Second Looks are opportunities to revisit watches that have been available for a while – many years, even – and give them fresh consideration after the novelty and marketing hype have passed.
- Diameter: 41 mm
- Lug to Lug: 50mm
- Thickness: 12.5 mm (caseback to bezel insert) / 14.5mm (caseback to crystal)
- Movement: MT5652 GMT In-House
- Water Resistance: 200m
- Case Material: Stainless Steel
- Price: $3,900 at 2018 launch / $4,050 in 2021 (steel bracelet)
At present, “Baselworld” is just a blur of memories. The longstanding, now defunct, largest watch trade show in the world has its apex moment in 2018. Rolex released the GMT Master II in steel with a ceramic red/blue “Pepsi” bezel. The crowd went wild.
Almost immediately after, Tudor, a Rolex subsidiary, “dared to be born” with the release of the Black Bay 58, a smaller format diver with more convincing vintage vibes than the larger BBs. And with that plus the GMT, the Fraternal Tudor Twins were born. The press loved the new Black Bay 58. But the Black Bay GMT in the “Pepsi” colorway stole the show. The GMT from Tudor sent the entire watch community into a frenzy. Hype, hype, hype! Just like Wayne Campbell swooning over the Fender Stratocaster, I boldly claimed on Instagram: “It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.”
I registered my interest in purchasing a Black Bay GMT at the local AD (Authorized Tudor Dealer) in April of 2018. Two months later on June 28th, I got “the call” that a Tudor Black Bay GMT had arrived, and it was on a bracelet. At the time, the Black Bay GMT (let alone on a bracelet) was impossible to get. I rushed over to the AD right after work, ready to rack up some air miles. To everyone’s surprise, I graciously passed and turned the watch down. The state of shock and bewilderment on the employee’s faces at the store was unprecedented as I walked away empty-handed.
It took me nine months of butt-kissing to finally get another opportunity from my AD. Since the purchase, countless people have asked me if they should buy a Tudor Black Bay GMT or not. In this regard, it is still a “hot watch.” Here is everything that you need to know about the Tudor Black Bay GMT.
Either you like the Black Bay design language or you don’t. It’s big, it’s chunky, it’s a tool watch. It’s really the flanks that accentuate these proportions. Rolex, being a subsidiary of Tudor, falls into the trap of comparing the Oyster case to the Black Bay case. From the top-down, the silhouette of the Black Bay, with its oversized and unguarded crown, bears an uncanny resemblance to the earliest Rolex Submariners references. I first noticed the distinct similarity when looking at the cover of the book “Fifty Watches that Changes the World” by Alex Newsom.
From the sides, you’ll notice the tall polished flanks of the Tudor Black Bay. This is what threw me off initially and why I balked at my first opportunity to purchase it. The overall height isn’t dissimilar from a Rolex Submariner, the components are just proportioned differently. The Submariner (and GMT Master II) have chunkier bezels with sharp teeth, while the Tudor Black Bay family has thin bezels with a coin edge. Furthermore, the Rolex Oyster case design aids the perception of thinness by reducing the flank height while the movement protrudes underneath against the wrist. I can assure you that both designs are very comfortable, achieving nearly the same dimensions while on the wrist. It’s just that the Tudor is less sexy when viewed from the sides. It’s the one thing about the Tudor GMT that you’ll hear a nearly unanimous “oh well” over.
Tudor takes it one step further with the Black Bay GMT and shaves the bottom of case flanks ever so slightly to bring you a little taste of the aforementioned Rolex Sub illusion. Tudor can’t go any further with this design trick due to the large crown tube.
The Dial and Bezel
You have to remember how hot the “Pepsi” colorway was in 2018. It still is polarizing and has historically been popular since Rolex introduced the GMT Master in 1954. Bi-colored red and blue bezels aren’t going anywhere. Tudor did it with a twist. In a rebellious move against modern Rolex, Tudor chose to not follow the ceramic bezel insert trend and went with a more traditional, and less shiny aluminum insert. Dare to be born!
Tudor calls the bezel insert on the Black Bay GMT “blue and burgundy”. It’s a much flatter color tone when compared to the loud Rolex ceramic red and blue. The Tudor blue and burgundy have a much higher color value and saturation while simultaneously possessing a relatively low chroma. It will be very interesting to how the Black Bay GMT bezel inserts age over the next few decades. If they fade as I hope they do, the colors should look phenomenal.
This is one of the most balanced and legible dials that I’ve ever seen. I’m not even sure what I’d change about the Black Bay GMT’s dial if anything. The are many that criticize the Tudor Black Bay GMT’s size and wish for the GMT complication in a 39mm “58-sized”. Even if you did fit the GMT complication into the smaller Black Bay 58 case, the proportions would be off, largely because you’d be sacrificing the negative space that balances everything on the dial.
