It might be the year of the Monkey, but it might as well be the year of the Tudor Black Bay. Sure, we're only five months on the heels of the introduction of the Black Bay Black, but with three fresh updates and three brand-new additions to the line (five of which house Tudor’s in-house movement), there’s now almost something for every type of collector, without ever having to leave the ‘Bay. Those options include a surprising 36mm dress-diver, a stealthy PVD-coated edition, and an all-new case and design hewn from bronze – the latter of which has dominated much of the Baselworld buzz (no thanks in part to a timely catalog "leak" on Instagram 48 hours prior to its unveiling). However, the original three Tudor Heritage Black Bays – Red, Blue, and Black, all take on the new Tudor in-house caliber and a few other subtle updates, making the Tudor Heritage Black Bay, once again, the dive watch to own this summer.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay is one of those rare watches that hasn’t just been accumulating accolades since its release in 2012, it’s a watch that has also won a proud slot in the rotation of an unusually wide variety of collections – as a top-end piece for budget-minded collectors, and as a classic, everyday wearable in the collections of guys who otherwise only bother to chase the super-rare. Why? Well, for starters, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay comes from a good lineage – the 7922 launched in 1954, to be precise. It’s also handsome, colorful (but not overly so), neatly proportioned, detail-rich, and exceptionally well-built. Case in point: the bezel that’s been rumored to have been finely tuned to mimic the tactile feel of opening the combination lock on a certain Swiss bank vault. However, whether it’s true or not is secondary to the fact that the details will always matter, and it’s through these details that Tudor has eclipsed the wildly popular retro trend and turned the Heritage collection into an annual clinic on modern watch design.
With the tool diver Pelagos getting the in-house upgrade for Basel last year, it was inevitable that the Tudor Heritage Black Bay get the same treatment. And as if on cue, the entire Tudor Heritage Black Bay line (with the exception of the 36mm) this year gets Tudor's in-house MT5602 movement – a 4Hz (28,000vph), COSC-certified automatic caliber with a bi-directional winding system and around 70 hours of power reserve. Naturally, the added chronometer accuracy certification and the anti-magnetic silicon hairspring are both welcome additions, but it’s the 70-hour reserve that most will find particularly useful, especially compared to the typical 40 found in a comparable ETA movement. With the new Tudor movements, you can set the watch down on Friday afternoon, and pick it up Monday morning without missing a beat. To wit: the original two-line Pelagos with its ETA 2824 gets around 38 hours, meaning if it’s not fully wound when set it down Friday night, it might not be running by the time Sunday brunch rolls around.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay's movement upgrade came accompanied by a few other subtleties which genuinely improve the dial layout and presentation. Gone is the curved text at 6:00 and the vintage rose at 12:00 in place of three straightened lines of text and the Tudor shield. Both are details that quietly modernize the dial, eliminating those last few shades of retro-kitsch to bring it more closely in-line with a modern collection of classically inspired dive watches.
However, one of the coolest additions to the Tudor Heritage Black Bay package is its new riveted bracelet, which, at first glance, doesn’t appear dramatically different from the outgoing version. And yet, it's a neat homage to the pioneering era of dive watches whose bracelets were designed around a stepped construction for comfort and durability, and held together by riveted screws, which you can see on the 9:00 case side of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay’s new bracelet. It’s a very cool detail that doesn’t add any performance or comfort benefit to the watch overall, but one that just illustrates Tudor’s commitment to paying homage to the era that bore the watch.
As before, those who opt out of the bracelet can get the Tudor Heritage Black Bay on a distressed leather strap with a deployant clasp – a look that very few dive watches can pull off, but one that the Tudor Heritage Black Bay’s satin-polished case, warm, gilt dial tones, and colorful accents are able to manage with aplomb. However, if neither leather nor steel is the look you’re chasing, Tudor supplies each variant with an extra fabric strap that’s been color-matched to the watch. Obviously, being from Tudor’s detail-rich Heritage collection, these straps are a story in and of themselves – particularly how each impressively well-made strap is jacquard-woven on looms by a century-old family business in the St-Etienne region of France.
The new straight-line Tudor Heritage Black Bay doesn’t wear any differently than its predecessors, and that’s probably a good thing – especially since our very own James Stacey suggested its design and dimensions yielded "one of the most appealing watches on the market today." The 41mm case is probably best suited for a flatter wrist profile, but it's otherwise very nicely proportioned. That said, it is worth noting that on some wrists, the watch can wear a touch large, given its tall 12mm silhouette, and long 50mm lug-to-lug length. There's also not a great deal of taper from the 9:00 and 3:00 edges of the case to the lugs – and while this speaks more to the vintage-inspired case design, it also lends the watch a semi-rectangular shape that can take a little getting used to.
Collectors can expect retailers to start replacing all current variants of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay with the in-house editions very soon. Price is raised a bit from the outgoing model to $3,675 on the bracelet and $3,550 on the strap. tudorwatch.com