Review Tudor Black Bay Chrono [live photos, price]
Marely few esthetical tweaks were enough to make Tudor’s flagship chronograph watch one of more interesting in the genre. Question is, can it be perceived as an alternative to more prestigious chronographs out there?
Although Tudor’s rich history is immediately associated with diver’s watches, those who know a bit more, appreciated the significance of a chronograph too. This type of watches came to the market much after the diver (Ref. 7922 “Snowflake” dates back to 1954). First chronograph has been presented by Tudor in 1970. Named “Oysterdate”, it was released in three versions (Ref. 7031/0, 7032/0 and 7033/0), of which two were eventually produced. Powered by a manually wound Valjoux 7734 and housed in a 39 mm steel case, the watch(es) was ever since developed and enhanced with regularity. Collectors particularly appreciate the so-called “Big Block” references – automatic pieces with sporty design, clean dials and some racing pedigree.
In 1995 another generation of “Big Block” Oysterdate came to life. Tudor re-designed the case, replaced the glass with proper sapphire and utilized an automatic Valjoux 7750. The last pieces of that series were presented around the year 2000 – for the next chapter we had to wait another 10 years. Inspired by the very first “home-plate” pieces, Tudor created a Heritage Chrono model, presented at BaselWorld 2010 – a year that marks the return of Tudor to the real game. After the Heritage Chrono Tudor tried even more sporty approach to chronographs with the introduction of Fastrider, but this one did not succeed much. Proper attention to Tudor’s association with chronographs came in 2017. To quite a audible groan of surprise the company decided to present a brand new chronograph in the… Black Bay collection. Surprise was even bigger, because the BB Chrono turned out to be a wild mix of different elements of a typical chronograph and a diver’s watch. We did cover the watch extensively (albite mostly in Polish), including a hands-on, in-dept review of a super cool BB Chrono Dark… which I quite loved actually.
Already with the introduction of BB Chrono S&G (Steel & Gold) Tudor revamped the overall design a bit, which resulted in a thinner case. Only a bit thinner, but that makes a whole lot of difference. The latest iteration of the BB Chrono came to life during the digital Watches & Wonders 2021. Tudor answered some fans and collectors with the introduction of the most “classic” version(s) yet – a traditional “Panda” and a “Reversed-Panda” dial. For a test drive, we asked Tudor for the reversed option.
Size and shape
A few things did change in the new BB Chrono, but most remained the same as in previous references. If you had a chance to see the watch live, you’re quite aware of it’s proportions. It is still quite substantial, very masculine and bold – wears exactly like the numbers suggest too. Probably unfortunately to some, that still hope for a smaller, more vintage-like chronograph from Tudor.
Stainless steel case comes at 41 mm in diameter, 14,2 mm in thickness and with 200 m of water resistance. Most surfaces have been mirror-polished, with neatly stain-brushed top of the lugs, with polished, faceted edge. The back is secured by a full, plain caseback. On the right hand side of the case there is a large, comfy crown and a pair of push-buttons, secured by screw-down caps. Top side of the case present a solid, black bezel with aluminum insert and tachymeter scale, along with a convex sapphire glass.
22 mm lugs house a full steel Oyster-type bracelet (there is also an option of black NATO strap and a black leather “Bund”). The execution goes along with the case, pampered and mostly satin-brushed, with polished sides, and… one big “but”. It was a first time I had a chance to actually get a proper experience of those “fake” rivets on the sides of the links – and now I can honestly say, I’m not a fan. It does not look particularly good and has no functionality at all. Also, makes the links look fat. On the upside, the claps is very nicely integrated, safe, comfortable to use and with a handy, 3-steps micro-adjustment.
If the case looks classic to you, you’re going to enjoy the dial very much as well. In the “Reverse Panda” version dial comes in black with a pair of silver-white sub-dials: small seconds at 9 o’clock and a 45 minutes chronograph counter at 3. Both are decorated with a snail pattern. There are also round “diver’s watch style” hour indices, triangle at 12 o’clock and a set of hands with sufficient amount of luminova, led by a famous “Snowflake” hour hand – legendary style, that made Tudor’s diving watches famous and instantly recognizable.
I do like that set-up I must admit, find it distinctive in a good, pleasurable way, playing along with the overall traditional feel of the design. Date window – highly useful in almost every watch – is located at 6, and about the only detail that breaks monochromatic scheme is a red “200m 660 ft” at the bottom, along with a red tip of a stopwatch seconds hand.
When Tudor launched the BB Chrono 3 years ago, they also announced a barter collaboration with Breitling. The deal obliges Tudor to deliver its base automatic caliber to Breilting, and in return receive a chronograph caliber B01. Renamed as a MT5183, the movement comes with COSC chronometer certification and 70 h of power reserve. There is a column wheel to operate stop-watch functions and an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring.
Quite an industrial, raw (although quality) finish of the movement is hidden behind a solid back, so no added value there. What’s worth mentioning is that Tudor highly modifies the movement made by Breitling. There is a silicon hairspring added, new balance wheel with 4 regulating micro-screws and a chronograph counter extended from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.
The Black Bay Chrono “Reversed Panda” is the latest chapter of the BB Chrono saga, and I do have an irresistible impression, that all the previous ones were Tudor searching for the right execution. There’s been more than enough said about the premier reference, as well as the following ones – S&G and Dark. Each one felt like a better, more thought-out edition, but none of them created such an enthusiastic reaction, as the two latest pieces.
Good people at Tudor finally decided to introduce a Black Bay Chrono design, that honestly speaking should have been there from the start. The classic, moto-racing inspired chronograph look from the second half of the XX century fits like a (racing) glove. It’s tasteful, stylish, charismatic enough and sexy. Black dial with a black bezel and contrasting, white counters almost feel like a blueprint for this type of a timepiece, a role-model of sorts. Makes you wanna jump behind a wheel of a proper, petrol-eating (none of this hybrid crap please) sport car, start the engine, press the start button of the chronograph and just enjoy the ride. But it’s equally as great on daily basis, handsome in many ways – if you can even say a watch is a handsome fella? Great execution comes along, as Tudor is a Rolex sister brand, paying equal attention to every detail and finish. All that at a reasonable 5 000 EUR.
On my rather modest wrist the BB Chrono wears quite good, despite being a large watch all in all. With an attached solid bracelet it weighs a hefty bit, but everyday comfort doesn’t suffer. And it’s easy to imagine all the different straps perfectly fitting the piece, especially a “racing” style, adding another moto-racing layer of flavor.
Last question we have to answer is – how does the Black Bay Chrono stands against the competition. Right after its lunch, there was plenty of similar comments on internet, comparing the watch to some other chronographs, especially the “older brother” – Rolex Daytona. While at first glance and by some design traits both watches feel similar, calling the Tudor a cheaper version of the Rolex is hardly justifiable, for number of reasons – the price, the size and eventually the brand itself. Same goes to many other comparisons, like for example Omega Speedmatser – a whole different watch. Choosing one over the other would solely be a matter of personal taste – and test supposedly isn’t debatable. If you decide to get a Tudor, you will buy yourself (regardless of the chosen version) a piece of a great, well made watch made by a no-nonsense company with a strict, almost “tool-watch” oriented attitude. For that I appreciate and admire Tudor deeply.