Have you heard of the Black Bay 58 diver? You most likely have as it is one of the most talked about and photographed Tudor watches of all times. Just like the Speedmaster, Submariner, and Reverso have become icons of Swiss horology, the Black Bay 58 has too, and this for good reasons. It makes quality Swiss luxury horology cool and attainable to a greater part of the watch collecting community, more so that the three other brands I mentioned above—Rolex, Omega, and Jaeger Lecoultre. And given its success, one might think (or maybe that was just me) that the Black Bay collection as a whole was as old as the Submariner and its hundreds of references. But no, it ain’t. Well, not exactly anyway.
So in this article we will take a brief look at the Black Bay collection, when it was created, why some models became superbly popular, and highlight its key models.
Creation of the Black Bay Collection (2012)
Tudor is a brand that has been around for nearly a century. Since 1926 to be exact. It has been making robust tool watches for many decades before it created the Black Bay collection, issuing models such as the Tudor Submariner with its distinct Snowflake hour hand and deep blue matte dial that came out in 1975. Many collectors seek this particular Tudor model and it has become a legitimate timepiece to collect. In a sense, the Black Bay collection is a logical continuation of the brand’s dedication to making more affordable, solid timepieces with roots that go back to early collaborations with the French Navy that came back in the modern Black Bays. (More affordable than Rolex, that is.)
Although there are a dozen types of models in the Black Bay collection, I think it would be fair to mention three in particular: the Black Bay 58 and its many color variants, the everyday Black Bay that comes in different colors and sizes, and lastly, the GMT and, more recently, the Pro. Don’t get the wrong impression here: there are many other models that have made the news and deserve their own articles. However, for conciseness-sake, we’ll stick to the above collections. Collections within the Black Bay family of watches to be exact. (And maybe you will see that I chose to focus on these particular collections because I have a stronger affinity with them than I do with other ones.)
The Divers: Black Bay 58 and Other Variants
The Black Bay 58 has become something of a horological phenomenon. It seems that it has become as iconic in the past 10 years as the Speedmaster has in the past five decades. And that says a lot about the watch, for it to reach such enormous popularity in comparatively much less time. While Tudor had released the Black Bay divers before the Fifty 58, they have never been as popular as the latter. This is due to the fact that the former are bigger (41mm case diameter) while the 58 has a smaller case (39mm), making it more versatile and more approachable to those who have average to small wrists.
Despite the fact that the original Black Bay divers come in 17 variations, the 58 line up only comes in 10 variants. I know, it’s not that big of a difference. And of these 10 variants, the most popular ones are the black/gilt, blue, and the silver case ones. I do find the other models of the line up interesting, however they have not captivated the masses as much. Again, it is the formidable case diameter, in-house caliber, and robust constructions couple with price tags that range between $3,800 and $4,800 that contribute to the popularity of the aforementioned three models.
The Everyday Tudor Black Bays
While Rolex has the Explorer 1, Tudor has the fixed bezel Black Bay’s. (One could argue that Tudor actually has the Ranger, but I find the latter to be less of an everyday timepiece.) The Black Bay comes with cases of 32, 36, and 41mm in diameter to suit many people’s wrist sizes. A bit like Rolex has Oyster Perpetuals that come in different case diameters and colors, Tudor has 30 variations of these Black Bay’s. In my own humble opinion, the 36mm version is a direct competitor to the current Explorer 1 in 36mm. But while the Explorer 1 retails for $7,600, the Black Bay 36mm retails for $3,300. I know, you get more watch when you pay more, but price does matter for those with limited budgets who still want to have a quality everyday Swiss watch.
I know of many people who opted for the Black Bay instead of the Explorer 1 for that very reason.
The Black Bay collection constitutes the epitome of the ideal stainless steel everyday sports watch. It has a robust construction, ultra legible dial that comes with plenty of lume, and a comfortable bracelet. In other words, a design that is versatile and a construction that makes it a perfect everyday timepiece. And given that it comes in 30 variations, including dual-tone with in gold, there is a Black Bay for everyone. Being a very boring person, I would probably go with the 36mm black dial version on the stainless steel bracelet.
The Black Bay GMT and Black Bay Pro
It took six years for Tudor to come up with a GMT Black Bay. But I think that the watch was worth the wait! I know, you probably hate the fact that, once again, I will compare prices with its Rolex equivalent, but comparing I must. A Black Bay GMT retails for $4,250 while the cheapest GMT Master II retails for close to $11,600. Indeed, both watches come with different technology and quality of finish, but it remains astonishing that Tudor can offer a true in-house GMT caliber in a quality timepiece for under $5,000. Thinking of the price differences between the Tudor and Rolex GMTs, I can say that Hans Wilsdorf did manage to offer avid collectors of quality Swiss horology a more affordable version of Rolex.
The Black Bay Pro, which was unveiled in 2021, is a logical continuation in the constitution of Black Bay line up. While Rolex has the Explorer 2, it was only normal for Tudor to have its own fixed-bezel GMT timepiece. While the Black Bay Pro and the Explorer 2 are no longer destined to bold speleologists, both remain the ultimate tool watches for travelers and adventurers. In a previous article (LINK) I speculated that Tudor could release a white dial version of the Pro in 2023—which would be perhaps a terrible idea as it would directly compete with the Explorer 2—I do hope they do.
Tudor’s Black Bay collection is vast, both in terms of prices and in terms of shapes and styles. One could create an entire collection just by looking into the Black Bay world, getting an everyday timepiece in a 36mm Black Bay, a robust dive watch in the 58, and an even more robust travel watch in the Pro. Tudor has gained a lot of popularity as of late for making great watches that cost less than any Rolex, and also because their watches can actually be bought in a boutique, unlike most Rolex’s. Mr. Wilsdorf’s vision continues to live strongly almost a century after that he has created Tudor. His goal was to offer quality watches that would be cheaper than Rolex, and he did. And whoever is in charge of the brand today has done a pretty darn good job at keeping his vision alive.Featured image: www.ferret.fr