Black Bay Bonanza! Why Tudor's 2019 Novelties May Be The Boldest Yet
Where Tudor's 2019 novelties fit into the brand's grand plan.
I fondly remember Baselworld 2012 when Tudor unveiled the second installment of their Heritage line of watches. These pieces celebrated models from Tudor’s rich past in a reimagined way which bridged the fine balance between re-editions and new concepts.
Back in 2012, the top release was the Black Bay, which was an interpretation of the 1950s ‘Big Crown’ Submariner. The watch, based on the vintage references 7922 and 7924, featured a gilt-printed dial, domed glass, and a large winding crown on a case that lacked crown guards. Before the release of Tudor’s in-house manufacture movement, the watches had modified ETA movements. More modern attributes of the watch included a sapphire crystal, larger case size and the brand’s iconic snowflake hands instead of the vintage watches’ Mercedes pattern hands.
What's next for the Black Bay?
The Black Bay is now, arguably, the most successful Tudor line and is available in different variations that encompass colored bezels and a range of case sizes and complications, including a chronograph. At this year's Baselworld, Tudor focused entirely on the Black Bay family for its new releases. The watches didn’t disappoint with a new chrono, additions to the dress watch in the line, a twist on the Bronzo and something nobody expected to see and a watch that has caused more debate than any this year – the P01. More on that later!
This year, the Black Bay (BB) Chronograph line was expanded with a bi-metal version that ramped up the heritage element of the chrono significantly. The BB Chrono has been around for a couple of years now but this years addition is in what Tudor refer to as S&G – steel and gold.
The most striking aspect of Tudor’s S&G watches (distinctly not two-tone as per its cousin Rolex) is that the gold elements of the watches are brushed. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the visual effect is strong. The matte gold removes any hint of ‘bling’ from the watch that greatly aids the watches’ sporty aesthetic and I love that. The two register dial is reminiscent of the first Tudor chronos, the Homeplate and Monte Carlos, with the red tip of the chronograph seconds hand a nice partner to the red depth rating; another heritage touch.
What makes the watch a Black Bay? The two family traits are the large winding crown, with its distinct shape and the snowflake hands paired with the round hour markers. The S&G has a new bezel which is gold, with a black anodized aluminium tachymeter insert. Set off against the black dial, the insert harkens back to the 1960s and 70s and the era of racing chronographs such as the Daytona. This look is further enhanced when the watch is worn on the leather strap and bund pad. I believe this will be a bit hit when it is available in July this year.
I’ve always seen the BB Bronze as the big brother of the family, due to its significant case at 43mm and its 3-6-9 dial that honors the very first Rolex ‘Big Crown’ Submariner reference 6200, which had a similar dial layout. It would appear that in the case of the BB Bronze, black is indeed the new brown as Tudor introduced a new dial and bezel insert.
Actually, it's slate grey not black but it gives the watch a very different look to its brown predecessor. The new dial has a graduated effect, sometimes referred to as a vignette or dégradé dial. The shading goes from a deep and dark color on the perimeter of the dial to a mid-grey color at the center. I was fortunate enough to see one on the wrist outside the show and wow – the sun hits the dial and it’s stunning!
One of Tudor’s most celebrated achievements is its supplying a number of navies with Submariners. The most famous example is Tudor’s relationship with the French Navy, but also well known is the partnership with the US Navy (USN). You can read my piece on this HERE. Following a long period of providing the USN with reference 7928 Subs, Tudor put forward a new prototype as the next-generation watch that was needed to meet updated technical specifications given by the US military.
The US Navy declined the watch and so Tudor ultimately ended up issuing the Tudor reference 7016 (the successor to the 7928) and the prototype, given the name Project Commando, was shelved and sent to the vaults. Again, you can read the history of this model HERE.
This year Tudor went truly off-piste and surprised everybody by unveiling a watch that is a modern version of the Project Commando prototype. A dive watch, but with a 12-hour bezel, the Black Bay signatures of snowflake hands and round hour markers are present and correct. However, a winding crown at the four o’clock position and asymmetrical crown guards mean that the P01 is unlike anything that has ever been produced by either Tudor or Rolex. Another new twist is the presence of an old-school trip-lock winding crown that I have to admit I love.
Things get really interesting when taking a closer look at the endlinks and what look like hooded lugs, such as those seen on early 1930s Rolex Bubblebacks. These long endlinks have a hinged bracelet link that is attached to a rubber-lined leather strap. The endlinks extend over the bezel and the upper one can be unlocked and lifted, thus allowing the bi-directional bezel to be rotated. Once it’s pushed back down the bezel is locked. It’s a clever piece of kit and is now a new patent that Tudor has registered.
There is no doubting that this watch is unusual. In my mind, the historical context of this latest Black Bay makes it an important piece in the brand’s history and a daring addition to the BB family. Opinion has been divided and Instagram and the watch forums have seen a huge amount of conversation pertaining to people’s view of the P01. I guess Oscar Wilde said it best when he observed: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. People have certainly been talking about this watch this week!
S&G All Sizes
There was a time in the 1970s and 80s when you could buy a Tudor Submariner in four sizes – the Lady Sub (28mm), Mini Sub (32mm), Mid-size (36mm) and Full size (40mm). Tudor has accepted that one size doesn’t fit all by offering the Black Bay 41, 36 and 32. I have always thought of these pieces like the dress versions of the BB family, which have been available in steel for a number of years now.
This year, Tudor has expanded the range with S&G versions of the watches, in all three sizes. Again the gold elements are brushed which works well on a sports watch - it’s stealth bling! All three watches feature the characteristic snowflake hands and are available with either champagne or black dial.
Another notable departure is the arrival of the Rolex Jubilee style 'Five link' bracelet. This retro inspired bracelet fits comfortably on a variety of wrist sizes and looks stunning to boot! With a starting price of $3,950 for the 32mm and up to $4,150 for the 41mm version, the new S&G Black Bays are an impressive offering. Take your pick!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)