Tudor announced a number of new watches for 2022, including a controversial Explorer II riff named the Black Bay Pro.
Black Bay Pro
The Black Bay Pro, curiously not named “Professional”, is a 39mm diameter GMT sport watch that recalls the Rolex Explorer 1655, but with a dial more like an early 1960s Submariner. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this combination. The 42mm Rolex Explorer II used the big orange hand and sub-type dial in the fixed steel bezel case. This is the properly sized version with a vintage dial bearing a chaper ring minute track.
Tudor calls this “the adventurer’s Black Bay”, while the GMT is “the traveler’s Black Bay”. At a glance, this seems awesome.
What Tudor got right
There’s a lot to like here:
- 39mm is a great size
- The old Explorer II bezel is really nice, even with Tudor’s more blocky font on it (also found on the Tudor GMT bezel)
- The GMT MT5652 movement has a true traveler’s GMT hour hand (independently set from the minute and 24h hand)
- The chapter ring on the minute track
What Tudor got wrong
- 14.6mm thick. With the addition of the Tudor slab sided case, it feels really thick.
- The bracelet. Why can’t Tudor make a nice bracelet?
- Snowflakes everywhere is not great.
- The triangle at 12 is much smaller than other Tudor. Shame.
Why is everything a “Black Bay” anyway?
Tudor has named every sport watch they sell for the last few years, “Black Bay”. This is confusing, because some are larger 41mm with a rotating bezel, and some are 36mm with no bezel at all.
Because the Black Bay exists at 41mm with a dive bezel, 41mm as a chronograph, 39mm as the Black Bay 58, and 36mm as the Black Bay 36, here’s what we can assume: Black Bay just means, “it has dive watch indices on a dial and we threw some snowflake hands on it.”
That’s it. “circles and bars dial indices, and snowflake hands.” The snowflake indices is a Pelagos.
I can only say what I’ve said repeatedly on the Hourtime Show podcast: naming is hard. Perhaps it’s too difficult for Tudor to come up with names that distinguish a smooth bezel watch from a small diver, a small diver from a large diver, and any diver from a chronograph?
Tudor lives in fear
For a company whose motto has been #BornToDare even after the ambassador relationship with Lady Gaga ended, Tudor has a very narrow path to thread. They nearly failed in the US market once, and with their revival, have decided that the way forward is vintage inspired watches, and steel and gold models.
Rolex, in contrast, makes modern, shiny, jewelry watches. Every opportunity to make something more reflective, more shiny, or catch the light as the watch rotates, has been taken. Rolex also lives in fear, having to walk a very narrow path that conservatively makes shinier versions of past models.
Indices are white gold. Hands are curved or beveled, not flat. Bezels are cerachrom, and filled with platinum. Any time they make a misstep, customers and fans let them know: The 214270 with Short Hand Syndrome, the Air-King that they doubled down on, 41mm DJ and Day-Date, and even the new left-hand GMT Master II.
Tudor was founded to make watches the everyday person could afford, watches for working men in tough conditions, with the waterproof Oyster case and perpetual self-winding movement, at a “medium price”, or “more modest price”. The original advertisements have an illustration of a man working a jackhammer, and claims that the Tudor watch survived over one million shocks of the chisel, unharmed.
3800 USD for the Tudor Black Bay Pro is not a “modest price”.
Why is the Black Bay Pro so tall?
The normal Black Bay 58 (the good Black Bay dive watch) is 11.9mm thick, with 200m water resistance. This is fantastic. Only NTH’s much more affordable divers are thinner at 11.5mm, with 300m water resistance.
Watches are inevitably built around the movements they house. The movements dictate how far the crown is from the dial, how thick the sides or back must be, and how tall the crystal is from the dial, to leave room for the hands.
The Black Bay 58’s movement is the MT5402, which is 26mm in diameter, and 4.99mm tall. For comparison’s sake, the ETA 2892 is 4.61mm tall, 25.9mm diameter, or the Miyota 9015 is 4.10mm tall, 26mm diameter. All good, so far.
The Black Bay Pro’s movement is the MT5652. The total diameter of this movement is 31.8mm, at a whopping 7.52mm tall. For comparison, the Rolex 3186 movement was 28.5mm in diameter and 6.5mm tall. It was introduced for the GMT Master II in 2005. That GMT Master II was 12mm thick, with a lesser 100m-ish water resistance. (Water resistance could have been improved with a thicker case back).
The short answer is, the movement is taller than other GMT movements, and the case is thicker to house it and add more water resistance.
What’s the deal with Tudor bracelets?
The Tudor faux rivet bracelet doesn’t feel much better than equivalents sold in China. Either Chinese manufacturing is really good at producing faux rivet bracelets, or Tudor should spend more time figuring out what makes them less than stellar.
Tudor’s jacquard loom woven straps, however, are excellent. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. The Tudor Black Bay Pro is $3800 USD. Tudorwatch.com