There were two watches on the tip of everyone’s tongue at Basel this year. The new Rolex Daytona (which thoroughly deserved its plaudits) and the TUDOR Heritage Black Bay 36. A watch that – dare I say it – may be the perfect all-rounder. To be sure, I stuck it on the wrist for a test drive In The Wild.
If you’re a regular open water swimmer, you’ll know that feeling. That nervous energy when your alarm goes off. That soul searching when you get waist high in the bitterly cold water, but that’s why we do it. This week I found myself at The Serpentine in Hyde park, London. To give you some background, The Serpentine was formed in the 1730s by Queen Caroline (wife of King George II). For centuries Hyde Park had been a royal hunting ground until King Charles I opened it to the public in 1637. The lake was formed by damming a number of ponds that flowed into the Thames.
Come 6am weekday mornings, the lido is buzzing with a combination of both hardcore triathletes and those that have been coming down to it for forty years. When you step into the the somewhat Spartan changing facilities (which men and women share), you know there is no turning back. During winter months the water temperature can get very spicy and the lake does occasionally freeze, although last week when I went for a dip it was far warmer.
Now, I know the Heritage Black Bay isn’t a dive watch per se, but that’s ok, as this wasn’t a diving excursion. My objective was to wear the watch as if it was my own. And put it through its paces on what would be a normal day for me. That being said, it wouldn’t be fair to ignore the the Black Bay’s links to the water. Like the previous models released from Tudor, the Black Bay 36 features a dial inspired by the TUDOR dive watches of the 1950s. It has a clean, black polished dial and fixed, smooth steel bezel. with vintage inspired design cues. I’m pleased TUDOR stuck with the ‘snowflake’ hour hand (originally seen on the 1969 references) as it reaffirms the 36’s heritage links and adds that element of intrigue to what is otherwise and uncomplicated watch.
Before I go any further, I feel as though I should tackle the elephant in the room – I am six-foot tall (just) and weigh 210 lbs and I felt completely comfortable with the 36mm case size. In Basel, some felt it may be a little small for a man’s wrist and therefore limited to the female market – however, I certainly disagree. I would have chosen to have it on the tan leather strap as opposed to the steel bracelet for aesthetic reasons, but the bracelet was, as expected, sensationally crafted.
Tudor have had monumental success by incorporating their history with modern manufacturing techniques. But above all, they have managed to become an incredibly ‘cool’ brand. It’s a very difficult thing to quantify, but the general consensus with those whom I speak to is that TUDOR is just damn cool right now.
The Black Bay 36 is wonderfully robust, and although it doesn’t sport TUDOR’s new in-house movement, it boasts a sturdy workhorse ETA 2824 automatic. By opting for an ETA movement, TUDOR have been able to keep the watch accessibly priced at £1,950. For me, this TUDOR has all the charm of a tool watch like the Explorer (it’s important to remember the Ranger is the TUDOR equivalent of the Explorer). That being said, I have to confess: from a distance, a number of people have commented on my ‘new Explorer’. The watch held up to the swim with ease — but more importantly, it was versatile enough to seamlessly integrate into my life. I wore it with a shirt and jacket, as well as jeans and a t-shirt. The Black Bay 36 is a slim, attractive and versatile watch that is perhaps just that bit more adaptable as an everyday office watch than the bigger, more dive-oriented Black Bays. Some may say that its dive-watch dial in a non-diver case makes it somewhat of an oddball, but we all want something different, right? I think it just adds to its story.