Review TUDOR Heritage Black Bay [live pics, price]
Vintage and historic inspired watches grow more and more in popularity these days. Therefore we tested one of them – the Heritage Black Bay by Tudor – with an utmost pleasure.
I was more than happy to find out about the opportunity to spend some time with the watch in question. First of all I never had a chance to do “hands-on” with the brand, and second it would not be reasonable to pass on a timepiece that just won the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (in Revival Prize category to be accurate).
The Tudor brand was established in 1946 by Rolex founder. I wrote “established” instead of “started” on purpose, because Tudor’s birth was a clearly thought-out marketing and business plan. When the first advertising campaign for the Oyster Prince watch was launched, he highlighted: “For a long time now I considered a watch that could be sold by our representatives at a lower price, yet maintaining the quality and standards offered by Rolex”. It was with this words that Tudor marked its future on the world’s watch map – Rolex for less wealthy. This association lives on today, still symbolizing quality made watches, with Oyster type cases, but powered by movements from ETA, not those manufactured in-house.
The name of the company was inspired by the Tudors dynasty that ruled England from 1485 to 1603. Over the second-half of the 20th century the brand introduced a whole bunch of Submariner-style timepieces. Some of them were used by the French Navy divers from the 60’s to the 80’s as well as by US Navy and Navy Seals. Over the years, Tudor has also had top-sports ambassadors like Tiger Woods – the most famous golfer in the world – who was signed to advertise the Prince Chronograph. The brand has also left a mark in the history of watchmaking with its dials and their famous color combinations. Tudor indeed used truly exotic shades since the beginning of the 70’s.
I’m quite aware that I am not the first to write, that for a long time Tudor did not attract my attention – nor my eyes or wrist. All this changed back in 2010, when at Baselworld fair they introduced the brand new, 70’s inspired, Heritage Chronograph. Beautiful layout of the dial, breath of fresh air in the brand’s design and highest Rolex-like attention to details caused journalists spoke a lot about the brand. In subsequent years Tudor presented a number of other highly interesting models, including the Heritage Black Bay, unveiled in 2012 and awarded the best revival watch of the year by the GPHG jury in 2013. The key to Tudor’s success is a combination of very good quality and style at the reasonable price and popularity of vintage-style timepieces. Both Heritage Black Bay and modern, titanium Pelagos diver fit perfectly those trends.
Heritage Black Bay
When the Black Bay debuted in Basel, the main question was which historical model was its inspiration? Similarities were to be found in numerous historical references, but not a specific one seemed to be the unique ancestor of the Black Bay. As it turned out later, this was a correct deduction, as the Black Bay was actually created as Tudor’s tribute not to one model but to diver watches (and their details) from the early 20th century.
Dial, crown and overall look came from a Tudor Submariner from the 1954 (Ref. 7922). The so-called “Snowflakes” hands with their typical square shape appeared at the end of the 60’s with the reference 7021) the burgundy bezel was first seen on a Tudor Submariner from the 70’s and the circled hour markers appeared on Tudor Submariner dials in the 90’s.
The Heritage Black Bay presents a quite unique combination of colors, colors that not only stand out from the crowd, but also suggest a vintage-inspired style. This combination is achieved thanks to a chocolate-black dial, gold-circled hour markers, cream-white luminova and burgundy bezel insert that, depending on the light, shines from light to dark burgundy.
The same burgundy color can be found on the crown tube located between the crown and the case. And while at first I found this sticking out crown to be a questionable detail (it theoretically could squeeze the wrist) I eventually found myself liking it. And it is very easy to operate, even with the watch strapped on the wrist. Last but not least, the crown is nicely decorated with the Tudor rose and quite substantial in size, but still a nice match for the case and the overall look.
The dial has a colour that is hard to determine – going all the way from deep blacks to dark chocolate browns. It’s domed at the edge and adorned with golden elements. The texts, minute track, hour markers and hands are perfectly matching in one consistent package.
Both the hands and the hour markers are filed with cream-beige luminova reminiscent of the good old tritium used in the past as luminescent material. In the dark all this glows green, which has its charm, but – as in the case of coloured luminova – shortens its light-time.
The font and the logo on the dial are characteristic of the early Tudor timepieces. The Tudor rose used on the dial and on the crown – was inspired by the coat of arms of the English royal dynasty and was used by the company between 1947 and 1969. It was then replaced with the shield logo we know today.
The snowflakes hands (diamond-shaped if you prefer) and large luminova surfaces make the watch very readable. One quick glance at your wrist is enough to know what the time is. There is no date indication, which might for many of you – including me – be a kind of disadvantage. Let us hope that next version will include this useful complication.
To highlight the vintage style, also the glass of the watch (just as the dial) is domed. It is not a Plexiglas so popular in the watches from the past, but highly-scratch-resistant sapphire, which is very suitable for an everyday watch. The bezel turns anticlockwise, in one minute jumps. It operates smoothly but maybe a bit too easy, which in turn might cause an unwanted move.
The 41mm case is partly polished (sides) partly brushed (top of the lugs and space in between them) – and the brushing is for me a biggest drawback. When you look at the watch from the top angle it actually looks very bright, unnatural and I really didn’t like it – but of course it’s a matter of taste. I have no issues with the quality, especially, that it was all machine-made. I loved the lugs profile and the polishing that was surprisingly resistant to scratches, contrary to some other timepieces I tested before.
The Black Bay can be obtained either with a steel bracelet (for an extra charge) or the leather aged strap. Both sets also provide a woven nylon strap in black, which you can see on our pictures. All I can say about this nylon strap is that it is good looking and very comfortable to wear.
The movement powering the three hands of the Black Bay is an ETA 2824. It is commonly regarded as reliable, damage-resistant, and indestructible movement – and I agree fully, from my past experience. ETA working in the tested watch wasn’t however the most precise one, gaining or losing between 8 to 10 seconds per day, with the highest score of +16 seconds. Comparing with chronometer precision of Rolex (which – I know – is much more expensive) that can achieve results oscillating around barely 1 second, I consider such result as a big disadvantage.
The ETA used by Tudor is a Top version (highest level of finishing available on this base calibre) but it can’t be admired, as its hidden behind a solid case back.
Thanks to its price, unique design and water resistance up to 200m the Heritage Black Bay found many fans among divers, vintage-style lovers and many ordinary collectors, who appreciate great price/value ratio.
Strapped to the wrist the piece looks great. It is versatile enough to work well with formal attire required in business meetings as well as with a t-shirt while on holiday by the sea. All you need is a swift skill in changing the straps.
– great vintage-look
– very good quality – like in sister-brand Rolex
– price/value ratio
– unique combinations of colors
– not very accurate
– after some time can get boring
– no date indication
TUDOR Heritage Black Bay
Movement: ETA 2824, automatic, 38h power reserve
Dial: black-choco with applied indices
Case: 41mm, steel, doomed saphire crystal with AR coating, steel caseback
Water resistance: 200m
Strap: steel bracelet or leather strap; included an extra strap
Price: about 9.500PLN (~2300Euro)