Tudor Black Bay Review
The Tudor Black Bay is easily one of the most popular dive watches available today, combining great vintage looks, pedigree and excellent finishing. Up until now, however, it was only available in a red and blue bezel version. Both of these are great but a black bezel seems like the obvious place to start, being the more universally accepted design. Tudor has finally answered the call of its fans and released this new Black Bay Black. Is it the best Black Bay yet? How does it compare to the brand's other popular dive watch, the Pelagos? Read on to find out.
Before you read the rest of the review, take a minute to watch our high-definition video of the Pelagos Black Bay here.
To say the Black Bay has been a hit in the dive watch community is something of an understatement. The Black Bay is quite likely the single most popular model in the company's entire portfolio. It's only natural, then, that they would release multiple versions of it to reach the widest audience possible. Today we're looking at the third incarnation, the Black Bay Black.
Tracing the origin of the Black Bay is no easy task. For one thing, the name of the watch was, in a sense, altered for its re-release. You might know it better from the name of its predecessor, the Submariner.
The other reason it's difficult to trace the history of the Black Bay is that although its ancestor is clearly the Submariner, it's really no particular Submariner. Instead, think of the Black Bay as a sort of "Greatest Hits" album of Submariners, combining the iconic traits of the '54 original, the '58 Big Crown and '69 Snowflake. It's also truer to its ancestry than its contemporary, the Pelagos, utilizing the proven and affordable 2824 as opposed to the in-house MT-5612.
Most onlookers may be tempted to say that the dial descends from the Snowflake whilst the case and bezel come from the original Tudor Submariner, but that'd be a mistake. Like the rest of the watch, it's a combination of various elements.
Nothing illustrates this as well as a look at the hour and minute markers. The hour markers, for instance, include triangles, rectangles and circles, just like the '54 model, while the original Snowflake used squares instead of circles. The gold painted minute track around the dial is also highly reminiscent of the first Tudor Submariner, being connected on the outside by a painted circle. In the Snowflake, conversely, those ticks would not be attached to a circle but come straight from the outer perimeter of the dial.
From this angle you can appreciate the applied markers, which contain the lume, and you can also see the subtle curvature to the dial.
The hands closely resemble the Snowflake and are the components for which it was named. The Snowflake hands are known by their extremely sharp geometry, mainly the addition of a luminescent diamond shape near the end of the hour and seconds hands. This approach helped divers distinguish the hands more easily underwater when compared to the original's, which shared a very similar shape for both hour and minute hands.
The Black Bay Black shares a lot in common with the red Black Bay in terms of dial, namely the gold accents, although I think it's fair to say that the dial of the black and red Black Bays are essentially identical. This is, however, not true of the blue model, which lacks the gold writing and accents in favor of steel ones.
The writing itself, as well as the choice of gold accents, probably has to do with the original '54 Submariner which was quite close. Notice too the use of Tudor's older logo, the rose, as opposed to their more modern shield, as was the case in the '54 model but not the Snowflake.
The shield is also used on its brother, the Pelagos, quite succinctly illustrating the difference between a contemporary and vintage model within the same company. Another important distinction between this and the Pelagos is the lack of a date on the Black Bay. This can be a make or break feature for many collectors, but while I certainly don't object to a date on dive watches, I don't necessarily see the need for them either. Personally, I'm glad they chose to leave the date off of this model to keep it as focused as possible.
The dial itself is ever so slightly domed and completely matte black. Sans the gold accents, it's all business, although I could do without the "ROTOR SELF-WINDING" text. That said, it's not out of place here, unlike some other watches, because it does go well with the vintage charm.
Finally, we reach the star of any diver's dial, the lume. As usual, the color and intensity of the lume has not been altered in any way, either via digital enhancement or extremely long exposure times, so this should roughly be what your eyes see in real life. The lume is, as you'd expect of a high-quality diver like this, excellent, with a very bright application of green lume throughout. Also notice the functionality of it, namely that the hands are all very easy to distinguish. That's a feature it shares with its brother, the Pelagos, although the Pelagos does receive more extensive lume on the bezel.
As is so often the situation with divers, the case is where the real story begins. This is even more true for the new Black Bay, however.
The new black bezel is, oddly enough, the one most faithful to the original 1954 model, making it an unusual decision to come out with last. Still, what a bezel it is. In terms of appearance, it's my favorite of the three. I especially love the red accent at the top. The action of the unidirectional bezel is excellent and quite similar to the Pelagos, although I think a bit quieter. The effort is just right and there is almost no play between stops.
The case is remarkably similar to the 1954 model, with the exception of the crown which we'll get to a little later. Unfortunately, I'm relegated to comparing it to photos of the original, but to my eye, the design is virtually identical.
The lugs are attached to the more conventional Black Bay bracelet which hugs the case. I prefer this bracelet, but those who want their Black Bay to more closely resemble the '54 model or the Only Watch edition can order the Ranger bracelet separately.
