Far from casting aspersions on the new Basel 2016 Tudor Black Bay Bronze with In-House Tudor Manufacture Movement but it’s time to address the elephant in the room: Are watches like the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze and Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark a symbol of the brand’s willingness to go where it’s esteemed older brother Rolex doesn’t want to go?


Basel 2016: Tudor Black Bay goes where Rolex Doesn’t


The elephant in the room: Mining the wealth of Rolex heritage had been the purview of “me-too” homage brands for a very long time before Tudor re-defined the neo-retro genre of watchmaking with the first Black Bay. For a long time, brands like Armida, Ancon and Steinhart watches were releasing a treasure trove of watches with heritage details and aesthetics pioneered by Rolex and Tudor. Insult to injury, they were releasing these Rolex-Tudor homages in case proportions reflecting the wishes of the consumers – 41.5 or 42mm iterations.


basel 2016 tudor heritage black bay goes where Rolex doesnt 3

Ancon Sea-Shadow models appropriated and mimicked the desired aesthetics of heritage Rolex models like the vintage Explorer dial and the big crown while applying them in popular noveau case treatments like Bronze and full black DLC.


Then, there’s also the grudging acknowledgement that an entire cottage industry of “cool” Rolex modders like Blaken, Bamford and Pro-Hunter sprung out of nowhere to fulfil a gap in the Rolex aficionado market looking for a Rolex which wasn’t “everyone else’s Rolex”. Which leads me to another question: Why now? Why only for Tudor watches?


An official "unauthorised" Rolex modded by Bamford Watch Department with contrast bezel GMT markers.

An official “unauthorised” Rolex modded by Bamford Watch Department with contrast bezel GMT markers.


Don’t get me wrong, the Tudor Black Bay and Pelagos series of dive watches are but two examples of how dramatically successful vintage-watch re-issues can be. Updated to contemporary design standards, Tudor manages to avoid replicas of past-glories and has actually secured the hearts of many collectors with their price perfect vintage inspired yet new dive watches.


It’s been a strategy which has been simultaneously respectful of Tudor’s history and heritage yet at the same time, it’s causing some consternation for Rolex purists – why aren’t these heritage details re-developed with the same love and respect for my beloved “Rolex” brand? Nevertheless, the latest Basel 2016 Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze and the Heritage Black Bay Dark are the type of watches collectors have been waiting for.


The history of the TUDOR divers’ watch dates back to 1954 and the launch of reference 7922. The first in a long line of ergonomic, legible, accurate and robust divers’ watches, it perfectly embodies the approach formulated by the American architect Louis Sullivan, according to whom the form of an object must follow its function. Furthermore, it laid down the aesthetic and technical foundations of an ideal divers’ watch, those of an understated, functional and reliable tool.

The history of the TUDOR divers’ watch dates back to 1954 and the launch of reference 7922. The first in a long line of ergonomic, legible, accurate and robust divers’ watches, it perfectly embodies the approach formulated by the American architect Louis Sullivan, according to whom the form of an object must follow its function. Furthermore, it laid down the aesthetic and technical foundations of an ideal divers’ watch, those of an understated, functional and reliable tool.


The new Black Bay Bronze recalls the golden age of maritime explorers in bronze dive helmets, making a poetic statement as a modern dive watch with a vintage material. Bronze, as you might recall is used in many ocean-going components due to its resistance to salt water.


Joining its red, blue and black bezel cousins, the latest Tudor Black Bay Bronze follows in the same vein of snowflake hands, big “Bond-Rolex-esque” crown and clean date-free aesthetics. More importantly, the “tropical” case in brushed bronze allow with brownish bezel and dial already come “pre-aged” or patinated which only serves to enhance the heritage nature of the timepiece.


The addition of 3,6, 9 hour numerals rather than the usual baton indexes recall the classic 1960s Rolex Explorer reference 1016.


This 1016 became the unmistakable Explorer standard but it took some time. Despite Rolex’s popularity in 1953 and the magnitude of the Everest achievement, the company wasn’t sure how to position its new Explorer. So it experimented. Examples include: dials with 3-6-9

This 1016 became the unmistakable Explorer standard but it took some time. Despite Rolex’s popularity in 1953 and the magnitude of the Everest achievement, the company wasn’t sure how to position its new Explorer. So it experimented. Examples include: dials with 3-6-9


In addition to being aesthetically lustworthy, the newest Basel 2016 Tudor Black Bay Bronze is equipped with an in-house movement, the calibre MT5601


The new Tudor Black Bay Bronze comes with two strap choices: distressed leather and fabric strap; both with matching bronze buckles. The Black Bay Bronze price $3,975 which is quite unheard of given R&D costs for a manufacture movement redesigned for a larger watch rather than taking the short-cut of using a brass movement spacer.


The latest Basel 2016 Tudor Black Bay Dark


The new Tudor Black Bay Dark features the particularly prominent winding crown from the famous 7924 reference of 1958, aka the “Big Crown”, while its characteristic angular hands, known as “snowflake”, were borrowed from TUDOR watches used by the French National Navy in the 1970s.

The new Tudor Black Bay Dark features the particularly prominent winding crown from the famous 7924 reference of 1958, aka the “Big Crown”, while its characteristic angular hands, known as “snowflake”, were borrowed from TUDOR watches used by the French National Navy in the 1970s.


Officially, Rolex doesn’t endorse and neither will they service after-market black PVD-Coated Rolex watches from brands like Blaken and Bamford. Thus, the latest Basel 2016 Tudor Black Bay Dark is not only surprising but immensely welcomed for collectors wanting a black PVD timepiece from the makers of the world’s most popular dive watch.


Pipping at 41 mm and now equipped with in-house Chronometer Certified movement, the new Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark follows in breaking the traditional 40mm case proportions of lauded Rolex watches. 2 mm smaller than the Black Bay Bronze’s 43mm, the Black Bay Dark wears a little easier at 41mm.


While it’s an odd choice for steel to be treated with PVD in view of the existence of harder wearing DLC, it’s quite likely that satin-finished PVD treatment was chosen to keep prices more affordable now that the Black Bay comes with the long running 70 hour power reserve manufacture movement MT5602 which are certified to chronometer specifications.


basel 2016 tudor heritage black bay goes where Rolex doesnt - new Tudor Black Bay Dark 4The new Basel 2016 Tudor Black Bay Dark comes with black PVD bracelet or distressed leather and is priced $4,475 and $4,150 respectively. Both come with matching grey NATO strap.


As for why now and why Tudor? One can surmise that it’s an effort to establish real consumer desire for the brand as the Foundation starts to develop the Tudor name independent of the history (however shared) of its more established brother.