Review Tudor Fastrider Blackshield [live pics, price]
Ceramic, sport chronograph from the Rolex’s smaller sibling – Fastrider Blackshield.
Tudor strives last three years in a highly impressive manner. Still being sister of the mighty Rolex, the company managed to stand up firmly and become one of the more exciting entry-level brands out there. If you keep in mind, that Tudor watches are basically created in the same environment as the precision-perfect Rolex, and at the same time more than affordably priced (because of few aspects, which I’ll explain later) the excitement seems to be quite obvious. We have just recently tested a vintage-inspired Heritage Black Bay diver’s watch, but Tudor is at the same time a very modern thinking and surprisingly advanced company.
The overview of Tudor’s reach history was already highlighted in the Black Bay review, but let me just remind you, that in the past both Tudor and Rolex were offering quite similar – in terms of sport watches – diver’s and chronographs alike. Tudor had the so-called “Snowflake Subrmariner” similar to Rolexe’s iconic Submariner or the Tiger and Monte Carlo chronographs, comparable to the legendary Cosmograph Daytona. However, when Rolex pretty much remained faithful to its image, Tudor went ahead, especially with one of the recent novelties in question. The inspiration in this case – for the watch I had a pleasure to wear for couple of weeks – was brand’s close relationship with one of the greatest motorcycling creators, the Italian Ducati.
Ducati, founded in 1926 in the city of Bologna, produces highly advanced, professional sport motorcycles. The Tudor Fastrider Blackshield corresponds with one of them, the Diavel. For the 2013 BaselWorld, where the watch debuted publicly, both companies co-created a special edition of the bike – the Diavel Carbon – and its black-and-red design found its way to the design of the timepiece. The Fastrider collection was already a member of Tudor’s portfolio for quite some time, but the new piece is a whole different story.
Designing the new Fastrider, smartly called with the catchy name tag “Blackshield”, turned out to be not an easy job at all. It would be easy to simply create a steel case and cover it with black DLC or PVD coating, add a new dial and sell packed smartly in some marketing. Lucky for us, the brand decided to be serious and go with a brave move to incorporate ceramic. If you follow contemporary watchmaking scene closely you already know many new materials and composites of extreme nature, but ceramic is still quite special. Not to be mistaken with a fragile, white material used for our dinner service, modern ceramic is durable, hard, light and almost perfectly scratch resistant.
Created entirely by Tudor, the ceramic case of the Blackshield is a “monobloc” construction, with firmly added ceramic bezel (with engraved tachymeter scale) and caseback. In total it measures 42mm, has a nice, matt finish, solid back with some laser-cut information (TUDOR GENEVE SUISSE) and some additional, little details like small cuts in the bezel and a motive between the lugs, seemingly repeated on the black rubber strap. Screwed-down crown of the watch, the chronograph pushers and the date corrector at 9 o’clock use steel covered in black matt DLC.
It deserves a highest respect to Tudor for using a high-tech material in such well priced watch, and in such a great way (finishing and quality are top notch). The entire thing looks great, perfectly sits on the wrist and just makes you feel like you own an advanced, high-end watch. And while the construction and materials used are unquestionably very good, the discussion might start when you look at the dial.
The Fastrider Blackshield was presented in two variations of the dial’s color. Both are black (slightly shiny) and completed with either red or golden-brown appliqués. They both have their pros and cons, but the one I tested – the black-red – suffered a bit in terms of legibility. Black background with blood-red indices and polished, black hands with some red luminova and a smallish black date window (between 4 and 5 o’clock) are not what you might call the easily readable. Plus there seems to be no antireflective coating at all on the glass. Not that I find it especially wrong – all-black watches are meant to be like that – just don’t expect anything as clear as in classic, white dial pieces. It might have been done a bit better since – after all – watches are still supposed to tell time. Maybe the gold-brown version improves on this issue, but then again it is not as sporty as the red one.
The biggest difference between Tudor and Rolex watches is of course not the quality of build, not the materials but the movements. Because having an in-house made caliber generates monumental expenses and therefore increases the watch price tag, Tudor goes with an off the shelf calibers form ETA – the one in tested piece is the mighty Valjoux 7753.
There is nothing wrong with this to be honest, using the popular engine combined with high-tech materials. The VJ 7753 is a well tested, proved, legendary integrated chronograph movement with all the pedigree you want. Just as a brief reminder – the movement has 46h of power reserve (from single barrel with optional winding from the crown), 4Hz balance frequency (28.800 vph), 27 rubbies and dimensions of 30.4×7.9mm.
Because Tudor wisely decided to protect the movement behind the solid caseback, I can’t really say how it looks (how or if it was decorated) but what I can say is how it feels and works, judging by the 2 weeks together. Well, the feeling might be well familiar to you, since it works exactly the same as any Valjoux in any mechanical chronograph you most likely experienced before. Two-steps crown allows you to wind the watch and set the time (assisted by stop-second). Chronographs operation is smooth, and date correction easy with the small plastic tool provided with the watch (shaped nicely as a Tudor logo).
If you’d like to find an appropriate rival for the Blackshield, in this price range it would next to impossible. Fully ceramic Omega “Dark Side of The Moon” (with ceramic case, dial, crown, pushers and buckle) costs twice as much.
Ceramic Griard-Perregaux Chrono Hawk has a price tag of over 14.500CHF, and the ceramic chronographs from Audemars Piguet and IWC Schaffhausen are even more expensive – AP would slim your bank account by over 30.000CHF. Of course all the brands listed present more advanced mechanics and richer history – so at the end it’s your call to decide… or rather your wallet’s.
Price, quality, impressions
Describing the great details regarding the tested Fastrider Blackshield I mentioned a few times the price as another reason to appreciate this watch. For the full ceramic in a well executed, well finished and smartly designed timepiece you’ll have to shrink you account by 4700CHF. And this, to be frank, is incomparably with any such watch out on the market today. Kudos to Tudor for making an advanced watch (movement aside) still maintaining reasonable price level. Plus the watch looks and wears great (provided you like black pieces). I felt that the 42mm are perfect for a sporty, ever-day wearer. It’s both comfortable, useful and provides this nice feeling of wearing a watch on your wrist, without it being overly significant.
From the day of resurrection and the Heritage Chronograph premier in 2011 (still my favorite Tudor watch) I closely follow Tudor and its new way to stand firmly on the busy watch market. You can’t rightfully compare the brand with Rolex, but, to be 100% honest, it’s a lot more interesting to follow novelties from the smaller Geneva based company. Going vintage-inspired turned out to be a brilliant move (with great recognition of the market’s needs and trends), and an addition of modern pieces like a titanium Pelagos diver and a ceramic Fastrider Blackshield completed the whole image. It would as well complete any classic-timepieces collection with a sport watch that does not scream with its gimmick, vanguard design. And all this with Rolex-like quality. Well done Tudor.
– ceramic, greatly executed case
– coherent design
– superb price/quality ratio
– comfortable size
– very good rubber strap with nice deployant
– unmistakable sporty character
– average readability
– poor antireflective coating
– Red-on-black needs some getting used to
– not enough luminova
Tudor Fastrider Blackshield
Movement: Valjoux 7753, automatic, 46h power reserve, 28.800 Vph, small second, date, chronograph
Dial: Black with red appliqués, polished black hands with luminova
Case: 42×14.5mm, ceramic, steel PVD pushers and crown, sapphire glass, ceramic caseback
Strap: rubber with deployant, PVD coated steel
Bikes provided by Liberty Motors, official distributor of Ducati in Poland.
Pictures: Michał Grygalewicz – MADRUGADA foto art