The Heritage Black Bay has been a very successful model for Tudor as they reassert their place in the luxury sport watch game. Having only recently returned to the US and the UK, the Black Bay was undoubtedly part of that initiative and has enjoyed both consumer and critical success, including the GPHG Revival Prize in 2013. The Black Bay is Tudor’s vintage-inspired diver and was launched at Baselworld 2012 with a burgundy bezel, a dark brown dial, and pink gold markers and hands. Replete with a vintage-effect domed crystal and big crown, the Black Bay has been a big hit from day one.
While I really like the Tudor Black Bay, I have to admit that the original brown dial and the burgundy bezel felt a little overdone to my eyes. Even in dressier forms like the Tudor Black Bay, I like my divers to be a bit more muted. So, when I was first handed a Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue (79220B) during a Tudor-hosted dinner at Baselworld this past March, I was thrilled to find the aesthetic had been dialled back. Though perhaps a little less romantic, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue is the quietly-confident and understated of these two nearly-identical twins.
The new Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue is essentially the same watch as the 79220R but with a dark blue bezel, a black dial, and white metal for the hands and markers. While the change is just color, the effect is massive, and it feels like a different watch. Where the original Black Bay was perhaps a little twee, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue is rather stoic and wears like much more of an “everyday” watch (despite the fact that they are technically identical). It feels more modern, and the blue bezel appears almost black in low light, which gives the 79220B the wrist presence of a Submariner (Rolex or Tudor, your choice).
If, like me, you’re obsessed with dressy divers that don’t cost as much as modern Rolexes or Omegas, you’ve read everything about the Black Bay since it was released. Under the assumption that some of you are normal high-functioning members of society, allow me to refresh your memory. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay, both R and B references, uses a 41 mm steel case that is 12.7 mm thick and 50 mm lug to lug. Based on a mix of vintage references from Tudor’s past, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay is a dressier alternative to something like the Tudor Pelagos. With a unidirectional bezel, oversized crown, and domed sapphire crystal, the Black Bay is available on a steel bracelet, a leather strap, or a fabric Tudor-style nato.
Water resistance is 200m and the total weight on the fabric strap (lightest possible option) is just 94g. In keeping with Tudor’s usual plan of attack, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay uses a third-party ETA 2824 automatic Swiss movement. We all know this movement, and its popularity is not unfounded. With 25 jewels, 38 hours of power reserve, and a running rate of 4Hz, the 2824 is the defacto choice for watch companies designing a three hander that have the cash to opt for a Swiss movement. If competently serviced, it is reliable, capable of excellent timekeeping, and will probably outlast you. You probably have a watch with this movement.
I got to spend some time with the Black Bay Blue at Baselworld, and I enjoyed it enough that it just kinda stuck in the back of my mind. Anything even remotely affordable that manages to stick with you through the six-figure parade at Baselworld is worth a closer look, and thankfully Tudor was willing to let me borrow one for a couple of weeks. The sample I reviewed came with the leather strap and the fabric strap, but no steel bracelet. I briefly saw the bracelet at Baselworld, and it looks great and feels like a no brainer if you’re going to buy a Black Bay (seen below).
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay checks a lot of boxes for the sort of watch I would buy for myself. At 41 mm, it’s an ideal size for an everyday sport watch and the 50 mm lug to lug ensures a good fit on my wrist. At 12.7 mm thick I wouldn’t call the Black Bay thin, but it’s not bad for a dive watch, and I didn’t find it especially difficult to wear with long sleeves. The maximum thickness includes the slightly domed sapphire crystal, which has been made to look like a vintage crystal with curved edges that raise above the inner lip of the bezel. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay has 22 mm lugs that are regrettably not drilled but can accommodate any 22 mm strap. To that end, being a nicely proportioned and classic-style dive watch, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a strap that doesn’t work on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue.
The case, true to much of Tudor’s current line up, is fantastic. Crisp edges, mixed finishing, and beveled edges all combine to make one of the best cases at this price point. Additionally, both the crown and the bezel are very nicely executed. The bezel has almost no play, with a positive click and a grippy coin edge. The crown, which is signed with the Tudor rose, is large and easy to manage with an excellent feel and strong threading.
When screwed down, the crown does not sit flush against the case, but rather against a matching blue insert. Some find this crown design to be annoying and I did think it a bit strange on the Ranger (which does not feature a colored insert), but on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay I rather like the subtle use of color and the crown is very nicely executed.
Whatever expectations the case, crown, and bezel may setup, the dial can support. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue has a really beautiful flat-black dial with bright white metal applied markers and hands and a matching white minute track. Wonderfully monochromatic, the BBB’s dial is balanced, supremely legible and capable of catching the light in a very pleasing way. If I’m being very picky, I could do without the “rotor self winding” text, but I have to applaud Tudor for something else they omitted: the date display. The 2824 ticking within offers a date display but the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue’s dial is left unspoiled by a date. If done perfectly, I don’t mind a date display, but my preference for a sport watch is always no date.
The dial on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue does a wonderful job of complementing the deep metallic blue of the bezel and the properly-sized handset which, with the minutes and seconds reaching all the way to the markings, makes for a balanced and functional design.
Finally, the lume is also excellent, with plenty of material used on the hands and the markers (see video for live shot). While I did not get the opportunity to take the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue diving, I have no doubt that the legibility and lume would be up to the task, even if the bezel might be tricky to operate with the 5mm gloves that are required in my local waters.