The Submariner’s history began 27 years before it was even created. In 1926, Rolex’s Oyster was the world’s first waterproof wristwatch. Over the next two plus decades, Rolex improved upon the Oyster’s already impressive submersion capability, and in 1953, launched the first Submariner, Ref. 6204, which at the time was just a nickname for their latest Oyster Perpetual. It was able to function at a depth 0f 100 meters, or 330 feet, the first in the world to do so.
By 1959, the Submariner’s diving depth reached 200 meters. In 1962, crown guards were added for safe underwater operation. Later that decade, the luminescent markers and inverted triangle at 12 o’clock and on the bezel were added and are still on the watch today. The young Submariner earned praise from professional divers and naval fleets alike, with endorsements by professionals like those at the Institute for Deep Sea Research in Cannes, France, and issuance by the British Royal Navy and the Canadian Royal Navy.
Rolex replaced the Sub’s Twinlock crown gasket system, in use since 1953, with its newer Triplock gasket system in 1977. A sapphire crystal was implemented in 1979, increasing its diving depth to 300 meters. Two years later, a uni-directional bezel added yet another useful feature for divers. The Submariner’s first ceramic Cerachrom bezel came in 2008.
The Black Bay’s story runs very much parallel to the Submariner’s. In 1954, after taking in the success of the newly minted Sub, Rolex’s more modestly-priced sister company, Tudor, released their own version of the Submariner - the Oyster Prince Submariner, Ref. 7922. It shared many of the same features as its cousin, the Sub, but with several distinct differences.
It could dive to 100 meters from the start and reached 200 meters a year before the Submariner, but that is unconfirmed. The Oyster Prince had a slightly domed dial meant to optimize readability with its luminescent indicators, along with a domed crystal for better pressure resistance.
The Black Bay’s predecessor, the Oyster Prince, offered many different options over the years. The year 1955 saw the only manual-wound version. 1958 gave us the “Big Crown,” which helped get the watch down to 200 meters underwater, and in the years around 1960, various crown guards were implemented. The so-called snowflake hands came in 1969, along with the new symbol for Tudor, the shield, and the option for date function. In the 90’s the snowflake hands were replaced with hands like the Submariner’s.
Through the decades, the Oyster Prince was issued to the likes of the U.S., French, and Canadian navies. In 2012, the Oyster Prince was revived with plenty of vintage inspiration as the Heritage Black Bay.
Case & Crystal
The case on the Submariner is comprised of Rolex’s signature Oystersteel, which is rated in the 904L family of stainless steel, along with many high technology chemical and aerospace-grade steels. It’s resistance to the rigors of submersible applications makes it perfect for diving. The case comes in at 40mm and features wide lugs and a brushed & polished finish.
The Black Bay’s case is also brushed and polished, but measures 1mm larger than the Sub. While not quite Oystersteel, the Black Bay’s composition of 316-grade stainless steel is no pushover. Containing more of the corrosion-resistant metallic element molybdenum than most stainless steels, 316 stainless steel is used is chemical processing, refineries, medical devices, and marine environments, like diving.
Both watches feature a sapphire crystal. The Sub’s is scratch-resistant, while the Black Bay’s is domed.
Crown & Pushers
Rolex’s Triplock waterproofing system lies underneath the iconic embossed crown on the Sub. Three gaskets and two o-rings allow this watch to reach depths of 300 meters, or 1000ft.
Inside the crown of the Black Bay is a very similar three-layered waterproofing arrangement featuring an anodised aluminum tube and the vintage Tudor rose engraved in black. Though not officially a Triplock, the Black Bay’s crown does allow it to reach 200 meters underwater, or 660ft.
A unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated bezel surrounds the Submariner. Rolex’s patented Cerachrom ceramic insert provides even more scratch-resistance on top of the already robust Oystersteel. The graduations and numerals are coated in platinum.
Tudor toned down the graduations on the Black Bay’s unidirectional 60-minute bezel, which is made of 316 stainless steel. Instead of a ceramic insert like on the Submariner, the Black Bay utilizes anodised aluminum with a matte finish, giving it great resistance to deterioration while maintaining consistent color value.
A lume pip is present at noon on both watches.
The dial on the Sub forgoes numerals in lieu of hour markers in basic shapes, with white second markers and text. The hour hand sports the Mercedes shape also found on Rolex’s Explorer and GMT models.
Influenced by the Black Bay’s ancestor, the Oyster Prince, Tudor took a gilded approach to the dial. Like the Sub, the Black Bay uses the same basic shapes to mark the hours, but wraps these markers, along with the hands, in bronze. The same burnished color is used for the second markers and text. The hour hand shape is one of Tudor’s calling cards, the snowflake, and the entire dial is slightly domed.
Each watch glows with bright luminescence. The Sub in Chromalight blue. The Black Bay in seafoam green.
Our Submariner Date houses a Caliber 3135 movement made by Rolex. A standard Sub uses a Caliber 3130 movement. Both movements are COSC-certified superlative chronometers with Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairsprings and bidirectional self-winding perpetual rotors. This acute stabilization structure maintains time accuracy within two seconds per day. Our 3135 grants the wearer rapid instantaneous date changes.
Tudor also makes it own movement for the Black Bay, which is also a COSC-certified chronometer. The Manufacture Caliber MT5602 (the MT stand for Manufacture Tudor) is a self-winding mechanical movement with a bidirectional rotor system. A traversing bridge holds a variable inertia oscillator and silicon balance spring in place for time accuracy average five seconds a day.
The Sub’s power reserve lasts approximately 48 hours, but the Black Bay’s power reserve blows the Sub out of the water with a lifespan of 70 hours.
Securing the Sub to your wrist is a flat three-piece link Oyster bracelet with a folding Oysterlock safety clasp. The Glidelock extension expands the bracelet up to 20mm in 2mm increments, providing greater adjustability whether in a diving suit or a three-piece suit.
The bracelet on the Black Bay also uses three-piece links on its riveted steel bracelet, another design element from the mid-20th century. This bracelet may not have the adjustability of the Submariner’s Glidelock extension, but it does hold comfortably tight thanks to its solid buckle and safety clasp.
Decades of research and design have gone into these exemplary watches, who share intertwined lineage dating back more than 60 years.
The Submariner’s design is iconic and classically dimensional, changing little over its lifetime. The Black Bay was reborn in the 21st century, yet draws its vintage style from its ancestors.
If you are an avid diver or simply spend a lot of time on the water, either of these capable dive watches are sure to maintain reliability after many years. The Submariner does hold a statistical advantage over the Black Bay in regard to diving depth and durability, but the Black Bay’s power reserve easily beats the Sub.
Another advantage the Black Bay has over the Sub is price. Though being nearly half the price of the Submariner, it still competes at nearly the same level of aesthetics and functionality. The final verdict will ultimately come down to the opinion of the wearer.
We at Everest really hope you enjoyed this detailed comparison of the Rolex Submariner and the Tudor Black Bay. We make stylish replacement straps for both, some of which you’ve seen in this blog. Head to Everestbands.com/collections to check them out.