Baselworld itself has been a bit weird overall this year with its new configuration and such, and “weird” can just as easily be said when looking at the cluster of offerings that Tudor brought to the table for 2019. Returning their focus to the Black Bay collection yet again after last year’s detour to the entry-level 1926 collection, the first word that springs to mind is diversification (if we’re trying to be polite).
The introduction of more two-tone models continues, but unlike past years, there’s a lack of clarity and direction to these latest releases, which makes me think that Tudor is starting to lose the thread of what the Black Bay line was originally intended to be. To be fair, some of their new releases are still really handsome, but whether or not they truly belong in the Black Bay lineup is certainly questionable at least.
Motorsport Leanings – The Black Bay Chrono Steel & Gold
The first peculiar play in the Tudor launches is this new spin on the Black Bay Chrono. While the initial version retained a much more diver-ish vibe to it on account of its steel bezel – though it already ditched the rotating bezel for a fixed tachymeter scale – this new model is very much a play off of the ‘John Player Special’ version of the reference 6241 Rolex Daytona (though this Daytona is a variant with pump pushers rather than screw-down ones).
It’s interesting to see that after all these years – when Rolex was so intent on keeping Tudor’s designs separate from their own – that between this and last year’s Black Bay GMT, there seems to be some steering towards turning into the “poor man’s Rolex” once again. Don’t get me wrong, the build quality here is great, and you’re getting some killer value. Its chronograph is based on the column wheel chronograph caliber from Breitling, with a regulating organ of Tudor’s own design. The riveted bracelet is quite well executed, and in the metal, it’s a mighty handsome watch; however Tudor isn’t a brand name that people associate with motorsports, and just throwing a motorsport themed watch into the equation with no justification behind it comes across a little contrived.
Keeping It Weird – The Tudor Black Bay P01
This is a hugely debated topic right now, as many people have called into question the origins of the Tudor prototype upon which the P01 is based, and whether or not it ever really existed. Per Tudor HQ, a very small number of these watches were built, and based on the patent information they have for the bezel locking mechanism, as well as the original prototype that the brand has on display right now, I’d tend to believe them.
Where the watch immediately took flack online was on account of its general case shape and crown position, which bears a modest amount of resemblance to a Seiko 7002, and the SKX007/009 models that came thereafter. Those long end links and bezel locking mechanism give the piece a unique look, and the best parallel I can really draw is similarity between it and the Omega Proplof. It’s out of the ordinary, it’s chunky, it’s bold, and some enthusiasts will love it. If it were me I would have opted for it being a limited-edition model that doesn’t reside within the Black Bay collection, as the original prototype did not use snowflake hands to begin with.
Doubling Down on Dressy – The Black Bay 41,36, & 32 Steel & Gold
While I’ll give Tudor credit that the champagne dial they’ve added to this line (the same we saw in the Black Bay last year) is a very good looking one, this move with the BB 41, 36, and 32 I simply do not understand. Moving the piece to two-tone steel and gold with a 5-link bracelet inches it towards dress watch territory, yet they just launched a massive collection of dress watches that now feels like its sales will be cannibalized by the Black Bay.
Granted, these pieces are a bit more pricey by comparison, and the aesthetic of the snowflake hands and diver-ish dial does make them more casual than their counterparts; however overall, these releases just doesn’t connect with the rugged Black Bay DNA in my eyes. Once again, not a bad watch, per se, but a confusing offering to say the least.