If you’ve followed Baselworld 2018 coverage at all so far, you’ll know that Pepsi references are dominating the headlines at the moment. Tudor and Rolex, brothers really, released their Instagram-dominating GMTs featuring the prominent Pepsi bezels. The underdog, but overwhelmingly popular surprise Tudor Black Bay GMT release has certainly made a disrupting entrance and excited a lot of enthusiasts who not only want a cheaper option, but don’t want to wait quite as long to get it. Today we had the opportunity to get our hands on Tudor’s latest release and are now bringing you our initial thoughts.
Let’s start with some context. Tudor has long been considered a close, sometimes estranged, sometimes deserving younger brother of Rolex. That is to say that a lot of the design DNA is there without the higher price tag. Fans of Tudor have been asking for a GMT model (myself included) for a long time and have often felt Tudor has been dragging its feet with seemingly endless Black Bay releases that never so much as teased a decent GMT model – particularly disappointing to those feeling fatigued by the Black Bay (again, myself included). Let me start off by saying that the Black Bay GMT is a welcome and worthy release for the long wait and has refreshed some of my excitement towards Tudor. It reminds me of the Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi of legend, but with the stamp of Tudor’s DNA.
Let’s start with the case. The Tudor Black Bay GMT utilizes the 41mm x 14.6mm Black Bay case (by utilizing some design magic, they were able to add the GMT component without making the case thicker), making it a more modestly sized watch in the modern landscape that can be felt on the wrist. The font along the aluminum bezel (thus far fetching surprisingly few complaints) and even the relative grey-blue/fade-red colors are reminiscent of an older, dare I say vintage style. It has a sort of charm that feels fresh, but also old (Don’t read: “dated”) – like a modern film where you can’t quite put your finger on the time period. The relatively oversized crown and the domed sapphire crystal typical of the Black Bay models don’t give the watch an overpowering wrist presence, but instead a subdued, classic look that can slip under a suit cuff or party hard at a barbecue – something that gives the watch a universal appeal that I didn’t feel was apparent in the press images.
The dial utilizes a slimmed down and slightly smaller version of the Black Bay circular indices – triangle 12 o’ clock marker and stick indices at 6 and 9 o’clock excluded. I feel that this has given the watch a bit more modern-leaning qualities than the Arabic numeral indicators gave other iterations of the Black Bay models (specifically the Black Bay Bronze), which was an aesthetic redundancy. The breakout hit of the dial, however, is the red “Snowflake” GMT hand against the smooth domed matte-black dial. To be completely transparent, when I first saw the press images, I wasn’t a fan. I thought that the length was awkward in comparison to the seconds hand utilizing the same square pip, but in person, it looks a lot better – perhaps due to the practical application of glancing at the watch at different angles and not simply looking at straight-on renders from a docket.
Inside the Tudor Black Bay GMT is the in-house manufactured MT5652 COSC-certified movement. This is the first in-house movement to feature a GMT function for Tudor and it’s got some pretty impressive specs. In addition to the obvious GMT module, the movement maintains a whopping 70-hour power reserve despite a jumping hour hand and date, and added GMT function. Unfortunately, the watch features a solid caseback so the movement isn’t visible from the back.
The last thing I wanted to talk about, and my biggest gripe about the GMT, is the bracelet option. 9 times out of 10, I would choose a bracelet over a strap, however not with the Black Bay GMT. Tudor is offering the watch on three straps initially: a “Tierra di Siena” brown leather strap, a red striped fabric strap, or a rivet fitted bracelet. Of the three options, the bracelet is my least favorite. Tudor opted for the rivet bracelet because it channeled the bracelets the brand standardized in the ’50s and ’60s. However, I personally feel that’s where they should have stayed. Here, the protruding rivets simply feel intrusive. While I understand the appeal for a specific vintage crowd, I find both the leather and canvas straps more fitting than the bracelet – and that’s a little disappointing because I really wanted to like the bracelet.
Overall, the Tudor Black Bay GMT is a fitting inclusion to Tudor’s catalog. It checks a lot of specific boxes for enthusiasts who are caught up in the seemingly insatiable Pepsi Bezel craze. As for me, this may be my new favorite from Tudor even considering I never felt myself in the market for a Pepsi Bezel GMT. This is an affordable option for fans of the complication, quality, and style, but without the double and triple multiple for its Rolex counterparts. Price for the Tudor Black Bay GMT ref. 79830RB will come in at $3,575 on leather, and $3,900 on the bracelet. Both models will come with a spare canvas strap. tudorwatch.com