Tudor Dive Watches: Black Bay or Pelagos?
There are hundreds, if not thousands of dive watches to choose from. Each has its pros, cons, and individual quirks. It might seem impossible to narrow down the search, but looking at a few examples can be a good place to start. If you read the title, you see where this is going. Tudor offers some of the best divers on the market. They’ve been at the forefront of dive watch technology since its inception. After all, Tudor was founded by Hans Wilsdorf alongside Rolex in the 1920s. These brands share much of the same heritage, design language, and quality control. However, Tudor has always been more attainable in terms of pricing and availability. With this, they’ve been pigeonholed as “the more attainable Rolex”, leaving little room for individuality. Today, Tudor stands on its own two feet with the extremely popular, ever-expanding Black Bay and Pelagos lines. Tudor watches are no longer just Rolexes with third-party movements. They’re distinctly Tudor – and in my opinion, they’re hovering near perfection. Today, we’ll look at the positions of Tudor’s dive watches, sharing what makes them unique.
The very first Black Bay (79220) was introduced in 2012. In many ways, this release felt like a declaration from Tudor – ‘We are our own brand’. The design borrows from multiple 20th century models without being a reissue of one in particular. The Black Bay is a culmination of features that have perennially separated Tudor’s divers from Rolex’s: most importantly, the Snowflake hour hand and absence of crown guards. True to the history of Tudor, the Black Bay 79220 features an ETA movement, allowing it to remain within an attainable price point (compared to Rolex). In 2016, Tudor released the 79230, which lands around the same price point, but features an in-house movement. This change opened the floodgates for Tudor. They began releasing all kinds of Black Bays with in-house calibers. Today, you can choose from the Black Bay 58, Chrono, GMT, Pro, Bronze, P01, and S&G *long inhale*, many of which are offered in different sizes. That’s a lot of Black Bays.
Don’t worry – I won’t go through each model. They all share the same DNA and their differentiators are relatively obvious. You can rest assured that any Black Bay you purchase will be an excellent watch. You’re getting luxury craftsmanship and an in-house movement (past 2016) at an attainable price point. The Black Bay is a gorgeous blueprint. It celebrates the history of dive watches. While it leans into brand heritage, it leans away from being a true tool watch. If you’re not attracted to the gilded lettering and vintage styling, you should look toward the Tudor Pelagos. That said, you can easily dress down your Black Bay with an Everest rubber strap, tailored for specific Tudor models.
In my opinion, the Pelagos line will interest enthusiasts 50 years from now – more so than the Black Bay. While the Black Bay looks to the past, the Pelagos looks to the future of mechanical tool watches. It prioritizes functionality without sacrificing looks. I see the Pelagos as a clean slate for Tudor. They’re starting from scratch; building a dive watch with modern technology. Of course, like any diver, it takes design cues from the Submariner (as it should). However, the Pelagos’ approach is entirely different. The whole line features titanium construction. It’s just as strong as steel, but weighs about half as much. The Pelagos has 500 meters of water resistance (with the exception of the 39mm version) compared to the 100-200 meters of most Black Bays. This increase, while over the top, is a clear indication of the Pelagos’ purpose. This is a tool watch.
The Pelagos still features Tudor’s trademark Snowflake hour hand, but switches round indices for square ones. It also includes crown guards, a welcome addition on a far more rugged watch. Unlike the seemingly endless catalog of Black Bays, there are only four variations of the Pelagos: the original, the FXD (fixed strap bars), the LHD (Left Handed), and the 39mm. These are minor variations to an otherwise straightforward watch. The original Pelagos comes in at 42mm. It’s a perfect option for any large-wristed individual looking for a lifelong timepiece. However, the Pelagos 39 bridges the gap for those with small/average wrists. After all, watches have been shrinking in recent years. This model features the same durable nature of the Pelagos at a much more wearable size. The water resistance drops from 500 to 200 meters, but unless you’re a commercial diver, this doesn’t matter in the slightest. The Pelagos 39 is the safe pick for almost anyone, and it’s my favorite watch in Tudor’s entire catalog.
Tudor’s dive watches offer incredible value at under $5,000. Price aside, you can actually get a hold of one at retail, which can’t be said for most Rolexes right now. Tudor’s two-headed approach with the Black Bay and Pelagos is perfect. They each address a strong point of the brand: heritage and functionality, respectively. By no means do you have to choose between the two, but these models allow you to favor one over the other. The Black Bay is a celebration of the past, while the Pelagos is a wager on what’s to come. The cherry on top, as we’ve discussed, is the price point. At half the price of the cheapest Rolex, you can get just as much watch with the Black Bay or the Pelagos.
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