The watch we’re covering this week was one of the most popular releases of 2012, and its recently released black-bezel variant was one of the most covered timepieces of 2015. Yes, this week we’re training our “Vintage Eye” on none other than the Tudor Heritage Black Bay.
The series, as I mentioned, is today one of the most widely beloved “mid-range” collections in recent years, and this is not an accident on Tudor’s part. Based loosely on the 1954 Tudor Submariner (below), and taking elements from a few other famous, historical Rolex and Tudor dive watches, the series set out from the very beginning to spark the nostalgic love of vintage watch aficionados.
The Tudor Black Bay is available in the three versions, with a black, matte blue, or matte burgundy bezel, with few other differences outside of the color accents for the divers’ bezel and oversized crown. The 41-mm steel watch houses Tudor’s Caliber 2824, with a power reserve around 38 hours; this movement is a modified ETA 2824, and is known for its accuracy and dependability. The dial — either gilt-accented on the burgundy and black versions, or white accented on the blue — features vintage-inspired applied circles, rectangles, and a triangle for the hour markers; an outer minute ring; and those much-talked-about hands, snowflake-style for hours, sword-shaped for minutes, and diamond-lollipop for seconds.
Some other features on the dial worth notice are the Tudor Rose logo at the 12 o’clock mark, and various descriptive writings at the 6 o’clock (somewhat resembling a smiley face). The pieces starts at around $2,500 with a leather strap, and around $2,900 with an Oyster-like metal bracelet.
To understand why this watch has garnered so much popularity, it is worth noting how its design elements were inspired. The piece, again heavily influenced by the 1954 Tudor Submariner “Big Crown” (deriving this moniker from its especially large screw-down crown), uses a similar case, hour markers, large crown without crown-guards, logo, and printed writing on the dial. The black variant — the most popular version of the watch — also has a red triangle on its bezel, a design choice meant as an homage to many original Tudor Submariners, including the “Big Crown.” The hands of the piece were clearly inspired by the now very sought-after Tudor Submariner “Snowflake” (below), a famous vintage variation in the Submariner line that went against the traditional “Mercedes” hands of other Tudor and Rolex watches.
The Tudor Black Bay, to put it simply, is an amalgam of many of the most memorable design choices Tudor has made over the last 60 years, and consumers love it. The only completely new elements on this watch are its unidirectional bezel (vintage variations mostly used bidirectional), combinations of colors and designs, and slightly protruding color accent on the large crown.
With all of these elements working together, it is no wonder why fans of both vintage and modern watches have picked up on this one. It takes everything that people over many years have loved about the brand, and packs it into one incredible sports watch. The only complaint I have with the piece is the power reserve: 38 hours is a relatively short one. However, with what most would consider its very affordable price, great aesthetic look, and historical inspiration, I imagine that many purchasers of this watch wear it daily and thus don’t worry much that it will run out of juice.
Tudor has done an admirable job with this collection, which has again proven that there is a very large market of consumers that crave historically inspired pieces. I am among the fans of the Black Bay, and think it is a wonderful watch for good price — especially if you are someone on a constrained budget who wants a timepiece offering “bang for the buck.” In the end, what this piece really makes me think about is its effects on the larger world of horology. What kind of disruption might other brands (such as Rolex) cause if they released a similarly vintage-influenced watch? As with many questions, only time will tell if such an idea will ever come to fruition.
For part 20 in this series, in which I take a look at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic, click here.
Caleb Anderson is the Director of Outreach at the online vintage watch boutique theoandharris.com. Since starting at Theo & Harris, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on watches, and a casual runner.