Hands-on Review – Tudor Black Bay Bronze

The Skinny

Reference: M79250BA-0002

Dimensions: 43 x 52.2 x 14.5mm

Material: Bronze

Water Resistance: 200m

Movement: MT5601

Strap: Fabric

Price: $4,150

The Case

The Tudor Black Bay GMT is my natural reference for watch case size due to the vast amount of time I’ve spent wearing it. I have no problem pulling off the 41 mm Black Bay GMT with my 6.75” wrist. The large size of the 43mm Black Bay Bronze was almost too large but fit well when worn in the watch’s intended environment. 

Tudor Black Bay Bronze Crown Patina
Note the developing patina on the crown and bezel. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The Black Bay Bronze is not a dress watch. It belongs near sand and salt air. A recent beach vacation in Cape Cod was the perfect environment for a test drive. A large bronze dive watch works at the beach (add 1mm). Long sleeves and tight shirt cuffs are absent here (add 1mm). Dive watches tend to get a pass when it comes to pushing the envelope on diameter (add 1mm). Still, a 43mm diameter case and a hefty lug to lug of 52.2mm won’t pass for a charming vintage-sized skin diver.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze  Case
The Black Bay is known for tall flanks. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

I understand admiring patina from the perceived safety of trapping it between the crystal and the dial. However, the oxidation of bronze alloys that naturally develop from environmental exposure can be gross. In my mind, this is one step up from the rusting of iron. The way that luxury watch manufacturers have marketed bronze as a way to sell consumers an additional watch for their collection is as sneaky as the little blue-green chemical reactions already starting to develop on the crown of the Black Bay Bronze. To slow down the blue-green verdigris that will transfer to your wrist (yuck), Tudor uses a steel PVD Bronze-colored caseback. Despite Tudor’s mitigation efforts, after wearing a bronze watch expect to wear the blue-green badge of courage on your wrist until you can locate some soap.  

The Dial

The Black Bay Bronze sports my favorite dials in Tudor’s catalog. The “slate” grey version on the Black Bay Bronze 42 reviewed here is the best one in my opinion. It’s so murky. The incomparable slate-grey is a color that will not be found on a modern Rolex. Dare to be born!

Tudor Black Bay Bronze 43 Slate Grey Dial
The creamy slate-grey dial. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Tudor made a wise design choice by extending the creamy grey hue to the aluminum dive bezel. Usually wearing a Black Bay GMT with a bi-directional bezel made me forget how fantastic the action is on Tudor’s unidirectional dive bezels. The firm sound and tactile click were sensory-overload for a watch enthusiast like myself. 

The 3-6-9 hour markers are a brilliant call back to the Rolex Submariner Ref 6200 or 5513 with so-called “Explorer Dials.” I can’t imagine the reaction if Tudor snuck in a thin line under the text on the dial. Fanfiction aside, the 3, 6, and 9 house markers complement the overall design aesthetic better than the mixture of snowflake hands and circular hour markers that are present in the entirety of the Black Bay line (sans Bronze). The absence of a date window keeps the dial clean. Had Tudor decided to add a date complication, it would have propelled the entire 3-6-9 dial design into disarray. 

The Movement

The Tudor Black Bay Bronze uses the MT56 family of in-house mechanical automatic movements. In-house – But whose house is it? In 2016 Tudor founded Kenissi, a subsidiary that would manufacture its movements. To lower its fixed costs, Tudor (Kenissi) also produces movements for Chanel, Breitling, and Norqain based upon the MT (Manufacture Tudor) base platform.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze 43 Slate Grey Dial
A time-only watch is nice to have on vacation. Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The MT5601 has a slightly wider base plate of 33.8mm to fit snugly in the Black Bay Bronze’s 43 mm case compared to the 31.8 mm MT5602. Both time-only movements, the MT5601 shares many parts with the smaller MT5602 that is found in the classic 41mm Black Bay watches. The similarities in design and shared parts allow a competent watchmaker or technician to service the MT56 series as well as the Breitling B20 NN20/2 with little additional training. As the demand for watchmakers outweighs the supply, manufacturers need to help make their work more efficient. The finishing on the MT5601 is merely acceptable for a mechanical luxury watch. Only recently has Tudor started to produce exhibition casebacks to display its movements. With a solid caseback on the Black Bay Bronze, the movement finishing is irrelevant to most consumers. 

Tudor MT5601 and MT5602 Movements
Note the larger main plate on the 5601. Image: David Flett

The MT5601 features Tudors most up-to-date technology such as a silicon hairspring, a free-sprung Microstella balance wheel, and a 70-hour power reserve. The MT5601 is tested to meet COSC standards (-4/+6 seconds per day). I was on vacation while reviewing the Black Bay Bronze so COSC didn’t matter to me. On vacation time, plans seemed to be made followed by “ish” and I didn’t personally feel the need to note the accuracy of the MT5601. This time-only watch with its lack of complication was perfect for vacation. All I had to do was grip it and rip it without concerns of setting AM, PM, or the correct date.

The Strap

Tudor does a fantastic job on its woven fabric straps as a material. That’s where the praise ends. Low spring bar holes accentuate the case height and make the Black Bay Bronze look unrefined on the stock fabric strap. The strap isn’t technically a NATO. It’s more of a single pass “ZULU”. However, Tudor designed its fabric for the spring bars to be installed in a fixed position. I slid the keeper hardware around and couldn’t get the strap to fit “just right”. At least the hardware is bronze and it is aging with a patina consistent with the Balck Bay Bronze’s case. Drilled lugs make strap changes easier. Other Black Bays lack the drilled lugs feature.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze Fabric Strap And Bronze Buckle
Bronze hardware to match the case Photo: Greg Bedrosian

The only other option from Tudor is a black leather strap with gold stitching (Ref. M79250BA-0001 / $4,150). The same unsightly gap and exposed case issues are just as prominent on the leather option (if not more so). If you like strap swapping, the 23mm lug width will make it challenging to find a variety of options. Even simple tasks like sourcing quality 23mm spring bars will be a nuisance. Tudor needs to step up its game and offer a Tudorflex rubber strap. Until then, the best option for the Black Bay Bronze 43 is a curved-end aftermarket strap from Rubber B ($240). If I was to own a Black Bay Bronze, that’s how I’d wear it.

Conclusion

I have a soft spot for all of the Tudor Black Bays, but the Bronze is not for me. The combination of the bronze case color/alloy characteristics, the lack of a proper bracelet/strap, and the 43mm size are hardly a compelling pitch from Tudor. I don’t understand why prospective customers would choose to spend their money on the Bronze ($4,150) over other Black Bays such as the GMT ($3,725), Chronograph ($4,900), Fifty-Eight ($3,375), or 41mm Black Bay classic ($3,475). Note that prices listed here are on a fabric strap.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze 43 Slate Grey
Photo: Greg Bedrosian

Intra-Tudor snobbery aside, I fail to see how the Black Bay Bronze 43 could sneak into the “one watch” conversation. There is intrinsic value in one-watch contenders that often exceeds the dollar amount. The Black Bay Bronze 43 simply does not have the one-watch potential that is found in many other Tudors. For select tastes, the Black Bay Bronze will help to diversify a multi-watch collection. That seems like too much of a novelty for my wallet to handle.