The case is 41mm, roughly an ideal size for a dive watch today and right within my personal preferences as well. That makes it about 1mm smaller than the Pelagos, but this is a difference that is unlikely to be meaningful when choosing between them.
The watch is just under 13mm thick, 12.7 or 12.8mm depending on who you ask, which some reviewers have found a bit much. Personally, I don't find it particularly thick at all for a rugged watch like this, especially when considering the box crystal.
The crown, taken from the '58 Submariner "Big Crown", is fantastic. I love the large anodized aluminum tube and the very wide crown is extremely easy to unscrew and set.
The crown is also signed with the Tudor rose, another mark that helps distinguish it from the more modern Pelagos which bears a shield. I like that it's ever so slightly recessed, a completely unnecessary flourish that shows attention to detail.
The case back completes the package, securing the watch for 200 meters of water resistance. No sapphire back here, and given that the in-house Pelagos still didn't get a display back, I'd wager that the Black Bay is unlikely to ever gain one. Diver traditionalists rejoice.
No review would be complete without the obligatory ruler shots.
It's worth a moment to discuss the movement in the Black Bay, the Tudor 2824. What differentiates the Tudor 2824 from the ETA 2824? I'll get to that in a second, but a couple of points are worth making. First, Tudor feels no need to disguise their ETA movements like most other companies. The precise movement used is easily found on their website, so I appreciate that there are no smoke and mirrors antics with the brand and also that they're very pleased with the ETA movements they use. I have no idea if it's luck of the draw or not, but the Black Bay that I've reviewed here is about -0.5 seconds over a 24-hour period. You can't take too much from a single sample, but the point is that the 2824 is a time tested capable movement and the mere fact that this doesn't have the MT-5612 from the Pelagos needn't be lamented.
Now, is the Tudor 2824 just an ETA 2824 by another name? No, not really. Unfortunately, I can't actually see the movement in the watch to do a thorough analysis, but judging from Tudor's own photos and photos I've been able to find elsewhere, I see two significant differences. The Incabloc shock protection has been replaced by Kif. No surprise there, Rolex has used Kif shocks for ages, although it's unclear to me if this will make any performance difference. Second, the ETA regulation system has been replaced by what appears to be a Triovis fine adjustment mechanism. That's actually a pretty radical revision to a movement and probably required the production of several components for this specific purpose. I'll save the discussion of regulating mechanisms for another day, but suffice it to say that the Triovis is favored by a number of respected companies like Girard Perregaux and Nomos, for instance.
I know many fans were hoping to see the release of the Tudor in-house movement in this new iteration, but I think some perspective is in order. First off, the watch already has a high-quality, modified ETA movement inside it. Second, it's priced substantially lower than it might otherwise be if it had the new movement, although I will admit that it's impressive that Tudor kept the price of the Pelagos as low as it did in that transition. What does this mean for the future of the Black Bay? Here I can only offer my speculation. I find it improbable that a company would bother introducing a new model right before overhauling the line with in-house movements, although it's not impossible. This coupled with other facts, like Tudor expressly saying that they don't intend for the Black Bay to get their in-house movement in the near future, as well as some nice product differentiation bonuses to using two different movements between the Black Bay and Pelagos, leads me to believe that an in-house variant is not on the horizon. But that said, I'm not an insider. I'm not privy to what goes on inside the boardroom of Tudor or any other watch company, so this is merely my personal analysis of the situation.
The Tudor Black Bay "Black" is going to capture the attention of many a vintage dive watch fan, and for good reason. The perplexing question is why wait so long to release it? Well, I think I may know the answer. I suspect that initially red and blue bezels were released in order to increase differentiation from the black-only Pelagos. However, probably not coincidentally, starting this year a blue Pelagos became available, so they were perhaps less concerned that an all-black Black Bay could cut into Pelagos sales. Now you get your choice of black or blue (plus red for the Black Bay) from either model.
So the differences are pretty clear: relative to the red model, the change is pretty strictly limited to the switch to a black bezel with red accents and the crown tube is now matching black as well. Relative to the blue interpretation, those changes are also found, as well as a switch to gold dial accents instead of silver. The question is, which is the best? I'm a bit torn myself. I love this black bezel and its subtle red accent, but I also prefer the silver markers and hands of the blue model. Truthfully, for my money, it's about as close to a tie as you can get. Forced to make a decision, I suppose I'd go with the blue Black Bay, but not without a lot of consideration. After all, if it's not already obvious from the Timeless limited edition Nomos watches, I'm a pretty big fan of blue.
Ultimately, the Black Bay Black is a very good diver, particularly for fans of vintage styled watches. This one hits all the right notes and has a ton of great heritage behind it, basically merging Tudor's favorite elements of all of their historic Submariner models. None of the three Black Bays, I think, is as successful at doing that as this black bezel model, which most closely resembles the 1954 Submariner. If you like how it looks, I'd definitely make it a serious consideration for your next dive watch.