ceiling for their demand.