Easy Rider: Reviewing the Tudor Black Bay Chrono


last year, in honor of its 50-year chronograph history, Tudor issued the Black Bay Chrono — a subtle combination of traditional aesthetics and modern watchmaking. With a slim case, dials with contrasting subdial counters, and a contemporary movement, it is more than just another classic watch remake. We found an authentic setting for our test that reflects the close association of the timepiece to motorsports.

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono pays homage to Tudor’s 50-year chronograph history and reflects historical watch design.

Switzerland-based Tudor presented the Oysterdate in 1970 as its first chronograph. Since that time, it has been producing watches that are closely linked with the world of motorsports. The new Black Bay Chrono reflects this same tradition and has all the features of a modern timepiece. Its automatic MT5813 caliber has a power reserve of 70 hours. A state-of-the-art silicon hairspring provides a stable rate and improved anti-magnetic protection. The stopwatch mechanism is historically inspired but operates with a modern column wheel and vertical clutch.

Historical and modern ambience is also the feel at Nagel Motors where vintage motorcycles and Vespas are restored. The sporty Black Bay Chrono sits atop one of the custom bikes currently undergoing restoration. Nagel Motors plans every last detail and everything is carefully implemented by hand — just like one of the straps that can be fitted to the Black Bay Chrono. The superior quality woven fabric strap is produced by Julien Faure, a company located in the Saint-Étienne region of France, jacquard looms from the 19th century. In 2020, the partnership between Tudor and the 150-year-old family-run company had already been in place for 10 years.

Easy Riding on a Fabric Strap, Leather Cuff or Stainless-steel Bracelet
Inspired by the aura of 1970s racing, the Black Bay Chrono offers a cuff bracelet made of aged black leather with ecru-colored stitching and a folding clasp. It’s a perfect match for a biker’s leather gear. The watch is also available with a stainless-steel bracelet with riveted links — inspired by bracelets Tudor produced in the 1950s and ‘60s with visible side rivets connecting the individual links. The same stepped solid components were adopted for the Black Bay Chrono stainless-steel bracelet, though this one is produced using modern manufacturing processes.

The Black Bay Chrono is as classy as a custom bike. It borrows a lot of details from historical models over more than 50 years of Tudor chronograph history.

The bracelet ends with the brand’s single-sided folding clasp with a safety bar with the Tudor shield on one side and a prominent pentagon shape on the other. Its nickname, “Homeplate,” recalls the shape of home base on a baseball field, as well as the markers on the very first Tudor chronograph. The stainless-steel bracelet forms a secure connection to the case via fixed lugs on the other end.

The stainless-steel case is new and now only 14.44 mm thick, one full millimeter thinner than its predecessor. Its diameter measures 41.58 mm across the bezel from 2 to 8 o’clock. Despite the new design, this solid ensemble exhibits characteristic features of the Black Bay — like the fixed stainless-steel bezel with a black anodized aluminum inlay and silver tachymeter track.

A Clean Start with a Modern Engine and Operating Comfort
You’ll see nothing hectic in the work done at Nagel Motors. Quite the opposite — Nagel’s bikes aren’t finished on an assembly line. They won’t be ready in a week. For Nagel, the wait time means anticipation. Speed — though measured — is still an important part of the completed one-off two-wheeled wonders.

To measure speed — and, of course, for all other stopwatch functions — the Black Bay Chrono is equipped with a sturdy stainless-steel chronograph pusher inspired by the first generation of Tudor chronographs. But it’s off to a slow start. To engage the chronograph, you must first release the pushers from their secure seats, and this isn’t for everyone. In addition, the connections must be unscrewed completely before the stopwatch function will work. And starting the chronograph requires a remarkable amount of effort to overcome stiff resistance from the pusher. The stop and restart actions are much smoother, and the reset has a very precise pressure point.

Operating the large crown is more than just a functional experience. It is located in a long tube and jumps counterclockwise after it is unscrewed and released from its locked position. Manual winding produces a quiet sound. And the crown, adorned with the Tudor rose, is easy to pull out to the quick date-adjust and time-setting positions. Screwing it back down is simple, even against a noticeable spring pressure. This is the reason the case can withstand pressure to 20 bar.

A special tool is needed to open the Black Bay Chronograph caseback that protects the MT5813, a highly modified automatic movement based on a Breitling caliber.

The grooved and threaded caseback seals the case and can only be opened with a special tool. Up above, a beautifully polished, domed sapphire crystal enhances the retro character of the watch. A matte black or opaline-colored dial curves beneath it with two recessed counters in a bicompax layout — in contrasting colors.

The small seconds subdial runs continuously at 9 o’clock. The unusual 45-minute counter for the chronographn is placed to the right, at 3 o’clock. While most other chronographs only count 30 minutes, or 60 minutes for some newer chronographs, this special counter has historical roots — the first Tudor chronograph counted 45 elapsed minutes. The date display at 6 o’clock can also be traced to the first generation of Tudor chronographs.

Even if the subdials appear rather small, the date is shown in a large window and is easy to read. The quick, date advance occurs right before midnight. On the movement side, the mechanism is designed to allow easy correction of the date at any time. Striking circular and triangular applied markers as well as the “snowflake” hands are defining features of the dial. A generous application of Super-Lumi-Nova was a defining feature of the 1969 Tudor dive watches. They appear again in 2017 in the Heritage Black Bay, which also debuted the new in-house chronograph movement MT5813.

This chronograph movement is the product of a collaboration with Breitling that began about five years ago. The two brands combined their expertise in design and production of mechanical movements to become more independent from the Swatch Group.

