I was a latecomer to the Tudor camp, knowing little about the brand until it was relaunched in 2010. The first of the "new" Tudors to really catch my eye was Baselworld's 2012 "Rose" logo Black Bay, but dragging my heels, I missed out on the what would turn out to be a limited opportunity. I finally took the plunge when I came across the most awesome Black Bay Bronze - Bucherer Blue Editions! I'd been enjoying the heck out of my "5B" for roughly nine months when Baselworld 2018 rolled around and surprised us all with the Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT... !
click-the-pics for hi-res goodness
I'll have a diet Pepsi, please...
Baselworld 2018 - wow, what a showing for Rolex and Tudor, both (re-)introducing the GMT with its iconic bi-colored bezel! I recall my eyeballs shifting from left to right at side-by-side photos on the 'Net of the two. There's no question that the roots of this GMT design belong to Rolex and their latest n greatest GMT-Master II is impressive kit. Known as the Pepsi due to the red-blue bezel combo, the latest incarnation of the GMT-Master differs from Tudor's "diet Pepsi" (or Pepsi Light) in several ways. The most immediate differences include the Cerachrom bezel, the iconic cyclops, submariner-styled crown guards and their "jubilee" bracelet. Naturally, both are powered by their respective in-house movements.
As for Tudor's GMT, the obvious traits are the snowflake hands, the aluminum bezel as well as the lack of a cyclops and now-standard BB case. While the snowflake hands are the most notable difference, the other big difference imo is the color-gradient of Tudor's matte al. bezel vs. the GMT-II's high-gloss Cerachrom. Finally, the Tudor GMT comes with their "rivet" bracelet which looks similar to Rolex's Oyster bracelet. The Jubilee has a very unique look but it's not everyone's first choice. There's of course the difference in price tags and for many of us, this alone can be a deciding factor... .
I would have absolutely no problem owning both, but I opted for Tudor's interpretation because it is an own creation and not an update to a long line of GMT-Masters (albeit a major update, to be sure). I also prefer the colors produced by the matte-finish bezel over the ultra-glossy effect of the Cerachrom. And who here doesn't like snowflakes...
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT / UTC / Zulu Time)
The Rolex GMT-Master line started out with the 6542, introduced in 1954. One story suggests that Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) needed a watch capable of tracking dual time-zones (or more accurately, the local as well as the actual GMT time, requiring the use of the 24hr format) for their pilots and Rolex responded with the GMT-Master. The other story is that Rolex released the 6542 and Pan Am officially adopted it as standard equipment for their (intercontinental?) pilots. In any event, I believe Rolex was the first to introduce such a complication using an additional hand to track GMT*. The 6542 came with a dual-colored bezel where red represented A.M (00:00-11:59) and blue represented P.M. (12:00-23:59).
One very important point to make is that with the initial GMT-Masters, there was no way of adjusting the hour and GMT hands separately!* Hence, the bi-directional bezel was used to set the GMT or "reference" (home) time. The 1982 GMT-Master II (16760) represented a major update and the upgrade to the 3085 movement now allowed the independent setting of the hour hand, providing for fast time-zone changes without interfering with the minutes & seconds. This allows the watch to maintain continuous operation without the need to reset it. This update also meant the rotating bezel was no longer a necessity, but Rolex chose to keep it. This essentially now allowed the GMT-Master II to track three time zones; Local Time with the main hands, a 2nd time with the 24hr hand and a third using the bi-directional bezel. In contrast, Rolex's (1971) Explorer II uses an additional hand and fixed 24hr-graduated bezel to track a second time zone.
There are of course several solutions* to represent a second time zone (using a single movement). The GMT-Master II's solution and iterations used by a few other watch manufactures is probably my favorite thanks to the quick-hour-hand setting. At home, you set both to the same hour. On the way to your destination, you quick-set the hour hand. If you cross midnight, it will automatically change the date. The system works as well in reverse, so if you fly into the prior day, the date will back up a day. My PAM 233 also uses the quick-set solution, but as it is based on a 12hr scale, it uses a separate "AM/PM" indicator. Considering not every watch can or should have a graduated bezel, I prefer this alternative solution to an additional 24hr scale taking up real estate on the dial. There are also the classic "dual-time" watches like my Chronoswiss Tora which present the second time-zone in a 24hr sub-dial.
*Glycine's 1953 "AM/PM" Airman could also track two time zones in GMT format but did so by using a 24hr scale on both the dial and bidirectional bezel. Keeping both in the 24hr scale meant it did not require any additional gearing.
Note that the GMT complication is not the same as a "world time" complication (first appearing in 1937 in wristwatch format) which is beyond the scope of this post.
Although not a GMT watch, Patek Philippe's 2597 (~1959) had a quick-set-hour hand mechanism which allowed "jet setters" to move the hour hand back and forth as necessary.
Lastly, the Airline industry switched from using the GMT "term" to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in the early 1970s.
Black Bay GMT & the MT5652
Given that this post is about the Black Bay GMT, I've seemingly taken up a lot of your time writing about Rolex's GMT. The reason is simple; Tudor has no historical GMT reference and the BB GMT is a first for them. I did summarize key milestones in Tudor's history in my "5B" pictorial but now I'd rather spend the time praising their amazing in-house GMT movement, the MT5652. As the dial proclaims, this is indeed a chronometer! My sample has achieved an average ranging between +0~2s/d. This is Rolex "Superlative" chronometer territory at Tudor pricing... wow. My 5B (MT5601) is also impressive running around +2~3s/d so I have to hand it to Tudor; their in-house movements are superb at any price range but all the more so given they are priced just above their former ETA-equipped brethren.
