At this year’s Baselworld, Tudor unveiled another addition to their always growing Heritage Black Bay series. The new Tudor Heritage Black Bay Steel is a largely cosmetic update to the range with a stainless steel bezel insert as well as a polarizing date function on an otherwise familiar looking dial. We recently had the opportunity to go hands on with the new Black Bay Steel and came away impressed with the tasteful aesthetics, if a little underwhelmed at the low level of actual novelty.
Rolex's sister brand Tudor has enjoyed a well-deserved high level of industry attention in recent years, owing mostly to their vintage-inspired releases and their recent introduction of manufacture movements like the silicon hairspring equipped MT5602. One of Tudor’s most successful collections, which is exemplary of their current design sense is the Tudor Black Bay, a diver’s watch which tips its hat to Tudor’s own historical dive watches.
Since the introduction of the ETA-powered Black Bay in 2011, the series has been updated and added to each year, most prominently with the addition of the Tudor Manufacture 5602 movement a couple of years ago. Other than that milestone, the Black Bay updates have been largely in material, like the Black Bay Bronze we covered here or the Black Bay S&G we covered here, or in color scheme, like the Black Bay Dark we covered here. Tudor’s recent Black Bay Steel seeks to even further round out the collection, which already seemingly offers something for everyone.
The new Black Bay Steel’s dial remains similar to its forebears. Steel rimmed Snowflake hands generously filled with Super-LumiNova still preside over a straightforward Submariner-esque dial. Markedly different here is the aforementioned change in dial real estate at the 3 o’clock marker from a lumed hour marker on previous models to a date window on the new Black Bay Steel. This was a bit of a departure because when Tudor originally released the red-bezeled Black Bay in 2011, watch nerds rejoiced over the clean look of the dial, which was provided in no small part by the lack of a date function with its obtrusive window.
The date window on the Black Bay Steel is rectangular and isn't really too obstructive or distracting, which can partly be credited to the fact that there isn't a cyclops lens over it. In fact, as you’ll notice in some of the more distant photographs, the date window’s very presence fades when viewed from only a few feet away. As you’d imagine, the Tudor signature and shield sit at 12 o’clock. Dial text at 6 o’clock is also slightly different, with “200m : 660ft” printed in red above “Chronometer Officially Certified” in white speaking to the impressive MT5612 caliber oscillating within.
Tudor began producing their own calibers in house (and, it should be noted, separate from older sister brand Rolex) in 2015, initially supplying them in their North Flag sport watch and in Pelagos diver’s watches. Since then, we’ve seen the steady introduction of manufacture calibers throughout Tudor’s lineup which seems to imply the position in the market Tudor is after. The new Tudor Black Bay Steel has the same MT5612 as Tudor’s North Flag and Pelagos. So, although it isn’t a brand new caliber, it is still a pretty cool movement with 70 hours of power reserve, a somewhat standard 28,800 bph operating speed, and a silicone hairspring in a price point where a totally in house movement is rare. The MT5612 is also new to the Black Bay range because previous models were all non-date and utilized the only slightly different MT5602.
Protecting all this from the elements and presumably water (this theoretically being a diver’s watch) is the same 41mm, 200m water resistant, stainless steel case, featuring alternating brushed and polished surfaces that Black Bay enthusiasts know too well. Also carried over from previous versions are the anti-reflective, domed sapphire crystal and the Tudor rose engraved crown. Different here is the bezel insert which is made of steel as opposed to the aluminum present on previous Black Bay models. The steel insert looks tough and should add a measure of scratch resistance over aluminum while also providing for a military-inspired rugged look. There is even an inverted red triangle at the sixty/zero mark on the bezel throwing back to the earliest Rolex and Tudor Subs and adding a vintage feel which is further complimented by the riveted-style bracelet.
There are a few strap options for the Black Bay Steel. Tudor's riveted oyster style bracelet, which is used on several other but not all Black Bay models is a standout. In this case, the riveted bracelet perfectly compliments the tool watch style the Black Bay Steel seems to be going for. As a note, Tudor’s execution of a modern “riveted style” bracelet is among the best out there, combining modern functionality with screw bars and modern adjustability for the classic look of Submariners from years past. In another move to bolster the military feel, a canvas NATO style strap in olive green is included with the Black Bay Steel whether you opt for the stainless steel bracelet model or the also available black leather strap version.
Viewed together, the Black Bay Steel is yet another nice looking addition to the Black Bay series. Although it’s hard to believe there needed to be yet another Black Bay, the subtle change in bezel insert material and addition of the date function may grab a few enthusiasts who are currently precariously perched on the Tudor purchasing fence. Tudor’s latest Black Bay may end up serving alongside the Pelagos in a little bit more of a tool watch niche than its predecessors, which seemed to be more interested in style than utility with their colored bezels and more symmetrical dials.
Although nothing here (other than the stainless steel insert) is actually all that brand new, Tudor have yet again proven their ability to produce solid offerings among their own myriad of watches such that there is something for everyone’s own individual taste. One thing is for sure, the Tudor Black Bay Steel and indeed the whole Black Bay line present a strong argument for value equipped with in-house manufactured movements priced at $3,800 on the stainless steel bracelet or $3,475 on an aged leather strap. tudorwatch.com