Snowflake-style hands are polarizing. Especially when they don’t look like snowflakes and there are three of them. I find the square turned to 90-degrees extremely easy to read. I love how the pencil-shaped minute and GMT hands both extend all the way to the edge of the dial. They also provide contrast against the round dive-style hour markers. It’s distinctly on-brand for modern Tudor.
I would have preferred Rolex’s proprietary blue Chromalight lume to the green Super-LumiNova that Tudor uses on the Black Bay line. The Super-LumiNova is still more than capable. When I’m traveling, I’ll often leave the Black Bay GMT on-wrist when I sleep. This reduces the chance for theft or loss, but it’s also comforting to wake up, forget where you are, and easily be able to check the time while regaining your bearings. I can’t remember a time when the lume wasn’t still shining brightly towards the earliest of morning hours.
I’m going to repeat a brief GMT history lesson that I’ve told many times before. The original Rolex GMT Master’s 12-hour hand was geared directly to the watch’s 24-hour hand, meaning that these two hands could not be moved independently. The user would then use the bi-directional bezel to adjust for tracking a second time zone. Hardly anyone uses the bezel for the UTC offset as originally intended (past or present). It was only with the introduction of the GMT Master II in 1983 that the complication included a “jumping hour” hand. In theory, you could now track a third time zone. However, few use it that way and most prefer to use the jumping hour hand to track a second time zone at their destination simply by manipulating the crown a few clicks.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that this is the way. I’m not a world traveler. I do a lot of one or two-hour time zone jumps when traveling from New York to Colorado and the Mid-west. The bi-directional nature of the 48-position bezel is almost useless. The jumping local hour hand and reading the GMT hand against the 24-hour bezel is all that you really need (like the Rolex Explorer II). If the Tudor Black Bay GMT had a fixed bezel, I’d find it no less useful – the only noteworthy absence being the adult-fidget spinner.
When Tudor first started offering 70-hour power reserves with their in-house manufactured movements in 2015 it was a big deal. Today, the rest of the industry has caught up (and surpassed) that power reserve through larger barrels, double barrels, and more efficient escapements. The Tudor MT5652 movement is exclusive to the Black bay GMT. The MT5652 is a COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) certified movement is regulated and tested to an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day. My particular watch was about -1 seconds per day before the service and is holding steady at -2 seconds per day after the service. Well within COSC tolerances.
Tudor and Rolex currently have the market on the jump-hour hand cornered. The fact that Tudor offers this “jumping local hour” GMT complication in their Black Bay line for less than half of the retail price of a Rolex GMT Master II is truly special. I’ve traveled with more affordable jumping GMT-hand watches (ETA 2893-2/SW330). They still function as intended, just in a slightly different manner. It’s just not the same.
If it all sounds too good to be true, alas it is. There is a major flaw with the Tudor MT5652 movements. The “date change” issue is real and exists with the early models. It’s poorly documented as many websites rely on Tudor for advertising money and will not comment on the problem. The issue is caused by a design defect with the original gearing of the date-wheel. After a few months, it’s common to see the date wheel become stuck between dates or for it to double-advance.
Don’t panic. It’s an easy fix if you know the facts. When considering purchasing a Tudor Black Bay GMT you need to separate fact versus fiction. The first thing to note is that Tudor increased their warranty from two to five years for watches purchased from 2020 on. Tudor watches purchased from July 1st, 2018 to December 31st, 2019 will automatically receive an 18-month extension to the original two-year warranty.
To the set record straight, the Tudor warranty IS TRANSFERABLE and follows the watch, not the owner. That is assuming that the watch was originally purchased at an authorized dealer and was registered with Rolex. This is one great example of why “box and papers” are important on the secondary market. Always check the date on the warranty card and be ready to do some simple math now that you know the facts.
When my early Black Bay GMT started to have the date-wheel issue, the local AD couldn’t have been any more useless. I’m not sure if it was because I passed the first time around, but they acted like I didn’t know what I was talking about and was making the whole thing up. I then called the Rolex Service Center in NY and they couldn’t have been more gracious and apologetic about the issue. I had the choice of sending the watch to the Rolex Service Center in Dallas or New York. I picked New York and quickly had the shipping instructions sitting in my inbox.
One thing to note (in the United States) is that the watch needs to be sent to the service center via US Registered Mail. Rolex instructs you to use tamper-proof brown packing tape. This is incorrect. For certified packages, the Post Office applies this brown tape to all of the tape seams at the counter at the time of tender. My Black Bay GMT arrived at Rolex USA located at 655 5th Avenue in Manhattan promptly and I received an email confirming their receipt. These are corporate offices and the actual service center is not on 5th Avenue. A white van (that is more like an armored car) picks these watches up daily and drives them to Rolex’s actual service center in Long Island City.
