Originally launched in 2012, the Tudor Black Bay collection is the brand’s lineup of vintage-inspired dive watches that pay tribute to the iconic models from the brand’s history. While retro styling has always been a feature of the Black Bay collection, the original Black Bay models were sized for consumer preferences at the time, offering a thoroughly vintage appearance but with a case size of 41mm. While the original Tudor Black Bay was a resounding success by all accounts, many collectors wanted a version of the Black Bay that more closely adhered to the case size of the vintage models, and when the Black Bay Fifty-Eight appeared in 2018 with a 39mm case, it offered exactly what the people had been asking for since the inaugural models made their appearance six years before. Tudor clearly understands that people who like vintage watches appreciate smaller case sizes with historically accurate proportions, and as part of its latest batch of new releases for Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, the Tudor Black Bay 54 has joined the lineup, offering an even smaller case than the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, and drawing its inspiration from the reference 7922, which was launched in 1954 and holds the distinction of being Tudor’s first-ever dive watch.
At a quick glance, the new Tudor Black Bay 54 (ref. m79000n) offers much of the same overall appearance as other members from the contemporary Black Bay lineup, although its stainless steel case has been further reduced to recall the compact 37mm case size of the original model. Similar to other Black Bay models, the new Tudor Black Bay 54 features a round case with beveled lugs that lacks any type of crown guards for the winding crown at the 3 o’clock location. However, while the crowns fitted to the original Black Bay and the smaller Black Bay Fifty-Eight featured a flat profile with a coin-edge rim, the winding crown on the new Tudor Black Bay 54 offers a shape and design that faithfully recalls what can be found on the original vintage model from 1954. That said, rather than featuring the Rolex coronet like its vintage counterpart, the crown on the new Tudor Black Bay 54 features the same rounded top with fluted sides, but is now signed with Tudor’s rose logo. Sitting above the dial is a domed sapphire crystal, while a solid screw-down caseback is fitted to the reverse side of the watch, and just like other members from the current Black Bay collection, water resistance for the new Tudor Black Bay 54 comes in at a respectable 200 meters. Surrounding the crystal is a unidirectional rotating timing bezel fitted with a black aluminum insert, although unlike the rest of the models from the Black Bay series, the insert fitted to the Tudor Black Bay 54 lacks hash marks for the individual minutes, just like the vintage ref. 7922 dive watch from 1954.
The black dial fitted to the Tudor Black Bay 54 is very much in-line with what can be found on the rest of the collection, featuring a slightly domed surface with applied hour markers and gold printing to emulate the appearance of the gilt dials that were fitted to the original models. Although the dial offers a heavy dose of vintage inspiration, it is hardly an exact recreation of what can be found on the ref. 7922, and the gold-finished surrounds for the applied markers help to provide it with a slightly more elevated overall appearance. Additionally, rather than featuring a Mercedes style handset like the vintage ref. 7922, the new Tudor Black Bay 54 features Snowflake hands like the rest of the models from the Black Bay range, and rather than having Tudor’s rose logo appear on the dial, it is the more modern Tudor shield emblem that appears above the brand’s name at the 12 o’clock location. One detail to note in regards to the hands, is that the base of the minute hand now features a taper, and this detail can also be found on the new third generation of Black Bay watches that were also unveiled this year at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023. Similarly, as the Black Bay 54 is powered by a chronometer-certified movement, the dial features the obligatory “Officially Certified Chronometer” text, rather than the “Rotor Self-Winding” printing that can be found on the original vintage reference 7922.
Powering the new Tudor Black Bay 54 is the brand’s manufacture Caliber MT5400 automatic movement, which features an open-worked tungsten monobloc rotor, a transverse balance bridge, and a variable inertia balance wheel with a non-magnetic silicon hairspring. Running at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) and offering users a power reserve of approximately 70 hours, the Tudor Cal. MT5400 is a COSC-certified chronometer and Tudor guarantees that the MT5400 will keep time to within -2/+4 seconds per day (after casing). Decoration on the Tudor Caliber MT5400 is rather minimal and utilitarian, consisting of largely bushed and sand-blasted surfaces, although since the movement remains hidden behind a solid caseback on the Tudor Black Bay 54, this type of minimal decoration is entirely appropriate. One interesting detail to note is that due to its smaller 37mm case size, the Tudor Black Bay 54 is powered by a different movement than the 39mm Black Bay Fifty-Eight (which used the MT5402), and the Cal. MT5400 is the same movement that can be found inside the new 36mm non-diver models from the current Black Bay collection.
At the time of launch, the Tudor Black Bay 54 is available with the option of either a stainless steel bracelet or a black rubber strap. The bracelet features a 3-link construction with entirely satin-brushed surfaces and a faux-rivet design on the side links (similar to the bracelet that can be found on other current-production Black Bay dive watches). Meanwhile the black rubber strap connects to the lugs with stainless steel end-links to create an integrated appearance, and the internal surface of the strap features a raised “Snowflake” motif for added comfort and grip. Additionally, the rubber strap comes in three different sizes, and it can also be cut down to the exact length in order to create an optimal fit for the owner’s wrist. Both the stainless steel rivet-style bracelet and the black rubber strap come fitted with Tudor’s T-fit clasp, which features ceramic ball bearings for the closure mechanism and in integrated extension system that allows for tool-free adjustment with five different incremental setting positions that create a total window of 8mm of sizing options.
The addition of the new Tudor Black Bay 54 is slightly unexpected given that it measures just 2mm smaller than the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, although there will inevitably be quite a few collectors out there who will be interested in this new model, either because it offers a smaller case or simply because it recalls the appearance and size of the original vintage Tudor Submariner ref. 7922 from 1954. With an official retail price of 3,450 CHF when purchased on the rubber strap or 3,650 CHF should buyers opt for the bracelet, the new Tudor Black Bay 54 is slightly less expensive than its larger Black Bay siblings, despite offering very similar performance specifications, and this is likely just due to the smaller size of the watch and less materials used in its construction. While the case size of the new Tudor Black Bay 54 is true to the vintage ref. 7922, the watch itself has far more in common with the modern Black Bay range from an aesthetic perspective, and given how the new Black Bay 54 is intended to be a homage to Tudor’s first-ever dive watch (which was only ever offered in stainless steel with a black dial), it will be interesting to see if other colors and materials get added to the Black Bay 54 lineup in near future. For more information on the Tudor Black Bay 54, please visit the brand’s website.