Tudor once again expanded its critically-acclaimed Black Bay collection at Baselworld 2018. Since its initial release in 2012, the brand has almost every year sought to grow the Black Bay’s appeal, most recently by shifting from an ETA movement to an in-house caliber, adding many different color and material options, and by slightly modernizing the dial — replacing the vintage Tudor rose logo with the contemporary Tudor shield. Yet while the Rolex-owned company has staked itself a place in the modern market, the Black Bay has always been a vintage-inspired piece. As such, in addition to releasing this year a new “pepsi” bezel GMT that continues the collection’s modern expansion, the brand also released the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight, which works to channel the early dive watches the contemporary collection is based upon.
The specific watch the Fifty-Eight is loosely based on is the Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7924 “Big Crown” (pictured above, via Bob’s Watches). This watch was released four years after the initial Tudor Submariner Ref. 7922, and was characterized by the large, 8-mm crown from which it derives its nickname, its relatively compact size at 37 mm (although later models increased to 39 mm), and the red triangle at the top of its rotating bezel. In recent times, the 7924 has been steadily increasing in price on vintage-watch markets, and so Tudor’s inspired release in the modern Fifty-Eight will likely receive a warm welcome from many enthusiasts.
Featuring a 39-mm-diameter, 11.9-mm-thick steel case with a polished and satin finish, the new watch is more in line, size-wise, with its vintage predecessors than the original Black Bay (41-mm by 14.75-mm). On its side is an enlarged crown signed with the modern Tudor rose, while the dial is surrounded by the black-and-gilt unidirectional bezel with its distinguishing red triangle at its top. The dial uses a traditional Tudor Submariner configuration, with an applied triangular, circular, or rectangular markers for each of the hours; then with printed gilt accents in an outer chapter ring, Tudor shield logo towards the top, and some of the watch’s technical descriptors towards the bottom. Indicating the time is Tudor’s iconic snowflake hand configuration, featuring the uniquely shaped hour hand from which it draws its name, a sword minute hand, and a diamond-tipped, lollipop-style seconds hand.
Within the Fifty-Eight is Tudor’s in-house Caliber MT5402 (above), a movement produced specifically for the smaller diameter and thickness of the new watch. The movement has a 70-hour power reserve, and is hidden behind a solid caseback that helps to provide the watch its 200-meter (660-ft) waterproof rating. The new watch will be available starting in July, and will be priced at $3,250 on a leather or fabric bracelet, or at $3,575 on an Oyster-style riveted steel bracelet.
The new watch, like the Black Bays that have preceded it, has vintage influences throughout its design; although the Fifty-Eight is the first in the collection to credit a specific historical reference for its design, rather than the general early era of Tudor Submariners. For this reason, there are some apparent parallels between the Fifty-Eight and the vintage Reference 7924, notably in the smaller diameter and thickness of the watch at 39 mm, the large unaccented crown (past Black Bays have featured a small colored ring on the crown’s stem), red triangle at the top of its bezel, and the gilt accents throughout. Also, the sapphire crystal and dial beneath it both use a vintage dome construction—although the historical watch used an acrylic crystal, not a sapphire one, to protect the face — and the hour markers and outer minute ring are virtually identical to those on the original piece.
While the watch is a more historically accurate homage compared to past Black Bays, Tudor has taken a few modern liberties to craft the piece as a uniquely modern watch. Outside of contemporary finishing practices, the case and crown use Tudor’s modern Black Bay case construction, which itself is similar to the historical Oyster design but is slightly flatter and less compacted. As well, the original 7924 had a 37-mm case, “Mercedes”-style hour hand with circular lollipop seconds hand, and used the vintage Tudor rose for its signing, whereas the modern piece has opted for the larger 39-mm case, snowflake and diamond hands, and shield logo. However, it should be noted that the original 7924 did take on a larger case size and different hand styles later in its production run, and the Tudor shield is the brand’s distinguishing mark today, so it would be an unfair critique on the watch to quibble on these shifts in style.
It is an interesting move for the brand to produce a reference that hosts more vintage styling than the past Black Bays — which are themselves credited with being some of the best homage pieces on the market — yet it speaks to the wide appeal Tudor is looking to generate for the collection. As such, the Fifty-Eight is likely to generate strong appeal among those vintage-geared aficionados looking for a smaller iteration of the Black Bay, but have yet to be interested in past versions. The design of this newest piece also leaves a good amount of room for expansion of the collection in the future, especially in materials and coloring. Even the 39-mm sizing leaves the brand open to produce a 37-mm model in the future, which it very well could market not just for its vintage appeal but as part of an expansion geared towards the women’s market. Regardless, with the Fifty-Eight alongside the new GMT, Tudor has again displayed itself to be an expert operator among the crowds of brands populating Baselworld, and has positioned itself well in the minds of vintage watch lovers and more modernly focused watch buyers alike.