Hands-On Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G – A Tribute to the Rolex Rootbeer GMT Master of the 1960s

The Skinny

  • 41mm x 14.6mm
  • Tudor Manufacture Calibre MT5652 GMT, 70-hour power reserve, COSC certification
  • Steel and Gold
  • 200m water resistance
  • Release year: 2022
  • $4300 on straps, $5500 with bracelet
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

Imitating Its Way to Uniqueness

It can be difficult to intellectually separate Tudor from Rolex. Rolex owns Tudor, their mutual technologies are well known, and the two brands share the most recognizable watch design language the world has ever known. Historically, Tudor and Rolex have spoken the same design language with subtly different accents. However, in the last decade or so – and specifically with the Black Bay series – Tudor has developed an increasingly distinct language of its own by doing something Rolex never does: imitating vintage Rolex models. Imitation may seem an implausible way to create a distinct identity, but Tudor has turned the enterprise into an horological hit machine that has clearly distinguished the brand from its parent company.

Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

Black Bays Paying Tribute To Vintage Rolex

Arguably, Tudor kicked off this imitative enterprise in 2017 with the Black Bay Steel & Gold (S&G), a two-tone affair that brought Tudor’s 41mm diver right up alongside Rolex’s first two-tone Submariner, reference 16803 of 1984.

Rolex 16803 and Tudor Black Bay Silver and Gold
Rolex 16803 (1984) and Tudor Black Bay Steel and Gold (2017)

In 2018, Tudor gave us the red and blue (Pepsi) Black Bay GMT, a watch so similar to Rolex GMT Master reference 6542 of the 1950s that it inspired a divisive stir among fans of Rolex and Tudor alike.

Rolex 6524 and Tudor Black Bay GMT "Pepsi"
Rolex 6524 (1950s) and Tudor Black Bay GMT “Pepsi” (2018)

In 2019 Tudor brought the two-tone Steel and Gold look to the Black Bay Chronograph in a nod to 1988’s Rolex Daytona reference 16523.

Rolex 16523 and Tudor Black Bay Silver and Gold Chronograph
Rolex 16523 (1988) and Tudor Black Bay S&G Chronograph (2019)

In 2021 Tudor brought out a thinner Black Bay Chronograph that unabashedly imitated 1963’s Rolex “Newman” Daytona reference 6241, red text and all.

Rolex "Newman" Daytona and Tudor Black Bay Chronograph
Rolex “Newman” Daytona (1963) and Tudor Black Bay Chronograph (2021)

In 2022 Tudor issued the Back Bay Pro, its most direct tribute to a vintage Rolex, 1971’s Explorer II reference 1655.

Rolex 1655 and Tudor Black Bay Pro of 2022
Rolex 1655 (1971) and Tudor Black Bay Pro (2022)

So overt was the level of mimicry of the 39mm Black Bay Pro that it effectively overshadowed Tudor’s 41mm Black Bay S&G two-tone “Rootbeer” GMT, also released in 2022, which most closely resembles the Rolex reference 16753 GMT Master of 1963.

Rolex 16753 "Rootbeer" and Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold of 2022
Rolex 16753 “Rootbeer” (1963) and Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G (2022)

The Mellow Aesthetic of Tudor Tool Watches

The aesthetic that emerges from these imitations is understated and mellow, and that aesthetic stands in stark contrast to the shiny, even blingy, aesthetic of modern Rolex watches. How Tudor has achieved this aesthetic comes down to a handful of treatments almost never seen in modern Rolex models.

Consider Tudor’s matte finishes and satin brushed surfaces compared to Rolex’s polished steel, gold and ceramic. Or Tudor’s box crystals, which distort the edge of the dial like old-school acrylic, whereas Rolex uses distortion-free flat sapphire crystals. Tudor is not afraid to mellow the whiteness of its lume and hint at patina, whereas Rolex only delivers pure white lume that will never age. Tudor also successfully imitates the gilt dial’s of Rolexes from the 1950s and 60s, (e.g. Explorer Re. 6350, Submariner 5508), achieving a campfire warmth that modern Rolex watches seem to purposefully avoid, even when incorporating earth tones. Tudor offers thick, textured, stitched leather straps and loosely woven fabric options that are antithetical to Rolex’s highly polished metal bracelets. 

The Tudor Black Bay S&G GMT carries all of these qualities. As the following images will make obvious, this watch is a study in warm hues, matte finishes, gilt accents, textured surfaces, and a softened overall appearance reminiscent of vintage Rolex watches.

Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

All told, Tudor has executed its design language masterfully in the Black Bay GMT S&G. The watch is understated where Rolex would be flashy, quiet where Rolex would be loud, and mellow where Rolex would be hyped.

