This year, at Baselworld 2018, the main novelty for Tudor was the Black Bay GMT – a watch that was a hot topic of debate, released in tandem with Rolex’ version of the Steel-Pepsi GMT watch. But was this watch the most important piece in the new collection? Maybe not. Tudor also introduced the Black Bay Fifty-Eight. A weird name for a watch that, at first sight, seems to be just another Black Bay diver. But let’s get straight to the point: this new ref. 79030N could well be the best Tudor Black Bay so far, and here’s why.
Background – the Black Bay concept
The Tudor Black Bay was born in 2012, as the second step in Tudor’s revival era – one year after the Heritage Chrono and the same year as the Pelagos – under the Philippe Peverelli/Davide Cerrato management. The Black Bay clearly redefined the brand, repositioned the collection, made the brand sexy again and put it back on the road to success. The Black Bay was and still is the brand’s bestseller and will remain the milestone of Tudor’s recent history.
The three versions (black, blue, burgundy) of the Tudor Black Bay 41mm ref. 79230.
The first model was shown at Baselworld 2012 with a burgundy bezel. The Black Bay was defined as a modern-sized but historically-inspired dive watch, with contemporary specifications and vintage design elements. The inspiration can be seen in various 1960s watches, such as the vintage Submariner ref. 7922, ref. 7923 and ref. 7924. With a diameter of 41mm, its case was shaped according to older standards: thin lugs, polished bevel on the side of the case, non-protected oversized crown, aluminium insert for the uni-directional bezel. If the look was clearly vintage, the rest (quality, feel and dimensions) was entirely modern.
A 1960s vintage Tudor Submariner vs. a modern Tudor Black Bay
The same tenets were applied to the dial. The matte black domed dial featured historical elements with gilt touches (gold-plated hands and indices, as well as gilded inscriptions), a vintage Tudor logo (the rose) and the iconic “Snowflake” hands. This combination of modern and vintage was the main reason for the success of this watch, alongside being an affordable alternative to the too-technical Rolex Submariner, which clearly lacks some vintage appeal (according to some). Inside the case (at that time) was an automatic ETA movement.
Several evolutions are to be noted:
- 2014: the introduction of the midnight blue bezel, with silver-coloured indices and hands
- 2015: the introduction of the black bezel, with a gilt dial and a red triangle on the bezel
- 2016: the introduction of reference 79230, now with in-house calibre MT5602 (70h power reserve, COSC certification) on all 3 models
In addition to the evolutions listed above, which concern the main line-up, Tudor also played a lot with this collection by introducing a larger 43mm bronze version, a PVD-coated “Dark” edition, a two-tone steel-and-gold variant, a chronograph, a date edition with steel bezel as well as a sub-collection without a diving bezel, first shown in 36mm, later in 41mm and this year in 32mm. So, as you can see, the collection is quite complete! So what is the point of yet another edition, the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight?
The latest evolution – the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
At first, the new Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight is just another Black Bay, meaning a Submariner-like dive watch with vintage inspiration and basically the same look and specs as the 41mm version we all know. Wrong… It is much more than that. There are several points of evolution, all rather discreet on paper but important on the wrist.
If the style hasn’t evolved much, the proportions (all of them) of the case have been redefined with this Black Bay Fifty-Eight. The idea behind the Fifty-Eight is to go even deeper in the vintage-inspiration department by getting closer to the original Big Crown models – mainly the Tudor Submariner 7924 (1958). This means a smaller, slimmer, simpler design.
For this reason, the new Fifty-Eight is now 39mm in diameter instead of 41mm. Even if the original ref. 7924 was smaller at 37mm, the effort undertaken by Tudor to reduce the case size is much appreciated. This isn’t all, as the lug width, in order to respect the nicely balanced proportions, has been reduced too, at 20mm instead of 22mm on the standard Black Bay (the ref. 79230 with 41mm diameter). Finally, and this is the most important factor here, the case has been drastically shaved in height, going from a hefty 15mm to now only 11.9mm – which represents a 25% reduction.
The rest of the case remains identical to the Black Bay collection. This Black Bay Fifty-Eight ref. 79030N features a typical Sub-like case, with rather slim and curved lugs, animated by a nice polished chamfer on the sides, with brushed flat surfaces and polished flanks. The crown is still oversized and adorned with the vintage rose. A small difference: the tube next to the crown has been left uncoated, in simple steel.
As for the bezel, the shape and ease-of-use are equal to other watches of the collection, even if resized for the occasion. We still have a uni-directional bezel with an aluminium insert and typical Sub-like 60-minute diving scale. A specificity of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is its gilded bezel with pink gold-coloured inscriptions, which have always been silver-coloured on previous variants. The red triangle, an iconic feature on vintage editions, is still present. The dial is in the same vein, a so-called gilt dial, with pink gold-plated hands, indices and inscriptions. There is no evolution concerning the design, and it remains the same as the rest of the collection.
In order to obtain a slimmer and smaller case, Tudor has redesigned its in-house movement to create calibre MT5402. While sharing the same specifications as the movement found in the 41mm edition – 70h power reserve, COSC-certifications, silicon hairspring – it now measures 26mm in diameter and 4.99mm in height (vs. 31.8mm and 6.5mm for the calibre MT5602). As the most vintage-inspired piece of the collection, the Fifty-Eight is a no-date watch.
As good as it gets?
OK… We’ve seen what this watch does on paper. But how do these small evolutions translate on the wrist? First of all, the Black Bay (41mm) is a watch that we know well at MONOCHROME, as three of our regular writers own one. We know how it feels on the wrist and what the pros and cons are. If the relatively large diameter has never been an issue (the case is large but quite compact), the thickness of the watch, combined with the relatively massive flanks, were probably the main flaw.
With the new Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, we have a watch that is very close to the original model on paper, but drastically different on the wrist. The combination of the 2mm reduction in diameter, the 2mm reduction of the bracelet width and the 3mm reduction in thickness offer a completely different approach on the wrist. These might just be 2mm here and 3mm there, but don’t be fooled by the numbers. These are massive changes. More compact, much slimmer, less robust and bulky, the new Fifty-Eight not only has a vintage look but also a vintage feel on the wrist.
When strapping on the 79030N, you find back the pleasure of having a true diver (it is still rated at 200 meters) in a reasonably proportioned case with slim case bands – with the same effect that you have when you strap on a vintage Submariner and ask yourself why the modern ones are so thick. The main point of pleasure is here: finally a slimmer dive watch by the Rolex Group.
Now comes the question of the relevance of this watch in a collection that wasn’t lacking references (54 references overall). What is the main purpose of this Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight? Is it a watch that intends to fill the gap between the robust Black Bay 41mm and the small (too small for some) Black Bay 36mm? Well, in my opinion, it shouldn’t play this role, as the 41 and the 36 are two different watches, considering that the latter doesn’t feature a rotatable bezel and isn’t a true dive watch.
To me, this Black Bay Fifty-Eight should remain a stand-alone piece and shouldn’t be derived in yet another sub-collection. It should be seen as the authentic heritage piece in the catalogue – in fact, it could almost have been a limited edition to make collectors line-up to get their hands on one (but it isn’t).
Last but not least, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is quite an affordable watch – in fact, at EUR 3,360 on a bracelet or EUR 3,060 on a strap, it is EUR 100 cheaper than the standard 41mm version. And in all fairness, there are few watches on the market that can compete with Tudor’s quality in this price segment. Available from July 2018. More details on www.tudorwatch.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.