Bracelet & Clasp
For both watches, the bracelets are crafted from the same 316L or 904L steel as the cases and have been finished to match the upper part of the lugs. The bracelets’ integration on both the Tudor and Rolex is so good, it’s almost uncanny. They are both amply flexible and neither have under any circumstances shown signs of unwanted friction or getting stuck at any joint. Both three-link bracelets have solid end links, of course, and both also feature beautifully tapered outer links that start right from the case and taper through the first couple of rows.
The key variation between the two bracelets is actually in the clasp, and this does make a world of a difference in wearing comfort. While both clasps work in virtually the same way – featuring a secondary small lock on top that opens and closes with a very reassuring click – the Rolex clasp has a micro-adjust system built into it.
Called the Glidelock, it allows for up to 20 millimeters of extension in 2-millimeter increments. The “Oysterlock folding safety clasp,” as Rolex likes to call it, maintains a thin profile despite this added functionality, and even when you use the Glidelock to make the bracelet a bit longer on warm and humid days, there are no visual signs of you using an extension.
Fine adjustments on the Tudor bracelet can be performed by fitting the end of the bracelet into one of the three holes in the clasp – this allows for a fine tuning in increments smaller than what adding or removing half a link would allow. Needless to say, though, this requires a tool, allows for far fewer settings, and cannot be done as easily as on the Submariner. Tudor knows how to do a micro-adjust (self-adjusting, even!) clasp, as our James Stacey illustrated in his review of the Tudor Pelagos 25600TB Titanium here… they just chose not to include it in the bracelet and clasp of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay collection.
Tudor also sells the Heritage Black Bay Black on a leather strap for a few hundred dollars less than this version on the bracelet – but bear in mind that a good leather strap you can source easily, while such a great original bracelet, you can’t. Also, Tudor gives you a NATO-style fabric strap with either version – which is neat, but is virtually impossible to swap with the bracelet without having the correct tools on hand. Furthermore, this fabric strap feels rather rough to the touch, and not in a nice, rugged way, but rather in an unrefined, unpleasant way. You will most likely not want to ditch the superb Tudor bracelet in favor of the fabric strap.
We have discussed all the factors that determine wearing comfort, so let’s now take a look at how these watches worked on the wrist, based on our wearing experience over an extended period of several months.
While the lugs do not extend to the edge of your wrist on the Rolex, its “wrist presence” is on par with that of the Tudor. The Tudor looks bulky, but never disproportionate, with its wide bracelet links, large crown, long lugs, and massive hands and indices. By contrast, when Rolex updated the Submariner a few years ago, they created a “boxy” look where the Rolex Submariner 114060 appears to be flexing its muscles a bit more than it used to. While the update yielded no changes in diameter (a move that was welcomed by many, but also criticized by some), the lugs are now more rectangular and the crown protectors are more massive. If you like the Submariner but feel that a 40-millimeter watch is too small for you, I suggest you still go and try one on – you’ll be surprised to see how much larger than 40 millimeters it actually wears.
Dial, Hands, & Legibility
What’s impressive build quality good for, if you have to overcome legibility issues? Not much. But fortunately, both the Rolex Submariner 114060 and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black sport excellent legibility, regardless of lighting situations. It is funny how the two watches have the exact same basic index design, and yet their dials end up looking so different. The Tudor’s different, slightly bolder and less serious vibe has been extended to the dial, while the Rolex Submariner looks as crisp and elegant as ever.
The Tudor’s gilt dial with its vintage color scheme of aged gold-ish and bronze-ish prints and plated frames for its hands and indices is not only highly legible, but very versatile as well. It appears to have been intelligently designed to nicely complement the case and bracelet, and the dark grey tone of the dial. It does not have excessive amounts of text and just a few moments after reading it, you’ll quickly forget about the objectionable “Rotor Self-Winding” designation above the 6 o’clock position. The hands are correctly sized and a little detail that brings joy to my OCD-mind is how the hour hand’s and seconds hand’s “snowflakes” are positioned in a way that they too complement one another when they come to overlap. It is a small but thoughtful detail that I to this day enjoy seeing.
The design of the Rolex Submariner’s hands is among the all-time iconic greats – about two years ago, we featured it in our article where we discussed the importance of good watch hand design here. The funny thing is that, although the hands are super legible and work wonderfully with what is called a “Maxi dial” and its larger, bolder indices, they actually are about 5% smaller than they ideally should be. As noted, the minute hand on the Tudor reaches not only the twelve applied indices but also the minute track beyond it – but this cannot be said about the minute hand on the Submariner. OCD alert again, but it is true: Rolex updated the hands on the Explorer I (hands-on here with the new-for-2016 version), and while not as bad a case as on the Explorer, the Rolex Submariner too could use slightly longer hour and minute hands.
Tudor uses C3 SuperLuminova to light up the large hands and indices on the dial of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black. It glows in green and in fact it glows noticeably brighter than Rolex’s Chromalight. The latter lights up in blue, and while, yes, it is not as torch-light bright as the Tudor, Chromalight glows much, much longer into the night. After charging both, the Tudor had barely visible luminescence left in the morning, while Rolex’s cold blue light was still strong enough to make reading the time easy and effortless. While Rolex calls their lume Chromalight, if you are looking for a similar experience, look for watches with BGW9 lume – they have a similar blue, comparably long-lasting luminescence.
Despite the minor differences, reading the time at a glance on either of these watches is as easy as it gets, be it under bright sunlight, under trees and in other situations that normally cause a lot of glare – the domed crystal of the Tudor does not handle glare as well as the flat one on the Submariner, but it still allows for excellent legibility – and also in the dark.
Little details such as quality of text print, indices, and hands are very much comparable, with the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black putting up an honorable fight against the nearly-twice-as-expensive Rolex Submariner 114060. The Rolex Submariner wins this round, though, partially thanks to its 18k white gold hands and indices that appear to be a tad more refined and luxurious than the ones on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black. A small but expensive detail that makes a world of a difference and is also a telling sign of the quality (and price point) of a watch is how the hands have been crafted.
On the Rolex Submariner, they are lengthwise ever so slightly curved, which makes them appear to be more three-dimensional and (positively) reflective – something the flat ones, as seen on the Tudor, cannot measure up to. Worry not, though, as the flat, more rugged hand design on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black matches the overall design of the watch, they appear to be a good match and do not look cheap or out of place.
One final dial element that sets the Rolex apart from its little brother is the laser engraved flange ring. Marked with “Rolex Rolex Rolex” with a perfectly aligned crown over the 12 o’clock position and the watch’s serial number above 6, it completes the design and refined nature of the Rolex Submariner. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black has a finished, but non-engraved flange ring around the dial, which, again, matches its overall design. With that said, this ring is rather thick and looks a bit plain to my eyes; after wearing the Rolex Submariner, it took some getting used to.