The Crown’s brash younger sibling reasserts its dominance over the ‘entry-level’ market, with a winning formula of gold, silver, and…panda dials?
Every year, I ring my hands and pray to gods of all chronometer-certifying variety for the public to stop treating Tudor like the Ringo to Rolex’s McCartney. This year, it appears those prayers have been answered. While 2021 can be best described as a ‘holding pattern’ year for Rolex (the brand’s biggest controversy was its refusal to institute any outwardly discernible update to the Explorer II, which is celebrating its 50th birthday) its sibling brand has been snapping up applause for a spate of releases that speak to the Tudor reputation for handsome, heritage-inspired watchmaking that dares to go where the Crown won’t tread.
What that means in relation to this month’s Watches & Wonders presentations is a trifecta of new product, playing in the sandbox of the best-selling Black Bay collection. (You can see a selection of photos taken ‘in the metal’ via social media above.) As enthusiasts well know, the changes Tudor has wrought aren’t dramatic by any objective stretch; but in a universe where battle lines are drawn around topics as mundane as millimetric size increases or the use of two-tone, what we’re about to discuss is riveting stuff indeed.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight ’18K’
In a first for the classic diver-inspired BB58 collection, Tudor have released this solid-gold Black Bay — the priciest of any of the brand’s timepieces to date. Priced at a shade over US$18,000, this has undoubtedly been the most controversial launch from Tudor this year. Numerous burning questions come to mind: “who is this for?”, “why gold?”, and “couldn’t you just buy a two-tone GMT for that kind of dough?”. Naturally, these are all valid concerns for ‘voice of reason’ types, though none of them dull the watch’s appeal as an irreverent middle finger to Tudor’s customary positioning.
Identical in almost every technical respect to Black Bay Fifty-Eights of years past (the movement shares the same performance stats as the calibre MT5402 powering most steel models) the 18K’s distinctive character rests in its gold case/green dial combo. Tudor describes the brushed case-work as a “subtle, sporty” take on yellow gold — creating a matted, antique aesthetic that’s unlikely to be mistaken for Rolesor. That’s combined with a subtly textured dial that reinforces a forest-green base with flecks of gold, helping to accent the hour plots and hands (also made for the first time ever in solid yellow gold).
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘925’
Side by side, it’s easy to conceive of the Fifty-Eight 18K and 925 as polar opposites. Unlike its 6-figure, solid gold sibling, the 925 is a classic value proposition that runs congruent with Tudor’s modern offering. Inspired by the phenomenon of ‘ghost’ watches (ergo, pre-ceramic models in which the bezel has faded to a light, cloudy grey) the 925 marks yet another first for the brand — cases manufactured in sterling silver. The neutral colour theme of that metal finds expression in the bezel and dial, both of which are shaded in a light charcoal hue that’s both subtle and easy-wearing.
In its unaltered form, silver is a challenging metal to work with. Extremely soft and prone to tarnishing, Tudor have thus chosen to alloy it with a proprietary blend of tin, copper, and various other materials — the exact recipe being a secret. That ensures the colour-fastness of the metal, which takes on a pale silvery cast under direct light. Like the Fifty-Eight 18K, the proportions here are well-suited to daily wear, with an external diameter of 39mm. In order to account for the increased density of sterling silver, the calibre MT5400 that powers this watch has been equipped with an enlarged baseplate — something that long-time Black Bay collectors may notice through the new exhibition-style caseback.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘925’ is available for (approx.) SGD5,500. To learn more, visit Tudor online.
The Black Bay Chrono, reloaded
Whereas material innovation was the central theme of Tudor’s new Fifty-Eight releases, the Black Bay Chrono has also been given a slight (though definitely discernible) update. On the aesthetic front, Tudor have managed to reduce the case’s profile to 14.4mm — a hair smaller than the original steel Chrono released in 2017. That’s a refinement of the watch’s existing form language — one that’s still at its best when worn on a medium-plus size wrist. It’s also pertinent to note that this incremental slimming hasn’t come at cost to the movement: beneath the case, you’ll find the same MT5813 that chronographs obsessed know and love. Developed in conjunction with Breitling, it’s still a tonne of value-for-money: engineered to COSC standards with vertical clutch transmission and a silicone hairspring.
The Chrono’s svelte proportions are also accompanied by the release of two new dial treatments — both of which derive key design queues from the glorious, now-widely-aped look of the Ref. 6263 Daytona. I’m especially fond of the ‘panda’ version: a combination of milky, opalescent white for the dial and black chronograph registers. Colour coordination here is spot-on in general, with the extreme legibility of black & white enlivened by the choice addition of red accents for the chronograph hand and classic ‘metres first’ signature.
The revamped Black Bay Chrono is available in either an opaline or black dial treatment for (approx.) SGD6,700. To learn more, visit Tudor online.
This story first appeared in Prestige Hong Kong.