Both my BBs (as well as all BB divers & chrono) have a PR of 70hrs as well as 200m depth ratings. The quality of the dial, hands & markers easily match those from Rolex (given that the surrounds are probably not white gold). This goes for both of my BBs so I have to say I'm quite impressed. When paying for a Rolex, one tends to expect such quality but it's refreshing to know that we can expect the same from Tudor.
Regarding the dexterity and reliability of Tudor's in-house movements; only time will tell as it's much too early. I'm certain though that Rolex does share design concepts with Tudor given the the one owns the other and based on that alone, I'm fairly confident their movements will pass the test of time. And yes, even given the dreaded date-wheel-gate...
Anyone who follows Tudor regularly on this forum (or FB or IG for that matter) will certainly have heard of the date-wheel issue. I also had the "pleasure" of being affected by it. Simply put, an alarming number of BB GMTs are plagued with a movement problem that causes the date-wheel to either get caught between a date change, or actually jump past a day or even both! There are a few theories circling the WIS-block; the first and most popular is that one or more components of the date-wheel mechanism were over-lubricated. The second and less-popular theory is that one or more components of the date-wheel mechanism are less than optimal (or susceptible to lubrication) and need to be replaced with updated parts. I really have no clue. I have outlined the problem-resolution below if you're interested. Despite this issue and despite the fact that it affected my own watch, I still feel very confident about Tudor's in-house work and wouldn't hesitate to add another to my stable (and with BaselWorld 2019 just around the corner... who knows!)
I haven't said much about the case because for the most part, it follows the proven BB formula in use since the BB's intro in 2012. There is one small but very much appreciated change; the beveled lower edges of the case's profile. One complaint often cited about the BB is the thick case. I guess this largely depends on both your taste and the watch(es) you are most likely going to compare the BB to. The complaint comes largely from Submariner owners and indeed, the Sub is sleek in comparison to the BB... but one can come to the same conclusion when comparing the Sub to many contemporary divers, including its cousin the Sea Dweller. As an SD owner, I have no issue with the BB's profile. I do however believe this small tweak to the GMT's case does make a difference, at least optically, if not physically. It's the simple fact that the skin of our wrists will "rise up" slightly to meet the profile's edge, even if the case center is slightly deeper. A minor, but nice update. I bet it will be added to other BBs going forwards.
Summing the BB GMT up...
I've never owned any of the Rolex GMT-Masters but the very first "Pepsi" versions are the ones that come to mind when I think of the reference. As a traveler*, I appreciate the GMT complication and the BB GMT is now the third in my stable. IMO, this type of GMT solution is the most efficient, both in terms of reading as well as setting the second time zone. I'm already a fan of the BB in terms of case, dial and those cool snowflake hands. Lastly, this "deal of a watch" is a certified chronometer, no less, and proven over the five months of ownership, averaging +0-2! What else is there to say... this one's a keeper.
*And I've flown with Pan Am too!
click-the-pics for hi-res goodness
note, SN has been masked
Sidebar: Date-Wheel problem & resolution
The first BB GMTs were already out on the street mid-June of last year and almost at the same time, the first report of the "stuck date" surfaced. Months later owners surmised that the problem was isolated to some "first batch" but this turned out to be false as samples with higher SNs and/or purchased many months later were also affected. As noted in the main body of the post, the issue caused the date-wheel to either get caught between a date change, or actually jump past a day or even both. Some owners tried to cycle through the entire calendar several times but with no verifiable success. Some had the issue surface almost immediately and some had no issues until after many months of ownership. It got to the point where those that had sent theirs to be serviced were relieved because at least they knew the issue was behind them... or was it? One poor owner got it back from service and it happened AGAIN... !?! Needless to say, not a great start for Tudor's newest movement...
Mine managed to get through roughly 32 days of continuous use before the date "stuck"... . I tried the field-medic's "cycle-the-date-wheel" procedure but to no avail. A few days later it actually skipped a date so it was now clear to me that it had to go in for service. Naturally I was bummed about it; it meant having to be separated from my new watch and it also meant the risk of service-center "battle scars" ... something I had just been through with my €5K Seiko... .
The good news is that it was serviced in under four weeks (!) - quite impressive, considering Tudor (Rolex service Center) had quite a few to service. The great news is that the accuracy went from ~ +2s/d to almost +0s/d... kudos to them (and to this amazing movement design!) It would have made for a good ending to this story but nooo, they left quite the trail... . So of course I'm left with somewhat of a bitter taste, given that the watch is essentially brand new but looks like it's seen battle. My AD was of course quite understanding and offered to polish it... which I declined. A few IGers suggested I send it back... to what avail? More battle scars ...?
Did I mention the oil stains left on the hand & dial... ?
It's been a rough end to my 2018 WIS year. Thank goodness it was also the year I acquired one of my favorite all-time pieces, the Rolex SD 126600. Now here's hoping it doesn't have to visit a damn service center for years to come... sigh.
To wrap things up on a more positive note, a couple of wristshots of my two awesome BBs