November 16, 2015
by Ariel Adams
When Tudor introduced the Black Shield version of the Fastrider watch back in 2013, they unveiled the first all-ceramic case produced by the brand. A mighty ceramic case it was. Those familiar with “high tech ceramic” zirconium oxide understand that getting a very precise cut is the real challenge of the material. Tudor quietly developed a process for cutting a monobloc case in black ceramic with detailing on par with that of metal cases. While there are no shortage of timepieces out there with ceramic cases, that of the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield stands up there with the best. Here is a new one that is destined to be a future collectors’ favorite if only for how Tudor is intentionally making it less than straightforward to purchase.
The Tudor Fastrider watch collection as a whole began in 2011 when Tudor announced their relationship with Italian motorcycle maker Ducati. The Fastrider is more or less the official timepiece of the popular enthusiast bike brand with a modern design meant to echo the sentiments of both Tudor and Ducati. The two brands do share the fact that their logos are shields. With that said, the Fastrider as well as the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield are not “dual branded” watches that have both the Tudor and Ducati logos on them. This is a “quiet” collaborative product with really just one subtle nod to Ducati which exists on the side of the case. The center of the left case side has a pusher which is used to correct the date, and it is framed by a triangular shield which happens to be the same shape as the Ducati logo. This easy-to-miss detail is the only discernible nod to the Ducati brand in the design of the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield watch.
So why doesn’t the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield have more Ducati branding? Watch lovers probably understand the reason for this, but they might not be able to easily articulate it. Historically, dual-branded timepieces have not typically done particular well. Watch lovers tend to not want their watches to have superfluous names on the dial or case which have nothing to do with the construction or design of the watch. Even if a product is designed for, or in collaboration with, a third-party brand that collectors love or respect, high-end watch consumers have, for the most part, voted with their buying power and elected that they want just one name on their watch dials. It is for this reason, I believe, that Tudor made the Ducati relationship a very subtle part of the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield wearing experience.
Two years after the introduction of the original Black Shield watch, and Tudor has offered this sober-looking matte-black version with contrasting accents that I feel looks particularly handsome. I love a nice monochromatic sports watch, and the dark theme of this reference 42000CN version of the Tudor Black Shield lends itself well to the sinister-cool styling of the Ducati XDiavel motorcycle. It also happens to be a Tudor watch that ought to look very cool with a black leather biker jacket (there just aren’t enough serious watches that want to be biker watches, right?). To match the matte-black ceramic case and high contrast dial, Tudor offers either a black leather strap with white contrast stitching or a rubber one – each on the brand’s typically exemplary-for-the-price folding and locking deployant clasp.
While the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield certainly has a conservative and sober personality, it has some very wonderful lines and angles. The view from the side of the case, for example, shows some of the very interesting architectural lines of the design. On the dial, I think anyone can appreciate the faceted three-dimensional hour markers which are flanked by squares of SuperLumiNova. Other attractive dial details include the framed chronograph subdials, as well as the applied logo and name plaque. Note, as well, that having “Black Shield” on the dial makes this one of the rare timepieces to have the model name actually written on the dial of the watch.
Legibility for this and other Tudor Fastrider Black Shield watches is very good, but I might point out that the hands could be a bit more legible. I like the design of the hands, but their skeletonized interior and slightly glossy finishing detracts from their legibility performance, even if it does help them to be more interesting and attractive. Tudor properly integrated the date indicator window in a subtle manner choosing a round window with a black colored disc which blends into the overall look of the face when not being referenced in its position on the dial between 4 and 5 o’clock.
My favorite hands on the dial actually aren’t the Black Shield’s hour and minute hands, but rather the chronograph and running seconds hands which are smaller, but with excellent legibility and either a cool square pinion frame or counterweight. A flat AR-coated sapphire crystal as well as sloped flange ring give the dial the depth as well as the look of a serious instrument and not a fashion accessory.
Around the dial as part of the black ceramic case is a tachymeter scale which is attractive but seems like a vestige from the past, as well as an element which is far too common on “racing themed” chronograph watches. I know that the Speedmaster and Daytona have made strong design cases for tachymeter scales, but I would really like to see watch designers become a bit more creative in terms of what more possibly useful scales they can combine with chronograph complications.