This year at Watches and Wonders, Tudor released a Black Bay GMT with a white opaline dial. While this might seem like a routine refresh of an existing model, it actually bears much historical significance. White dials on Rolex (and subsequently Tudor) sports watches are not at all common, and in fact, have a storied mystique about them. Before diving into the history of white dial Rolex sports watches and how they pertain to this new release, let’s cover the basics of the opaline Black Bay GMT.
Tudor Black Bay GMT in White Opaline
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Aside from the new opaline dial, this is the same Back Bay GMT we’ve had since 2018. Inside the 41mm case sits Tudor’s caliber MT5652: a COSC-certified movement with “traveler GMT” functionality and 70 hours of power reserve. We also see the same rotating 24-hour “Pepsi” bezel found on prior references. Unlike past Black Bay GMTs – or any Tudor sport watches, for that matter – this new GMT has a white dial.
Image Source: tudorwatch.com
“Opaline” refers to this dial’s silvery off-white finish. Through a chemical process (galvanic electrolysis), silver and gray tones are applied to a white dial, creating the iridescent “opaline” effect we see on the finished product. For all intents and purposes, it’s a white dial. Opaline’s iridescent qualities are noticeable if you’re looking for them, but are otherwise pretty subdued.
Why This Is Special
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In the 1950s and ‘60s, Rolex is thought to have produced around 20 white “albino” dials across their collection of sports watches: GMT-Master (pictured above), Explorer, and Submariner. As the legend goes, white dials were used by watchmakers to test the alignment of printing equipment. The best way to calibrate a printing pad is by using black ink on a white dial. In a decision that Rolex would never make today, they decided to put accurately-printed “test dials” into circulation. Much of the mystique surrounding these “albino” watches comes from Rolex’s lack of confirmation or denial of their authenticity.
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Aside from this mysterious run in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the Explorer II collection, white dials do not appear on Rolex or Tudor sport watches. While this opaline-dial Black Bay GMT may seem like a standard refresh to some, the real watch nerds know how cool it is. This is the closest (authentic) watch to an albino GMT-Master that money can buy, and it has impressive mechanics at a competitive price point.
The Black Bay GMT is a great watch at around $4,000. It’s hard to think of a better traveler GMT for the price. You’re getting excellent build quality, an in-house (Kenissi) movement, and some serious history, particularly with this opaline variant. If you’re concerned about the 50mm lug-to-lug and 14.5mm height measurements, I would say don’t worry too much, but definitely go try it on. I got the chance to try on the opaline version at Tudor’s Geneva pop-up and it fit surprisingly well on my 6.75in (17cm) wrist.
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