No period, no zeitgeist, has seen a watch brand so eagerly courted, fervently loved by both new and veteran collectors as is the case today with Tudor. In less than half a decade, the brand has emerged from being the more-affordable Rolex to the cool, cutting-edge sibling at the height of desirability. And in almost every discourse had, its meteoric rise has been attributed to a formula that is seemingly mystical — pegged as a brand that has that unquantifiable quality, or “the X factor”.
In an attempt to demystify the brilliance of Tudor, we’ll start off by stating a truth that inheres in human nature: everyone loves an underdog. Right from the outset, stood next to the crowned king of watchmaking, Tudor was predestined to be the comparatively inferior sibling in order to reach a wider audience. For the first 40 years after it was first launched in 1945, Tudor watches were crouched in the shadows of their Rolex siblings. Rolex made watches with Oyster cases, so did Tudor; Rolex launched automatic watches with day and date displays, so did Tudor; Rolex created diving watches, and so did Tudor.
However, the Tudor we have today is a universe away from what it was. Here is a brand that capers in the limelight of Rolex and advances further and beyond with its own lethal mix of nostalgia, innovation and value. On top of which, it revels in its relegated role and delivers, unprecedentedly, the allure of being young and cool forever. Which might explain its broad — if not universal — appeal, because who doesn’t desire everlasting youth?
This is undergirded by venturous designs and experimental materials that resonate like the scene of an energetic teen stood in a brilliantly eclectic wardrobe, piecing together an ensemble with unbridled enthusiasm. And that has culminated in the arrival of perhaps some of the most emphatic watches produced in recent years. Think about it: when was the last time you’ve seen a watch as studied and evocatively stylized as the Heritage Black Bay Bronze? With its manufacture COSC-certified cal. MT5601, its brown “tropical” dial, snowflake hands, its aluminum-bronze alloy case that will soon enough acquire a handsome patina and a truly idiosyncratic strap inspired by elastic parachute harnesses, it had all the ingredients to cause the perfect storm. Yet the beauty of the Black Bay Heritage line is that it doesn’t come across as being blatantly nostalgic. While it pays tribute to the old Tudor dive watches, and by extension, the Rolex Submariners, it eschews any one precise reference. You can sense it but you can’t pinpoint it.
Heritage Black Bay Dark
The fifth variant to the line, the Black Bay Dark is a much welcomed build-up from the Black Bay Black, boasting an aesthetic many Rolex lovers worth their salt have long hankered after but have had to accomplish through their own means. In other words, the Black Bay Dark is the first PVD timepiece to come from the makers of the world’s most iconic diving watches.
Right off the bat, the Black Bay Dark seems like such an irony. While it makes a gallant effort to be incognito, its brooding looks are nevertheless impossibly arresting. Just like the Red, Blue and Black models, the Black Bay Dark measures slightly larger than the diving watches it’s based on, at a comfortable 41mm, suffused with a plethora of details drawn from different pages and sections of its archives.
Firstly, it features the particularly prominent winding crown from the famous ref. 7924 of 1958, known as the Big Crown, with the nicely exposed PVD crown tube cover. A characteristic feature of the line, it then borrows the snowflake hour hand from the watches delivered in large quantities to the French National Navy in the 1970s. And then there’s the red triangle at 12 o’clock on the insert that, once again, recalls the Big Crown Submariners of the 1950s. On top of that, the indication of guaranteed water resistance is engraved in red on the dial — a feature unique to both Tudor and Rolex heritages. And to reinforce its integrity as a tool watch, its black PVD-treated steel case has been entirely satin-finished, lending it the appearance of black military utility equipment. It also features a domed sapphire crystal as well as a slightly chamfered caseback.
The Black Bay Dark is equipped with the new manufacture COSC-certified cal. MT5602 movement that beats at 28,800vph with a healthy power reserve of 70 hours. The balance is regulated by a variable-inertia oscillator with a silicon balance spring held by a bridge, as opposed to the usual cock. This is reflected on the dial where the Tudor shield logo was used in place of the rose. In fact, the entire Black Bay range including the existing Red, Blue and Black, now feature the shield logo on the dial to represent this new achievement. Finally, an aspect that has become such a gripping point of discussion in a Tudor watch is its bracelets and straps. The Black Bay Dark arrives with a choice of a black PVD-treated steel bracelet or an aged-leather strap with a black PVD-treated folding clasp. Each model is also supplied with an extra gray fabric strap crafted in the Jacquard technique by a 100-year-old family business from the St-Étienne region of France.
Heritage Black Bay 36
Last but by no means least is the model which received the same unyielding attention despite retaining a modified ETA movement. For the first time, Tudor has boldly presented the Black Bay in 36mm. It certainly isn’t a completely foreign size to the company as some of the greatest watches from Rolex share the same dimensions. But what it does is that it proposes a well-proportioned sports watch for slender wrists, or for anyone with a preference for a more-classic size. On top of which, the beauty of not having a bi-directional rotating bezel is that it further emphasizes its symmetrical black polished dial and its snowflake hour hand inspired by the brand’s vintage diving watches — aspects that may have otherwise been dwarfed in the other models.
In fact, with its flat polished bezel, this is the model that would compete aesthetically with the Rolex Explorer, and in particular the ref. 14270. It’s a compelling alternative especially for those seeking an aesthetic that spanned the ages but is realized in the now. The crown paired with an exposed black crown tube certainly adds visual intrigue to the watch.
Yet, what sells the ticket is its hardwearing elegance and versatility. It resists all our attempts at categorization for it is neither an actual sports nor dress watch. It boasts sufficient water resistance to a depth of 150m and its tidy, uncontrived looks will fit in a wider array of lifestyles and milieus.
In summation, the Black Bay 36 is a watch truly designed to be worn, and then forgotten about — on a daily basis. It uses the top-notch ETA 2824-2 movement, a steady workhorse that allows the brand to keep prices tantalizingly within reach. It comes with either a steel bracelet, or a rugged beige-colored leather strap with a steel folding clasp. Both will come with an additional strap in urban camouflage fabric, which further lends a charmingly improvisational touch to its appeal.
This is what makes Tudor the prime mover of the moment. It creates timepieces that resonate beyond superficial observations and spins aspirations that are desirable yet wonderfully approachable. Naturally, the victory of an underdog has a restorative effect on the flagging morale in life’s challenges. And at the moment, it’s something the industry could definitely use a bit more of.