John Mayer Dives Into The Tudor Heritage Black Bay
What was briefly an entry-level diver has since become very collectible.
Originally published by on HODINKEE, October 15th 2017
Today, with the release of the Black Bay Black, Tudor has launched the third variant in its Black Bay Heritage collection, and it’s one that seats itself firmly in the center of the highly successful line of “heritage” pieces. Since the burgundy bezel version of this watch was covered so well and in-depth earlier this year by Jack Forster, I’ll fly over some of the points he detailed with some basics.
Here’s what I’ve told everyone who asked me what was on my wrist over the past week, and it’s the main thrust of this column: for just over $3,000, you can be a watch guy with the best of them.
The Heritage Black Bay, though not based entirely on any one reference number, is a loving homage to Tudor dive watches of the past, and by association, to Rolex Submariners, from which Tudor originally took its DNA. And while the burgundy (and later a blue bezel) version were impressive throwbacks to a bygone era of watch design, the new black bezel Black Bay visually drives the concept home.
You don’t usually see the price of a watch listed until the end of a column, but it bears printing here: for $3,100 to $3,425 (on a strap and steel bracelet, respectively) you can own a watch that is a truly viable timepiece and not a holdover. While I love a good heavy hitting vintage piece as much as anyone, I’ve long been an advocate for eliminating the perceptual five-figure buy-in when it comes to someone who wants to become a Watch Guy without having to make any major concessions.
I like to think of Tudor as Rolex’s Tyler Durden – an outlet for all the impulses and urges the company has, but is just too darn responsible to carry out without fear of consequence. Could you imagine a Rolex Submariner Heritage version of a 6538 Big Crown? (You know they’d call it a 116538.) It would be monumental – and probably disrupt their own market, but let’s not be logical right now. Let’s think for one more moment about a Rolex re-issue of a 6538.
Now, let’s forget about it, but not completely. Because if you ask me, what you have in the new black bezel variant of the Heritage Black Bay is a modern day big crown Sub, at least on a cosmetic level. And that’s what makes this watch so compelling – it stands apart from its burgundy and blue-bezeled brothers. With a new black bezel, replete with red triangle over the 12 o’clock position, this new Black Bay makes direct eye contact with its past.
And that’s what makes this watch extremely special. Until now, watchmakers always assigned a premium to their classic design language, and offered more affordable pieces with some built-in aesthetic trade-off. They effectively color coded wealth and status. With one simple and thoughtful design change, Tudor has shattered the price barrier for watch enthusiasts looking to wear something with uncompromisingly classic styling.
Part of the fun of doing a Week on the Wrist is that I commit to one watch completely, and in doing so, I’m forced to really get to know it by way of immersion. The first sense I had when I put it on (separate from it being a pre-release) was that wearing this piece is awesomely contrarian. To sport something with a very accessible price that in no way is hard to acquire was great fun. Because at its heart, there is nothing about this Tudor that couldn’t hold its own at a table of top-tier collectors. If you knew enough to choose this watch, you have telegraphed your appreciation of the art, and that’s all it takes to enter the conversation, as far as I’m concerned.
This is one of those watches that’s hard to beat. Its price makes it easy for first-time collectors to grab one, and allows longer-standing enthusiasts a chance to remember what made collecting so exciting in the first place…
The printing pairs well with the color of the pink-gold-plated trim around the hands and hour indices, but this is where the watch takes the biggest hit in its attempt at attaining pure vintage nirvana. There’s a sheen to the trim that gives off a brassy kind of a glow, one that keeps reminding me that the adage “you get what you pay for” has stuck around for a reason.
For more on Tudor watches, visit their website.
Photos: Will Holloway; additional photos: John Mayer