It was with great delight that I first handled the Black Bay Dark at the annual Tudor pre-Baselworld dinner earlier this year. PVD coating watches is not a new science, as brands such as Heuer were treating their watches is way over 50 years ago, but it has really become very popular over the past decade as an aftermarket modification – especially to Rolex and Tudor pieces.
The Black Sheep of the Family
The Tudor Black Bay was launched in 2012 and was one of the most memorable releases of the year at Baselworld. Two years later, the Marine Nationale inspired ‘Midnight Blue’ Black Bay was announced and whilst aesthetically very different to its older brother, it was equally popular. The Black Bay’s status was cemented and has become, arguably, the most important watch in Tudor’s arsenal. This year at Baselworld 2016 we weren’t just treated to one extra addition to the Black Bay family – we got three!
Black watches continue to be one of the most polarizing points of discussion amongst collectors of both vintage and modern watches. Few people are indifferent to them; most either love them or hate them. I am in the former camp, I like the ‘coated’ watches that have become the signature output from brands such as Bamford Watch Department, Project X and Pro-Hunter and enjoy looking at the various pieces these brands promote on Instagram and their websites. That being said, I am yet to commit the funds to the significant premium that these companies charge over a regular ‘factory spec’ watch from the manufacturer (and the voided manufacturer’s warranty to boot). Purists are put off by the fact that had Rolex or Tudor intended their watch to be black, that’s how they would have made them…step forward the Black Bay Dark!
The Black Bay Dark retains all the familiar features of the BB family including the signature snowflake hands, no-crown-guard case and domed sapphire crystal. The case profile has been tweaked slightly to accommodate the newly included in-house movement, which has necessitated a domed caseback – a touch that vintage fans are used to seeing on their old Submariners. Many predicted that Tudor would introduce their new movement (introduced at Baselworld 2015) in the Black Bay range, which they did this year across the family (including the Red, Blue and Black). To signify this move all the watches now feature the shield logo on the dial (with the exception of the Black Bay 36, which retains a modified ETA caliber).
One of the biggest attractions of the Heritage range is Tudor’s commitment to celebrating their rich history and referencing iconic features of key pieces from the back catalogue. The BB Dark features one of my personal favourite vintage inspired aspects so far; the red triangle at 12 o’clock on the insert. This was a defining feature of the bezels in the 1950’s era of ‘Big Crown’ Submariners and it works so well on the BB Dark (as it did on the Black Bay Black). Keeping with the red theme there is another interesting highlight on the dial in the form of a red font for the depth rating. Arguably the most well known example of red font depth is that on the Rolex Submariner reference 1680, known to collectors as the ‘Red Sub’. Tudor’s use of red for the depth rating on watches does in fact stretch back to the 1950s and a very rare Tudor Submariner reference 7923; the only manual wind Submariner to ever come out of the Wilsdorf family. There are very few known examples of the red-depth 7923 known to exist, but its influence is clear to see in the Black Bay Dark.
The PVD coating is, as you would expect from Tudor, of a very high quality and it gives the watch a very utilitarian look that works well. The coating process, ‘physical vapour deposition’ was originally pioneered by NASA and was adopted by the military for a range of uses on field equipment. The Black Bay watches are the descendants of watches that were developed in conjunction with military forces across the globe and so its seems a fitting tribute to this that the BB Dark be given a stealthy military ‘uniform’.
Keeping with the military theme, the supplied fabric strap is a colour that Tudor call anthracite that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Pheonix nato straps that were issued by the British MOD for their military-spec Submariners in the 1970s. Like all Tudor Heritage watches a fabric strap accompanies the BB Dark, whether you opt for the PVD steel bracelet or leather strap. Having spent some time with the watch on both steel bracelet and fabric strap, I much prefer it on the strap, maybe due to my interest in vintage Tudor military Submariners that were worn on similar straps. The matching pvd-coated buckle and keepers on the fabric strap are finished to the same high standards as the case of the watch and well positioned to make it very comfortable on the wrist; further testament to Tudor’s forensic attention to detail.
In my opinion, this watch is a brilliant addition to the Black Bay family and gives consumers yet another option when choosing from this comprehensive collection of dive watches. One thing is for sure, the ‘black watch’ market is strong and growing and I applaud Tudor for producing this watch and doing such a great job in the details of the execution. It’s different enough from all of the other Black Bays to stand out and attract a whole different groups of fans but also familiar enough to reassure everybody that they are buying into decades old heritage in a modern and yet classic watch. What more could anybody want?