Never one to forget its roots, or the bold innovations of the past, the Tudor watch brand constantly surprises. Much to the satisfaction of its aficionados, ever since the arrival of the Chrono Heritage in 2010, the brand has been blatantly exploring its history. Through its new references, it is therefore more than happy to reveal the occasional discreet borrowing or subtle nod to the outstanding accomplishments composing its rich heritage. Here and there, we see clear allusions to a collector’s favourite, or a precise, documented detail about one of its forgotten icons; together they form a coherent voice. And the latest 2016 additions are no exception. Tudor has kept the upper hand and an extremely vigilant eye on affordability.
43 mm diameter, distressed bronze
In 2015, the brand took everyone by surprise with a new addition to its collections. It had designed, developed, crafted and validated a mechanical calibre of its own, entirely in-house. The sheer dependability of the movement even earned it the certification of a national institution. The brand therefore submitted the Tudor MT 5601 workshop-crafted movement, with its 28,800 vibrations an hour (4 Hz), 70 hours’ power reserve and silicium escapement, to the official Swiss chronometer testing institute, known as COSC. To give it the launch it deserved, which featured images of huskies set against a backdrop of the Northern Lights, it debuted the calibre in its latest creation of the moment, the North Flag; another jewel in the Heritage crown. Collectors not only love the idea of a gilded lily, but are also happy to pay more for the privilege.
It’s 2016, and there’s another surprise! One of the most famous diving watches in Swiss watchmaking history is now available in bronze. In a significant move, just prior to this refinement, the 43 mm model was introduced to replace the 41 mm model, in which it seemed somewhat cramped to its followers. It may not be much, just a change in size. But to Tudor enthusiasts, it is quite an accomplishment.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay goes way back. It is of extremely noble birth, being the direct, linear descendant and heir of the iconic Tudor Submariner Ref. 7922 of 1954, so hotly pursued by aficionados that it became the first in a long line of Tudor timepieces, aka the diving watches. Here we have the 2016 version, but despite what the colour and patina would have us believe, it’s not actually bronze. The name of the alloy is, in fact, cupro-aluminium. It calls to mind the wide open sea, a long history of naval exploits and underwater explorations mingled with images of seawater and diving suits. The full satin option lends an overall homogeneity to a patina that has always been a firm favourite with connoisseurs. Not just because it is timeless, but because the dense feel of the model conjures up thoughts of an exciting life for the wearer, full of adventurous escapades. In other words, the bronze is alive. In the popularity stakes, this version outdoes even the Heritage Black Bay and its brief flirtation with warm hues in 2012, or indeed the 2014 fad for ultramarine deep.
Parachute elastic and craftsman’s fabric
Tudor has also been delving deep into the infinite wealth of treasures in its archives for the tiniest detail. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze therefore now comes equipped with a bracelet that recalls one anecdote from its past. Sailors in the French Navy liked to buy Tudor watches without the strap, preferring to provide, and sometimes even make, their own. One of these unlikely straps, found on a timepiece from that era and recognisable by its central yellow filet, was cobbled together from parachute elastics. This piece went on to inspire the famous 2ndstrap or bracelet supplied with every Black Bay, and the same is true for all the other models in the Heritage range. It is made from craftsman’s fabric using traditional skills borrowed from a company situated in the St. Etienne area in France. The 2ndstrap is now added systematically to the range on offer, either in leather or steel. Already, back in the 50s and 60s, Tudor had made this architecture its own. It achieved its distinctive stamp by leaving open to view the heads of the lateral rivets used to attach the bracelet’s links, thereby creating a stepladder effect.
Black Bay Dark
An iconic timepiece is one that has survived every fad and fashion. But insisting to this day on its aesthetics means that fashion has caught up with it again. Tudor is now cloaking its Heritage Black Bay in a mysterious dark finish thanks to a very particular black coating process. It started out life as a unique one-off timepiece for Only Watch, a biennial charity auction organised by the principality of Monaco. PVD, aka Physical Vapour Deposition, is a finishing technique borrowed from NASA, who, as we know, likes to coat some of its surfaces with fine layers of a protective substance. Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay Dark opts for a full satin finish and matt appearance.
The all-over coating is a nod to the diving suit. It places renewed emphasis on its heritage, not only in the general aesthetic lines of the watch, but also in details such as the curve of the dial and the crystal, its so-called Big Crown, and its triangular-tipped Snowflake hands. Next we have Reference 7224 of 1958, followed by the aesthetics of the seventies, with the choice of red for the guaranteed depth marking on the dial, and for the indicator hand on the rotating bezel. Finally, there is also a subtle reference to the American architect and aesthete, Louis Sullivan, who famously claimed that form should always follow function.
In a play of contrasts, of course, the Dark connotation is accentuated in all the other colour schemes. The new coating also allows the very specific architecture of the metal bracelet to undergo subtle changes.
Size 36, Heritage Advisor and Style
Primarily a sports and diving watch, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay in 2016 has tacked confidently towards elegance and sporty chic. Tudor may have reduced its dimensions, but the proportions remain unchanged. As a result, its watches are even more affordable, not to mention historical, retaining, as they do, all the trappings of a noble birth, its references to the past paying glorious tribute to its traditional background. The bezel is now motionless, but the alternating play of satin and polish creates a harmonious contrast with the intense black lacquered dial. Teamed with a lightly distressed beige leather strap, the satin/polish interplay continues with the smooth steel bezel reflecting the intense black of the lacquer dial.
Although the new Black Bay trilogy is likely to score high on visibility, the Heritage 2016 range also stands out for its interpretation of the Advisor, the mechanical alarm watch that is a revival of the great Tudor classic of 1957. For 2016, this iconic timepiece has acquired a titanium case in a version sporting a cognac-coloured dial and strap. Meanwhile, Tudor’s Style range, whose fluted bezel and baton hands continue to gain ground over the world’s markets, reaching into the more affordable segment, can be seen in a few new colour pairings for 2016. This time blue teams up with bordeaux and mother-of-pearl and once again we see a wide array of diameters from 41, 38, 34 to 28 mm.