Is the Black Bay a worthy contender to the Submariner in 2021?

Is the Black Bay a worthy contender to the Submariner in 2021?

A popular watch forum post topic goes along the lines of: Should I sell my Tudor Black Bay and upgrade to a Rolex Submariner? Most forum member replies are along the lines of "Yes, no-brainer. Do it."

We've covered this topic in the past, but we've now had some long-term ownership of the Black Bay 58, so we thought we'd give this new perspective.

As an owner of both, I would say it depends. 

If prestige and brand recognition are important to you, then by all means if you can get a modern Submariner purchase it and sell the Black Bay. That’s an easy decision in my mind. The ceramic bezel alone offers an instant look that you have an expensive watch on that at closer look shows that you have on perhaps the most recognizable “nice” watch in the world. This well-done video comparison goes deep into the details.

Photo via Watchfinder & Co.

If you could care less about what people think of what kind of watch you have on, I’d say keep the Black Bay (the 58 is my preference size-wise) and just enjoy owning one of the best values in the market right now.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear a watch that people might recognize as a nice watch. The six-digit Submariner is quite the looker and can certainly be your main or only watch and give you  deep satisfaction as a watch enthusiast. The Glidelock clasp is one of the coolest and useful innovations we’ve seen in the last decade. There’s nothing quite like the ratcheting sound and feel of the moving parts on a modern Rolex sport watch. It's worth noting that the Black Bay 58 Bronze has an on-the-fly adjustable clasp as shown here in a smart video comparison to the Submariner.

Photo by Hafiz J Mehmood

It’s also fine to be perfectly satisfied with a more under-the-radar timepiece such as the Black Bay. Technically, it’s pretty great with a very accurate (in my experience) movement that has a 72-hour power reserve. The feel on the wrist of my 58 does exude quality and I prefer the looks of not having crown guards. The snowflake handset makes it easy to tell time and has its own distinct personality.

Both watches have a place in my collection. But if I wanted just one dive watch in my collection, it would be the Submariner for its overall versatility and incredible look and feel on the wrist. The aforementioned Glidelock clasp is a very practical feature. I haven’t seen any easy to add aftermarket clasp options for the Black Bay 58, but there are quite a few aftermarket bracelets options for Strapcode and Uncle Seiko.

submariner and black bay 58

Can you tell I like both watches very much? I was surprised by how much I do like the Black Bay 58 (haven’t tried one in the original case size) and the no-date Submariner was the one watch I admired design-wise before really getting into watches.

So is the Black Bay a worthy contender to the Submariner? I would say it is a worthy contender. Can it take the title from the champ? Not at this stage especially if you have the chance to handle the watches in person and compare them side by side.

We offer rubber and leather straps for proud owners of the modern Submariner. Check them out here.

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