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Tudor Black Bay Chronograph is what happens when Breitling and Rolex have a weird love child

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At Baselworld 2017, Tudor has been laying out a number of new watches for fans to drool over, and one of them is Tudor’s newest chronograph addition to the lineup, the The Black Bay Chronograph Ref. 79350.

Tudor has had a chronograph in the product line in the recent past, the Tudor Steel Heritage Chrono Blue, itself an homage to the Tudor 7169 chronograph. The chronograph used an ETA 2892 with Debois Depraz module to add the chronograph functions. It’s all very well, and a time-proven formula, but it doesn’t fit in the future Tudor is paving for itself.

The MT5813 – look a that balance wheel!

For the past few years, Tudor has been replacing ETA movements in their line with in-house movements, using the MT prefix. Most of these have been based on designs by big brother Rolex, using the balance wheel bridge as seen in the 3135 and 3255 and other parts (escapement, barrel) to reach a 70 hours reserve efficiency. The plates have been large enough to fill the space in larger cases, so that there’s no need for a movement spacer or mounting ring as there had been to fit the 3135 into larger Rolex cases in the past. The downside to this approach is that the 36 mm Tudor Heritage Black Bay remains with the ETA movement, because the in-house MT movements are too large to fit in it without making plates just for the smaller size.

The situation is this: Tudor have the Heritage Chrono honoring the best old chrono model, and the rest have been three hand divers, with the exception of the North Flag model that debuted the in-house movements, and the Pelagos that honors the Snowflake diver dial while being very modern. For the first time, we have a new two register chronograph that doesn’t honor any model of the past, and it’s called a Black Bay.

This makes no sense. A Black Bay model is an homage to specific models of the past. They aren’t direct reinterpretations, but usually take the best of a few models and change the dimensions to make something new and wonderful. So far, the three Black Bay colors series (Red, Blue, Black) and the bronzo model are all well-executed. The 36mm model works and serves the same person who would buy the Tudor Heritage Ranger – the choice being, do you want the larger size or the traditional men’s size watch. What defines all the Black Bay models is that they’re 3-handers, they have Snowflake hands and they have round indices on the dial. That’s still true, but putting Snowflake hands on a thing doesn’t make it a Black Bay model. There’s got to be some greater reference to the past. Do I like a good Snowflake? Is it possible to argue this watch needed Snowflakes to make it a Black Bay at all? Fine. But the minute hand is needle-thin. This watch should have had a thicker minute hand, used the name Heritage, and not been a part of the Black Bay line.

Where this watch came from is also a little unusual. The point of this exercise is to help transition the entire Tudor line away from ETA movements. To make an in-house MT chronograph movement, history repeats itself. When Rolex was reinvigorating the Daytona and needed a self-winding movement, they partnered with Zenith to make the column wheel chronograph movement for it. Here, Tudor has partnered with Breitling. While they share the design, the Tudor version gets a Tudor signed rotor, silicon balance spring, Tudor’s own escapement, and Breitling models will have their own parts substituted. I don’t blame them for partnering with Breitling – making chronographs isn’t easy, and it’s certainly the bulk of Breitling models that come equipped with one. This movement is based on the design of the Breitling B01 and will be called the MT5813 in Tudor. Separately, in what is perhaps a quid pro quo for the partnership, the MT5612 that is employed in Pelagos will make an appearance as the Breitling B20 in Breitling form. (update with thanks to Brian Valta.)

The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph is coming this summer, is water resistant to 200 meters, and will cost you the grand sum of $5050 on a rivet bracelet. For your money, you get a 41mm chronograph with the in-house movement, equipped with silicon hairspring, two register chrono with date. This is the answer to the question, “what would you do if you wanted to offer a very modern, reliable chronograph movement at a somewhat affordable price?” and then covered it in vintage garb. It’s nice if you want a two-register chrono, I like the movement, but I’m not a fan of the hand proportions, which seem thin.

 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Please correct:
    The Breitling B01 is supplied to Tudor as MT5813. Breitling’s B20 is on the other hand Tudor’s caliber MT5612 supplied to Breitling for the Superocean Heritage II line. These are two distinct movements each made by the other company.

    • The MT5813 is “Derived from the chronograph manufacture calibre Breitling 01” – Tudor’s own words, as used in describing the REFERENCE 79350.

      Separately, the MT5612 is the 3 hander movement powering the Pelagos, and is Tudor’s own, and the B20 is derived from it.

      It’s not correct to say that they’re made by the other company, though – they each get regulating parts supplied by the house signs the dial.

      Also: I’d like to extend thanks to Breiting and Tudor for having made this annoying rather than adding clarity.

      • Yes I am fully aware but I figured a simplistic explanation of the cooperation on the movement exhange was sufficient. Unlike ETA though Breitling and Tudor are not supplying one another with the ebauches, I believe they actually manufacture and assemble the movements for them with the variations included or atleast assembled for the most part, as each company is likely taking advantage of their greater production capacity for their specific calibers than they are currently utilizing. Its a unique deal which I think still justifies the movements to be labeled inhouse/manufacture and retains exclusivity for both brands. You might find it confusing but within the horological community alternate caliber references following modifications and branding is pretty standard. I think both companies deserve recognition for being upfront and fairly confident with their partnership. We don’t want another Tag/Seiko scandal.

