If you’ve found your way here, most likely you are familiar with Tudor watches. Brand awareness, history, and Tudor’s aesthetic have been flooded through every media outlet possible since the brand’s return to United States market in 2013. The Black Bay quickly went from the flagship relaunch to the most ambiguous model of the Rolex subsidiary.
Today the Tudor catalog is filled with so many Black Bay models that the BB would make a debatable answer in a game of Trivial Pursuit: Watch-Nerd Edition. Like the Black Bay vibe or not, the depth of the line is on par with other familiar names such as Datejust, Speedmaster, and Aquaracer. Do the same people that needle Tudor about too many Black Bays give Rolex the same angst over a catalog filled with Oyster cases? I doubt it.
Still, we see the same few Black Bay models over and over in reviews. The Black Bay GMT and the Black Bay 58 have saturated our online feeds. Don’t get me wrong, those are both great watches. I’m the proud owner of a Black Bay GMT. (Do they make license plate frames with that on them?) We are past the point of over-saturation of some Tudor models and that is causing us to sleep on some other great ones.
Black Bay S&G 32
MSRP $4,000 (bracelet)
Women’s watches usually get placed at the bottom of these type of lists. It sucks, and Allen is shamefully guilty of this in his Gear Patrol buying guides. It’s common to throw a random one in at the end to check an imaginary box. We’re changing that by putting the Black Bay S&G 32 at the top of our list today. This 32mm watch with the black dial is so badass, but in the most elegant way. Few watches can be both tough and chic at the same time, placing the 32 in select company.
Tudor really nailed it with the 32. They have done so little to market this watch. It’s not very “hashtaggable” either. I know that sounds silly, but the importance of social media is real. It also seems like most of Tudor’s marketing efforts (dollars) went toward the 36 & 41mm versions.
Despite being steel and gold, The Black Bay 32 is no glass cannon. It’s highly legible for its size. The large screw-down crown and 150m of water resistance makes it more than capable in any recreational aquatic activity. So what if the movement is an ETA 2824? Servicing options will be abundant and less costly than an in-house caliber.
Beside being well built, the 32mm model offers fantastic proportional balance with the dial. The black dial is the way to go. That black negative space created by the exclusion of a date window was the right move. The iconic well-proportioned snowflake hands are crisp, providing the distinct Tudor identity.
My wife is not a “watch person”. If she were, I could easily see her swearing as she quick-set the date after a period of non-wear. In the real world, the no-date means that you can wind and set the time in a flash. I could also see my wife wearing this to work, on date-night, or relaxing at home. The high-quality steel and gold jubilee bracelet is versatile and comfortable.
Don’t judge the Black Bay S&G 32 by the 36 or the 41. The 32 is the only version that is proportionally pleasing. Tudor hasn’t done themselves any favors with the photoshop-like stock website images either. Do yourself a favor and check one of these out in person. If you don’t like gold, the steel 32mm versions are great too, just in a sportier way.
Heritage Black Bay Steel
MSRP $3,900 (bracelet)
I know what you’re thinking. “Ugh… I’m so over the Black Bay Heritage”. At this point, the Black Bay design has been around for seven years. Those modern Tudor dive watches are easily sourced and over hashtagged with the exception of the “steel” version. I think that most of us got it wrong after the hype died down post release in 2017.
Yes, it’s a lot of steel. I get that. Don’t dismiss the steel as I initially did. Tudor subtly places a few Easter-eggs that make it unique. A small splash of red is the song of the enthusiast’s siren. As I type this, I hear it calling to my wallet. Tudor uses red sparingly to create some nice details that make this model unique. Sure there is the red triangle, but the red line of text on the dial brings the extra “pop” to an otherwise monochromatic watch.
Other features unique to the Black Bay Steel include a date window housing Tudors first Black Bay with an in-house movement (cal. MT5612) with the 70 hour power reserve. This is not going to be a date/ no-date discussion. I’m simply going to say that I prefer having the date displayed on my watch. The other standout is the faux-rivet bracelet that is also found on the Black Bay GMT. Don’t let the naysayers fool you. It’s an unobtrusive feature and shouldn’t sway your decision either way.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Steel is no longer showing up on Tudor’s website. Tudor (Rolex) has never officially announced the discontinuation for a model. A model will simply disappear from the website. There is only speculation at this point, but many believe that the Black Bay Steel design will be resurrected in the “58” case. The 41mm M79730 could become a rare bird.
Black Bay Chronograph
MSRP $5,225 (bracelet)
I’m not sure if you can get more in a chronograph in this price range. Sure, it’s not cheap, but keep in mind that the non-COSC, manual-winding, water-phobic Speedmaster Professional has a higher MSRP of $5,350. The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph offer so much, but gets so little praise.
Stones are tossed at the Black Bay Chronograph with phrases like: “a brick, a tank, too big, too tall, poor-man’s Daytona, etc”. In their next breath, those same people will flaunt their new Panerai Luminor that is slowly causing scoliosis.
I want you to think about the Black Bay Chronograph as the Daytona that is actually accessible: the “Tudor-tona”. Be honest with yourself. You’ll never own a Paul Newman. The chances of your paying double retail price for a ceramic Daytona are slim. Furthermore, the chances of being offered a ceramic Daytona from your AD at retail are nil. You want it because you can’t have it. Get over the Daytona.
Think about all you get with the Black Bay Chronograph. There is the in-house (lend-lease from Breitling) automatic caliber MT5813 that is COSC certified for accuracy. Speaking from experience, the 70 hour power reserve on the Tudor movements is a grand perk. The chronograph pumpers screw down specking it for 200 meters of water resistance. That assurance tells me that this watch is summer ready for the boat, pool, and the beach. The classic Tudor aesthetic gives me the confidence to wear that same watch out to a nice dinner.
Now comes the kicker. Ditch the bracelet, ditch the Tudor straps. Instead put the Black Bay Chronograph on your favorite quality rubber strap form Everest (pictured), Rubber B, or Vanguard. Make sure that the strap has curved ends and that it was specifically designed for the Black Bay. One more thing, make sure that it’s a black strap to complete the Oysterflex vibe. That’s how I’d wear it. And I’d wear the hell out of it.
The watch enthusiast space is very fickle. It’s hard not to let other people or media outlets sway your perceptions by the regurgitation of content. What is generally accepted as either “good” or “not good” can be difficult to evaluate. Nobody is immune to it. These sleeper picks from Tudor allow you to be unique while still staying within one standard deviation from the crowd.