Keeping the Pace with a Modified Movement And Chronometer Rate
Tudor installed an in-house regulating mechanism in Breitling base movement B01 with a silicon hairspring, which relies on a shared patent from Rolex, Patek Philippe and the Swatch Group. The Tudor MT 5813 then puts its own rotor on top and has it chronometer certified by COSC. In return Breitling uses three-hand movement MT5612 from Tudor as a base movement.

The Black Bay Chrono can be outfitted with a fabric strap, a riveted stainless-steel bracelet or a leather cuff bracelet.

Tudor opened the back for us on Nagel’s workbench to reveal the in-house movement. We see a technical self-winding movement with easily recognizable Tudor styling. The skeletonized rotor is made from a tungsten monobloc that is given a brushed and bead-blasted finish. The bridges and mainplate are also bead-blasted or brush finished and enhanced with various laser engravings. The balance wheel has four screws for fine regulation. In order to conform to the COSC chronometer standards, a watch may not lose more than 4 seconds or gain more than 6 seconds per day. Tudor achieves this and more, with a maximum deviation ranging between -2 and +4 seconds per day and – in contrast to COSC – checks it after the watch is fully assembled. In our own test, the Black Bay Chrono remained exactly within this range. Not only the stable, average values were in the positive range between 2.5 and 3.5 seconds, but also the slight deviations between the individual positions. The amplitudes fell by only a few degrees when the chronograph was engaged and, like the rate, showed only minor variations between the various positions in every situation. Simply put, these are very good results.

Recreating the historically accurate minute chronograph totalizer — seen on its 1970 model with hand-wound Valjoux 7734 — meant that Tudor needed to perform another technical procedure on the original Breitling movement. Reading the elapsed minutes, however, can be difficult. The recessed counter is quite small, and the large square tip of the “snowflake” hour hand sometimes covers it.

The small seconds subdial on the other side also occasionally disappears behind the wide tip of the hour hand. But this isn’t too problematic. If the permanent seconds display seems insufficient for a functional check, the chronograph can be put in continuous operation. The vertical friction clutch — which prevents unwanted jumping of the hand when starting the chronograph — makes this possible.

The time is also easy to read on the opaline dial — and even better on the black dial, even in the dark. The stopwatch function, however, is not illuminated. The red-tipped arrow of the central-mount second hand points precisely to the stopwatch seconds track. Triple markings within each second increment correctly reflect the 4-Hz frequency of the movement. And as long as the snowflake hand is not positioned between 2 and 4 o’clock, which puts it right above that subdial, it is easy to read the elapsed minutes despite the counter’s small size.

Even under low light conditions the bold geometric shapes of the markers and the “snowflake” hands glow bright green.

A Relaxed Ride with a Sporty Retro Classic
As darkness begins to fall, the geometric shapes of the markers and hands on the Black Bay Chrono dial are already glowing bright green. The retro motor sports character of this vintage-feel chronograph is an excellent match for custom bikes. Tudor began the process with its chronographs more than 50 years ago. And with the modern retro Black Bay Chrono, Tudor just keeps cruising on down the road.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: Tudor, Rue François-Dussaud 3-5, 1211 Geneva 26, Switzerland
Reference number: 79360N-0002
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph (central elapsed seconds, 45-minute counter), date, tachymeter bezel
Movement: Caliber MT5813 based on Breitling B01, automatic, COSC-certified chronometer, 28,800 vph, 41 jewels, silicon hairspring, Glucydur balance with regulating screws, Incabloc (balance) and Kif (escape wheel) shock absorber, 70-hour power reserve, diameter = 30.4 mm, height = 7.23 mm
Case: Stainless steel 316L, domed sapphire crystal, closed caseback, water resistant to 200 m
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless steel, 316L bracelet and single-sided folding clasp with safety bar
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours (Fully wound/after 24 hours):
On the wrist +2.5
Dial up +3.1/+3.7
Dial down +3.7/+4.6
Crown up +1.2/+2.3
Crown down +2.5/+2.5
Crown left +4.1/+4.6
Greatest deviation 2.9/2.3
Average deviation +2.9/+3.5
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 288°/280°
Hanging positions 279°/256°
Dimensions: Diameter = 41.58 mm, height = 14.44 mm, lug width = 22 mm, weight = 184.5 g (with bracelet)
Variations: With leather cuff with folding clasp (Ref. 79360N-0006; $4,900); with textile strap with pin buckle (Ref. 79360N-0008, $4,900)
Price: $5,225

SCORES:
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): High-quality bracelet and straps with unique features. 9
Case (10): New, simple case with authentic retro styling of crown, pushers, and crystal. 8
Dial and hands (10): Striking markers and hands, trendy bicompax layout, trade-mark look. 9
Design (15): A successful interpretation of the Tudor chronograph design in many respects. 14
Legibility (5): The time is easy to read day and night. Large date. The counters are rather small and sometimes hidden by the hands. 4
Operation (5): The large crown is easy to operate. The chronograph pushers must be unscrewed to be used. 4
Wearing comfort (5): Comfortable case size. The watch is comfortable to wear with the bracelet or either strap. 4
Movement (20): Modern and exclusive caliber, trademark finishing, long power reserve, chronometer. Crisp
chronograph action. 18
Rate results (10): Balanced rate results, very little positional deviation, low fluctuation in amplitude, conformity to chronometer standards. 9
Overall value (10): Modern caliber, authentic retro design. The increasing popularity of the Tudor brand makes the
price right. 8
Total: 87 POINTS

A version of this article first appeared in WatchTime’s November-December 2021 issue.

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  1. Retro or not: Hesalite glass and/or Alu bezel are an absolute no go for me, whatever price…And everything not resisting 100m/300ft water resistance as well, whatever marketing company…

    Reply
    • Supes Critic

      It has a sapphire crystal not hesalite. You must be thinking of the speedmaster professional.

      Reply
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