        • The obfuscation is “pretty standard.” That doesn’t mean it’s good, or that we should accept it and be grateful. That they acknowledge a partnership exists is only marginally better. A movement manufactured at Breitling with Tudor’s variations to be installed in a Tudor case as you describe sounds like the opposite of in-house. It’s nice that you get the upgraded hairspring and regulation parts for the Tudor, but it’s not Tudor’s movement if it’s made at Breitling. How exactly is this different than the TAG/Seiko experience other than Tudor named Breitling in the press pdf? That’s why I compared it to the Zenith Daytona.

          • You have a pretty skewed definition of inhouse. Firstly these are two extremely well made and respected movements by two private/family owned companies (Tudor being Rolex nonetheless), and you will not have access to these movements anywhere else but with Breitling or Tudor. Tudor/Rolex makes a good 70hour 3 hand chronometer with a balance bridge, Breitling makes an exquisite 70 hour Column wheel + vertical clutch chronograph with some great patented chrono hands reset tech and any-time date change. This also feels like a good way for Breitling to slowly but surely phase out their use of ETA in models while avoiding a potential sale. Why would either company bother developing their own versions when they are trying to cap the pricing on these lines? Any B01 Breitling goes for around 7.5-8 K, with Tudor you have access to that movement for half the price. And Breitling’s SO Heritage line has been the price sweet spot and moneymaker for the brand for a while now, they can’t risk to have to price it significantly higher due to the cost of developing a new movement for it but you dont want to continue with ETA or substitute for the likes of Selita either.
            People respect these brands, their independence, history, and their knowhow and movement quality. This partnership is nothing to scoff at unless you are being an unreasonable purist snob for whatever unjustified reason or you have the wrong concept of what either of these brands represent. Style tastes differ from person to person but that doesnt take away from the technology and craftsmanship. I hate Hublot designs, even their lack of history, but that wont make me disrespect their watchmaking skill (for their non-ETA pieces). Same goes for the two brands above. This partnership is a good call, the distinction between the two calibers and their modified versions is clear, and the benefits outweight whatever cons you might see imo. For me as a Breitling ambassador I appreciate that this gives the B01 credibility for a Rolex brand to implement into the Tudor, and I get to have the inhouse Pelagos tech in a watch which I prefer design wise and for a great price for a Breitling, and I can wear it at work.

          • Now we’ve gotten to the bottom of it: You’re a Breitling ambassador. I’d like to hear more about that.

            In-house movements are all about purism. It’s not snobbery. When they tell you something is theirs, it should be theirs. Re-labeling an ETA as you pointed out so many have done is one of the more regrettable practices. Here, at least the two have acknowledged the source and what differentiates the movement when it’s in a brand’s watch. But no, the B20 won’t be an in-house movement when it’s in a Breitling case. It’s sourced from outside the house. It will be in-house when dressed in Tudor attire. The same is true for the reverse: The Tudor chronograph here isn’t an in-house movement for Tudor, but it is for Breitling. It’s fine to highlight the modifications, but the base design isn’t in-house to one of them. To illustrate: The Rolex 4030 calibre is Zenith. It used just 50% Zenith parts, and the remaining 50% were eliminated or replaced with differently designed parts, but we all know it began life as Zenith, and that’s how it’s called. It’s not disrespectful to their watchmaking skill, but we should call things as they are.

            The Tudor three hand movement goes in one of the nicer Breitlings made in recent years. Tudor needs a chronograph with some exclusivity and wants to get away from ETA over time, so they go to Breitling. That speaks volumes about the watchmaking at Breitling. Good for them. But it’s not an in-house Tudor movement. Hopefully the next chronograph movement will actually be one of their own design if they wish to call it an in-house movement.

          • Fair enough, I will accept your position. The reason I find this as a good deal is that in the end it is not ETA, we are talking about wonderful movements that are not common in numerous brands and are of much higher finesse and quality. I guess by that means is where I label it a manufacture movement, purely on the assumption that the caliber(s) aren’t a readily available ETA or whichever movement producer. It will never be embarrassing to admit to people what kind of engine is on the inside in either case, one can point out that their Breitling has the inhouse Tudor and feel great about that, and for a Tudor owner to be able to say they have the B01 (with some nice additional modifications) and for half the price, that could never be a shameful confession. But yes, they are each produced by the other brand, as such they are not truly inhouse in that regard, but it is still fair that at least this was made clear right upfront from both sides and thus it is up to fans to decide what value they see in that or if it’s a pro or con for them. For me I am excited I can get the Pelagos movements and Rolex DNA and quality in a watch and brand that speaks to me and that I represent (I am still a watch enthusiast at the end of the day, I was looking at getting a Black Bay Bronze a few months back). I always liked the SO Heritage but with a non-ceramic bezel nor inhouse just didn’t justify it for me, now it does. And given that I wear my B04 Chronomat GMT almost on a daily basis and it does its job ridiculously well, I have become picky about having such movements on my wrist. And to see a brand such as Tudor, and thus its parent company Rolex, considering the quality and tech of a Breitling inhouse caliber for their products is just very satisfying and re-ensuring that the brand is heading in the right direction and partnering up with the best, at least as of now.

          • How is this different? That they were totally upfront about it? I suppose that may not be enough if you haven’t grasped the very simple thing they’ve done here. Calling it “manufacture” may annoy the pedants though

  2. “… putting Snowflake hands on a thing doesn’t make it a Black Bay model.” An opinion, perhaps, but not a fact. Tudor’s website says it’s about design cues, not purpose.

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