Unfortunately for Rolex, commercial vehicles must be “plainly marked on both sides with the name (RUSA LIC, INC) and address of the owner” in New York City in order to comply with Administrative Code 10-127 as well for certain parking liberties. Upon arrival at 12-16 43rd Ave Long in Island City, the van then pulls into a secure garage on 12th Street to be unloaded, much like paper currency for a bank depository. The building is owned by “Rolex LIC Reality”. (Rolex is a master of businesses hidden within businesses.)
My Tudor Black Bay GMT was with the Rolex Service Center for eight weeks door-to-door while being repaired under warranty. Unfortunately, I missed a good chunk for the summer with my new Black bay GMT. Rolex sent my original Tudor warranty card back along with a new Rolex Service Center warranty card and documentation adding an additional two years from the time for service. That was in 2019 and I haven’t had any issue with the date wheel since. I didn’t give you this long narrative to freak you out. I want anyone considering the Tudor Black Bay GMT to know what the issue is and to be informed about the remedy. Now that that the date wheel issue is out of play, we can move on.
Rolex makes the best and most iconic stainless steel bracelets. The bracelets in Tudor’s Black Bay line are a close second. The Black Bay GMT features a three-link “Oyster” bracelet that is very Rolex, without being Rolex. The Black Bay GMT bracelet is 22mm at the lugs and taper down to 18mm at the clasp. These proportions work fine given the heft of the case.
I tend to swap all my steel bracelets around the beginning of summer in favor of rubber straps. If you don’t like steel bracelets there are other options. I don’t particularly care for Tudor’s non-bracelet options for the GMT. For the bracelet haters, Tudor offers the option for a brown leather strap or fabric strap both priced at $3,720. You only save a few dollars and miss out on the complete Black Bay experience. Get the bracelet and find a strap later.
The GMT bracelet does have faux-rivets, which some people struggle to like. I say get over the rivets. They are almost unnoticeable when the Black Bay GMT is on the wrist. Seriously, don’t let the faux-rivets talk you out of the watch. Besides, you get the vintage bracelet vibes of the Submariner ref. 6204 from 1953. The clasp on the Black Bay is excellent, but it’s also a scratch magnet – which is also rather “vintage Rolex” in spirit.
Despite the nitpicking, the Tudor Black Bay GMT is a solid 8/10. I’d recommend it to almost anyone with a wrist 6.75″ or larger. If I needed to pick one watch to wear for the rest of my life it’s a strong contender. If that choice had to be under $7,000; the Black bay GMT is the winner hands-down. Take it further: What else can contend in the $4,000 range? Not much. It’s an appropriate watch in almost every situation (minus some formal affairs) and there are few things that it cannot handle. The best part is that it’s Rolex, and it’s also not Rolex at the same time. The Tudor Black Bay GMT continues to live up to every bit of hype.
I don’t like the Tudor Black Bay GMT.
The watch – and, if I’m honest, the entire Black Bay series – falls apart for me when I consider that the so-called snowflake hands (which is a misnomer, because they’re squares) don’t really go with the round markers. The Tudor Pelagos, however, looks amazing to my eye because it uses square markers with the square “snowflake” hands, giving the watch a distinctive vibe that’s very much not imitating Rolex. And let’s face it, these Tudors with round Rolex Sub markers, while precedented in the vintage Tudor catalog, have always brought Tudor closer to Rolex. I only wish Tudor would seek out a more distinctive aesthetic approach – a more Tudor approach, if you will – to the Black Bay series. Tudor, if you make the watch below, I’ll by one and eat a heaping plate of Swiss crow.
Secondly, I’m all about a Coke GMT Master, and never a Pepsi. Red and black and the badass colors of revolutionary working parties the Communists and Anarchists, and it happens to also be the colorway of early Punk because the cost of printing red, black and white (3-way process printing) was exceptionally cheap for punk bands and basement-bound record labels making their own albums. Red and blue is the colorway of established empires, and lacks badassery in my bizarrely sub-cultured aesthetic. Greg suggests that the blue looks black at times, and it does, but never often enough.
I also don’t love the matte finish on that bezel, or on the watch generally. GMT Masters are so shiny, and the new ones are even blingy. While I don’t go for Rolex bling personally, the Tudor Black Bay GMT’s striking resemblance to the Rolex GMT Master makes such a comparison compulsory, perhaps even involuntary. And when compared, the Tudor GMT seems like a new car with flat paint. Maybe I’m too old to adopt that “flat look,” or maybe it’s just too many $70,000 Mercedes that look like they’re cruising around with primer on them, but to my eye the Tudor Black Bay GMT looks unfinished.
I’m not concerned with the in-house movement. You can’t see it, and it’s not exactly haute horology going on in there anyways, so it’s just immaterial to me. If I want an in-house movement, which for me is about the art of designing a great and beautiful movement, I’m not going to Tudor. I’d happily take an ETA in this watch, save a few hundred bucks, and buy some straps or whatever.
The case is pretty thick, and the slab sides just seem like uncut metal waiting for a sexy lug to emerge from the work of, alas, some other brand.