The first time the world saw the Black Bay was at Baselworld 2012, with the launch of the awesome Black Bay Red. It was arguably the biggest news to come out of Basel that year as people marveled at the relaunched Big Crown Submariner - a move few believed would ever be made by the Wilsdorf group. However, rather than being a straight forward remake of a single reference it was an amalgam and a celebration of a couple of vintage pieces from Tudor's rich archive.
As a quick recap, let's remind ourselves of what and why the Black Bay is what it is. The original BB Red took its cue from two major eras in the history of the Tudor Submariner. The first was the Big Crown watches of the 1950s - the shoulder-less cases adorned with oversize winding crown. The gilt lettering dials from the 1950s watches was also reimagined on the first Black Bay. The other, maybe more instantly obvious, influence was the 1970s snowflake hands. Developed in conjunction with French National Navy divers for maximum legibility, these hands are unique to Tudor and one of the most instantly recognizable features of anything the brand has ever produced. Combined in a very contemporary sized case and topped off with a domed sapphire glass it was the perfect fusion of vintage and modern Tudor sports watch. And the consumers loved it...
A Family Affair
And so as the years passed, the Black Bay family became a key focus for Tudor and the family grew. There is now the Black Bay Red, Blue and Black as well as the innovative Bronze (the first non-steel 'Sub' ever from Tudor) and the Dark (the first time ever a Rolex group watch has been PVD coated by Geneva and a nod to the Bamfords and Project Xs of the world). In 2016, the entire Black Bay line had the new Tudor in-house movement fitted with a new dial layout replacing the 'Rose' logo with the shield and boasting the COSC designation.
A Date with Steel
This year, Tudor went one step further and added a date complication to the Black Bay in the BB Steel. This is a very useful and good looking addition to the watch; the sense of balance across the dial is secure. I sometimes feel that a date window can make a dial look almost lopsided, but in my mind it works really well on the BB Steel. This effect is also helped by the absence of a cyclops date magnifier on the crystal - a design decision I am grateful that Tudor took. The red depth rating that we first saw on the BB Dark makes a very welcome return on this watch which really pops off the dial and is a lovely contrast to the silver text that adorns the rest of the dial.
The other obvious addition is the brushed steel bezel insert. Set against the rivet bracelet and brushed steel lugs of the watch, the effect is quite striking, especially with the splash of red on the triangle at the top of the bezel. Bearing in mind, the brand's referencing of vintage watches, this is what vintage collectors refer to as a 'ghost' bezel. On ‘ghost’ bezels, the Black will fade and wear down to a light grey or silver effect. The BB Steel has this ghost look to it, especially when worn on the green fabric strap.
In the spirit of Tudor celebrating its past, this steel bezel insert style is an homage to past inserts used by Tudor. These inserts were used for a short period in the 1990s on the sapphire glass Tudor Submariner date model reference 79190. I actually really loved that version of the transitional Subs and am delighted to see a tribute to it here on the BB Steel.
In 2015 Tudor proudly announced their new in-house calibre; a feat that took five years' worth of research and development. The new movements are COSC rated and boast an impressive 70-hour power reserve. The version used in the Black Bay Steel is the MT5612.
Today at TUDOR's Baselworld press conference, we were presented three more novelties:
TUDOR Heritage Black Bay 41mm - Tudor upgraded their entry level Black Bay line with a 41 mm Black Bay available in steel, which is a larger version of the 36mm Black Bay introduced at last year's fair. Priced at $2,500USD on a leather strap ($2,800 on steel bracelet) it's a tremendous value.
TUDOR Heritage Black Bay S&G - A stunning two-tone Black Bay, that TUDOR is calling the Black Bay S&G. The piece features a 18 karat yellow gold bezel and gold capped crown and centerlinks. Priced at $3,600USD on a leather strap.
My favorite, the Black Bay Steel. Which is a 41mm Black Bay, with a brushed steel bezel and date complication. Priced at $3,300USD on leather, and $3,600 on steel bracelet.
Full pricing and availability will be announced soon.