Let’s revisit the original Tudor Black Bay Red. This is the watch that relaunched Tudor in North America, and if I’m honest, gave Tudor new life as a brand.
The original Black Bay Red is a watch that recalls many parts of vintage Rolex and Tudor submariners, without being a reissue of any specific model. It bears the gilt dial and snowflake hands of Tudor subs starting in about 1967. It has a chocolatey colored dial that appears to have been taken from a watch in the Tudor museum. The crown is a large 8mm giant, with a red accent stripe exposed on the crown tube when the crown is screwed down. If you’re any fan of watches at all, you know all this.
What you may not know is the immense focus on fit, finish, and details that can’t be seen in pictures. The lug ends fit precisely, almost surgically. There are no gaps for light to creep through or rattle between the end link on the bracelet and the lugs. The bezel turns with positive clicks, and a sound and feel that seem slightly louder and more positively than other watches in this genre. The bezel clicks and aligns perfectly at every turn, with no fooling with adjusting it backwards to get it to line up. When you rotate the bezel to the 12 o’clock position, the click is different in feel and sound, and it locks more positively. The feel is a slight difference, but the sound is lower in pitch. It signals that this watch is no accident, it’s engineered, and it works.
The bracelet has smoothly polished sides, with brushed surfaces. The folding portions of the clasp that are hidden from outside view are brightly polished. The extra links are retained with screws, and the buckle has three positions to adjust. The clasp is not a glide-lock or otherwise quick-adjustable type, but requires the tool to compress buckle spring bars. Rather than a solid end link with the first link machined into the end link, this bracelet has a solid end link with a gap in it, replicating the function of hollow folded end links from bracelets of years past. The result is a bracelet that feels a little more comfortable as it falls across the top of the wrist.
The sides of the case are polished, the tops of lugs, brushed. The beveled edge is lightly polished. Instead of earlier Tudor subs with a thin midcase and a visible caseback from the side profile, the Black Bay sides are the height of the watch and the case mounts almost flat against the back of the case. It’s about 13mm tall, roughly. It looks for all the world like it should feel tall, but it surprisingly wears comfortably. This is a weird magic that other watches we’ve reviewed that pay tribute to the Black Bay don’t quite achieve. The bezel height is about half as high as it might be on any other submariner-type watch, edged with its fine teeth, and domed sapphire rising above it.
The movement inside is the venerable ETA 2824-2. This is the 2012 model of Black Bay, the one that paved the way for the later models with the MT in-house movement. The 2824 is mostly unmodified, with the small difference being the micro adjustment at the regulation of the hair spring. It’s easy to tell this earlier model by the Tudor Rose emblem on the dial and the “smile” text reading Rotor Self-Winding written in a semi-circle at the 6 position. This is the Ur-Black Bay, the one that started it all. Some fans like it better than the current model, even claiming it wears more comfortably.
I can’t disagree. Wearing the 2012 Tudor Black Bay Red is a true pleasure. It’s easy, comfortable, and the finishing and branding help it make the case for answering the question, why pay for the Swiss Tudor when there are other watches that are just as much fun or as easy to wear: This thing is good to look at, has a brand with history, and it honors that history in all the right ways. Remember, it was a little daring in 2012 to launch a diver that wasn’t just a copy of a previous model with a small change. Tudor isn’t afraid to take risks and update old designs where other brands might need to adhere more closely to what they’ve shipped in the past. If you’re in the market for a Tudor Heritage Black Bay, you won’t go wrong with the original model.
TUDOR HERITAGE BLACK BAY
– REFERENCE 79220
- 41 mm steel case with polished and satin finish
- Unidirectional rotatable steel bezel, matt blue disc
- Self-winding mechanical movement, TUDOR calibre 2824
- Power reserve of approximately 38 hours
- Screw-down winding crown in steel engraved with the TUDOR rose, with blue anodized aluminium crown tube
- Domed sapphire crystal
- Waterproof to 200 m (660 ft)
- Steel bracelet or aged leather strap with folding clasp and safety catch
- Additional fabric strap with buckle supplied with watch
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