When we went hands-on with the Tudor Black Bay at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2022, I wondered just how much we watch enthusiasts want a new version of a fan-favorite timepiece to differ from the original.
As my mind bounced around Tudors and Rolexes, new and old, I also considered the Porsche 911 range — arguably Rolex’s and Tudor’s equivalent in the car world when it comes to practicing the high art of repackaging the same product, giving it a new personality and, they certainly hope, a new customer. Both industries have figured out how to re-package what is largely the same product at a higher price point.
Just look at the base 911 992 Carrera, Turbo, and Sport Design pricing, or look at the price of a steel, a two-tone, and an all-gold Submariner. Eerily similar practice. It’s a thing because it’s both a necessity and because it works. Brands, especially conservative ones like Rolex and Porsche, need to find a way to reach a wider audience without having to invent new products or collections every other year. And on the consumer side, well, many of us have displayed a tendency to find product variations a likable tool for self-expression.
Skeptical? I have yet to speak to any Black Bay owner who couldn’t precisely outline to me why they chose their particular Black Bay with that very case size and wear it on that particular strap, and the same goes for many 911 owners. In this context, I respect Tudor more than Rolex or Porsche because it has to operate within the constraints of the “affordable luxury watch segment.” It can’t just charge double or triple for its core product (the Black Bay). And yet, the Rolex-owned watchmaker has been quite successful at offering the Black Bay in new flavors. The collection built loosely around vintage Tudor and Rolex dive watches has been a runaway success. It’s one of the stronger value propositions out there once you consider wearability, quality, design, and movement performance.
So, many of us look forward to new Black Bay iterations, looking for a new piece that might be the just perfect way to enjoy the Black Bay in precisely the flavor we like. And so, you can imagine my excitement when I learned that there was a new “Pro” version being introduced in Geneva. It led me to believe we were going to discover Tudor’s take on what it considers to make a watch even more “Pro.” That’s exciting because Tudor is a highly capable brand that works with lots of different materials — more than just about any of its direct competitors, with cases made from titanium, ceramic, silver, bronze, and impressively solid-feeling stainless steel. Is it going to be a new case material? A more shockproof movement? Some unique bracelet or strap design? As it turns out, according to the brand, the Tudor Black Bay Pro is a watch that “celebrates the spirit of the technical watches that Tudor has produced for professionals throughout its history” but is also “a tool-watch designed for professional use.”
In practical terms, then, what is the difference between the Tudor Black Bay Pro and the Tudor Black Bay GMT watches? The Pro version has a new “T-fit” clasp with integrated rapid adjustment, a winding crown that is set flush to the middle case band so that its tube is not visible, and monobloc luminous hour markers with larger luminous areas when compared to the metal-framed markers on the non-Pro GMT. Interestingly, water resistance remains the same, the Tudor MT5652 movement remains exactly the same (not any more accurate or resistant to shocks), and the domed (and cool-looking) sapphire crystal appears to not be any less reflective.
This doesn’t mean that the Black Bay Pro wouldn’t stand up to at least some form of professional use even if Tudor appears to not specify what those professionals do. Are they divers? Explorers? Skyscraper window cleaners? Its bracelet, case, and crystal all feel solid, arguably no less so than any Professional range Rolex watch. However, with Tudor now sponsoring a biking team and also launching this Pro version of one of its bestsellers, this might have been a good time to either introduce a more shock-resistant version of a “Manufacture Tudor” movement or, if that’s not deemed necessary, then more openly communicate how reliable and durable its movements already are when installed in “a tool watch designed for professional use.” The original Black Bay GMT may be difficult to outperform in practical terms, but in the context of professional watches, there certainly is room to explain more about real-world performance.
Okay, enough about the Pro stuff, and let’s just look at this new piece as a new Black Bay for you to consider. The dial, as well as the hands, hour markers, and all texts operate through contrast: contrast among colors, textures, and shapes. The luminous surfaces and the texts are smooth, and the base of the dial and the outlines of the hands are textured. It is here that we should note that the black center of the hands looked real rough on the prototypes we photographed — this particular area could use a bit of extra work toward greater refinement, even on a tool watch.
In line with what we established above, Tudor’s case quality on the Black Bay Pro is exemplary. The lines are sharp, the polish is deep and bright, and the fit is superb. From up close and afar, the case and, for that matter, the three-link steel bracelet all look and feel superb. One small caveat is the high case band in between the lugs when wearing the Black Bay Pro on the Jacquard woven fabric strap — it’s the only time when this model fails at disguising its extra thickness, just short of 15mm, which, mind you, is reaching ETA 7750 chronograph heft.
In summary, the Tudor Black Bay Pro is more comfortable — thanks to the quick-adjust system — and it’s maybe a tiny bit easier to read in the dark, even though the original Black Bay GMT never suffered from legibility issues. Frankly, there is not really much of an explanation of its Pro moniker. Yes, in its aesthetics, it is a tribute to “the spirit of the technical watches that Tudor has produced,” and, ahem, clearly also a tribute to Rolex Explorer II 1655. Which is fine…
But there arguably remains a bit more room for the Black Bay to be even more “Pro,” even if it already is a very solid watch. Price for the Tudor Black Bay Pro is $4,000 on the steel bracelet (reference M79470-0001) and $3,675 on the Jacquard fabric strap (reference m79470-0002) or hybrid leather-rubber strap (m79470-0003). Sourcing the bracelet separately is likely a lot more expensive than the $325 difference — stretching to it at the time of purchase is, therefore, recommended. You can learn more on the brand’s website.