To be clear, Tudor’s aesthetic is not an attempt to appear aged as much as it is to take on the appearance of older Rolex professional models when they were new. As such, Tudor maintains a tool-watch vibe that Rolex has long since left behind. You can wear a modern Tudor with an old flannel shirt and faded jeans, or a tweed blazer and nerd glasses, or with waxed cotton outdoor gear, and it’ll fit right in. A modern Rolex, not so much – they’re just too blingy.

Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
The modern Rolex GMT Master shines brightly in Everose gold. The Tudor is muted and warm in yellow gold.

Tudor’s Excellence With Warm Colorways

I believe there is something about the subdued, matte nature of the Tudor aesthetic that’s better suited to charcoals, browns, creams and golds than it is to blues, reds and bright whites. High energy colors resist being subdued and fall a bit flat under Tudor’s treatment, whereas browns, golds and charcoals – the colors of rust, dirt and fallen leaves – are quite naturally suited to Tudor’s mellowing treatments. This is ultimately a matter of taste, but I have concluded that the more Tudor embraces Rolex’s earthy vintage gilt vibes, the better the overall aesthetic result. There’s a depth there that’s alluring and engrossing.

Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

The Larger 41mm Black Bay Format Suits The GMT

I’ve spent a great deal of time wearing the popular 39mm Black Bay 58 (including the new Pro GMT), and I’ve concluded that the 41mm format is the better choice for a GMT. There’s just something right in the proportional relationship of the dial to the bezel to the case. It feels natural, and even spacious. These proportions suit a GMT wonderfully, as there’s quite a bit of information being transmitted from all over this watch’s face.

But my appreciation of the 41mm watch also extends out onto the lugs and even to the often-criticized “slab sides.” I have complained of these tall unadorned flanks in the past, but now that I better understand Tudor’s understated aesthetic, the plain sides of the case make sense to me. In the final analysis, this case is a large-format Patek Calatrava, the first watch case to smooth out the transition from the case to the lugs with unadorned Bauhaus design efficiency.

Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

The Fabric Strap Has Become a Tudor Signature

Having experienced the Black Bay GMT on the two-tone bracelet, I concluded that it was a little too much of a good thing. To my eye, the bracelet took away from the subtle gold accents of the bezel, crown, hands and markers. I enjoyed the watch on the leather strap very much, but it was on the fabric strap that I found myself thinking: Now that’s a Tudor!

I can’t overstate how wonderful Tudor’s fabric straps are. Produced in France by Julien Faure on vintage mechanical jacquard looms, these straps are just incredible pieces of textile art. I’ve tried all sorts of affordable third party stand-ins, and nothing comes even remotely close in terms of comfort, finish, suppleness, and vibe. These straps represent what I would call laid-back luxury.

Tudor Black Bay GMT ROOTBEER
Tudor Black Bay GMT Silver and Gold Rootbeer

The color-matched stripe down the center of the strap on the Black Bay GMT S&G (and many other Black Bay models) has become something of an icon for Tudor. It’s so resolutely unlike anything Rolex has ever produced that it makes any Black Bay feel even more distinctly Tudor-ish. In my opinion, these fabric straps have become integral to Tudor’s distinct design language.

An Integrated GMT Movement

Since 2015, Tudor has been equipping Black Bay models with movements from their company Kenissi. These movements are adapted to other brands’ watches (Norquain and Chanel, for example), but are generally designed to work in Tudor watches first and foremost.

The MT5652 movement is an integrated GMT, meaning that the GMT function is built into the main structure of the movement rather than attached as a module. This is a significant distinction within mechanical watchmaking, at least conceptually.

The MT5652 runs on 28 jewels at 4Hz (28,800 vph) and can store up to 70-hours of power. There is a handsome traversing balance bridge (upper left corner of the image above) which suspends the free-sprung balance wheel (preferred for its more consistent oscillations) that uses an a-magnetic silicon hairspring. Tuned as COSC chronometer to run between -4/+6 seconds per day, this movement truly only stands slightly beneath Rolex’s Superlative Chronometers (+/-2 secs/day) and Omega’s Master Chronometers (which meet METAS standards).

Tudor Black Bay GMT Rootbeer

A Final Personal Note

I haven’t owned a Tudor because I had categorized them as Rolex Jr., or found picky things to complain about, or perhaps because I wasn’t interested in getting on the Tudor bandwagon along with all my pals who own and adore their Black Bays. I’d try them on and like them, but not love them. But the moment I tried on the Rootbeer Black Bay GMT S&G at a boutique, I knew something was different. The watch just sang to me.

Having worn this watch for over a week now, I have decided to buy it. This almost never happens to me when reviewing a watch. There’s something about how all the elements of this watch – the colors, the lay out, the use of gold against steel, the slightly cream colored lume, the brushed case- it all just coheres into a satisfying whole. That satisfaction is, I have learned, impossible to put into words. So, I will leave you with one last picture that I think sums up the warm, mellow Tudor Black Bay design language I’ve described above. Man, I love this watch!

Tudor Black Bay GMT Rootbeer