You know how much we love a model guide on this channel. And I’m excited to bring you this one specifically. Today we are talking about the Tudor Black Bay. And even though the Black Bay launched only a few years ago in 2012, the collection now includes over a dozen variations. And these variations range from different colored dials, case materials to sizes and complications. And since they’re so many options in a concentrated timeline we figured we’d create a buying guide.
So, we’re going to cover the main references and what to look out for, and then give our pick on which Tudor Black Bay to get. So, let’s Dive in.
First up, what’s so special about the Black Bay? So Tudor is a brand that burst back into the US market less than a decade ago and made some serious waves in the luxury industry. The brand is heralded for its accessibility and price-points for what amounts to a lot of watch for the money, and we couldn’t agree more. Since 2012 one line of watches has been the cornerstone of Tudor’s resurgence. That is the Black Bay.
First introduced as the Black Bay Heritage in 2012, the watch was an instant success thanks to its classic dive watch styling. The watch is inspired by its vintage counterparts. The case design, with its sharp chamfers, the large crown and lack of crown guards, a domed crystal, a simple aluminum bezel insert, classic snowflake hands and a clean dial all call upon different vintage references. But the watch has plenty of modern day touches too. Most notably the 41 mm case size, as well as the use of a sapphire crystal, and an in-house movement. It’s like Tudor created its very own “Best of” watch.
So, if you’ve decided this is the watch for you then you’ve got a little work to do in deciding which of the nearly 24 options to choose. In order to get started we’ve outlined a decision-making process for finding your ideal Black Bay.
The first decision you need to make is size. And basically, you can think about it as “larger than 40 mm” or “smaller than 40 mm”.
Now most of the Black Bay Line, when it originally came out, was 41 mm. And I think that kind of hit the sweet spot in the current sport model lineup, but now they’re are 6 different sizes to choose from. And there’s a few caveats in making this decision. First, the Black Bay line has grown to feature watches with complications, but those are only available in watches over 40 mm. And second, the Black Bay line is generally considered a thicker watch, with the original coming in right over 14 mm and some models crossing 15 mm, so a 41mm Black Bay may wear larger than you think because of the thickness, but more on that later.
If you decide to go less than 40 mm, you’re now basically looking at Style, and we can break that down into two pretty simple choices. Material and color. So, let’s start with material. Now when the Tudor Black Bay line started it was just stainless steel, but now you have the options of steel and gold, bronze, and even a matte PVD coating called Dark. So, they’ve really built out the line to have anything that you would ever want. If you want to go below 40 mm and stainless steel, then you’re down to three watches.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight and the Black Bay 36 or Black Bay 32.
Before we jump into the details of these watches, we should mention the Black Bay 36 and 32 options both fall into what we’re going to call the “Smooth Bezel” Black Bay category. This line was released in 2016 and originally it was just the 36 mm option with a black dial. The smooth bezel black bays retain the dial, hands, and case design of the rest of the Black Bays. But where they differ is a flat sapphire crystal, the overall thickness of this category, which is right around 12 mm, and a non-in-house movement. And before people start to write them off because the movement isn’t in-house. It is still a heavily modified ETA movement AND has an added bonus because the dial retains the smiley text from the original Black Bays, which we think is a pretty nice touch. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
In my opinion, this is the most classic of all the Black Bays. The watch has a slight reduced case size, coming in at 39.7 mm, and at just under 12 mm thick. I feel like broken record, because I have said this so much, but these feels like a perfect modern interpretation of a vintage watch. The design paired with extensive use of gold colored indices, hands and markings warms up the watch and adds to the vintage flair.
But if that’s not your style, then you’re look at either the 36 or 32 mm Black Bay “Smooth Bezel”. And I should also mention the 32mm is probably geared more toward women or those with smaller wrists. Now, we’ve come this far so all that’s left to decide is color. Do you want a black or blue dial? And if it’s blue then you’re looking at the Black Bay “Smooth Bezel” 32 or 36 mm. If you want black, then you get to choose between the Black Bay Fifty-Eight or the Black Bay 36 or 32. Now say you want to stay under 40 mm, and you don’t want just stainless steel. Then your only option is the Black Bay “Smooth Bezel” in 36 or 32 mm in steel and gold. With this one you can pick between a black dial or a golden champagne colored dial. And these watches also come on a five-link style bracelet rather than the sportier oyster bracelet. If that’s what you’re into. Now that we’ve covered the Black Bays under 40 mm. Its time to tackle the bigger beast. The greater than 40 mm options. When deciding to go big you should first decide if you want a complication or not. If you want a complication, not including the occasional date. You have two options. The GMT complication and the Chronograph.
Black Bay Complications
Now the GMT option is only available in stainless steel and has the traditional Red/Blue GMT bezel with a black dial. If you prefer the Black Bay Chronograph, know it comes in three options. Stainless Steel, Steel and Gold, and Dark, which is a matte black PVD coated watch. So there’s definitely some variation in the Chronograph complication. Now, if you’re interested in a Black Bay greater than 40 mm, but you don’t want a complication, well it’s your lucky day because you have the most choices. So, let’s start with material. Greater than 40 mm, with no complication, in steel and gold gives us four options. The traditional Black Bay in 41 mm with either a black dial or the gold champagne dial. Or the Black Bay 41, which is the big brother to the black bay “Smooth Bezel” 36, and has the thinner case, flat sapphire crystal, and the ETA movement. And again, you get to choose between the black dial or the gold champagne dial. And remember, the steel and gold option on the Black Bay 41 does have that dressier 5-link bracelet. Or. you could go with an exotic material, and while not really “exotic”, there are two more Black Bay Classics worth mentioning.
The dark, which is that same matte PVD coating from the chronograph, it’s also available in the classic 41 mm Black Bay, and the Bronze, which is truly a separate beast. It is a 43 mm Bronze-aluminum alloy that patinas over time to become truly unique to the owner. Originally released in a brown “tropical-style” dial it now comes in a slate grey dial and bezel. And if you’re looking for a bigger watch that is truly a standout then this is the way to go.
Okay, we’ve covered everything but the bread and butter of the Black Bay Line, and we have saved it for last. If you want larger than 40 mm, without a complication, in stainless steel then you have 7 options. Get ready.
The Black Bay Classic in Burgundy, Blue, Black and Steel, and that refers to the color of the bezel. Or the Black Bay 41 in either Black or Blue dials. And last the Black Bay P01.
And if you aren’t familiar with the P01 then I’ll give you a quick rundown. It’s the latest Black Bay, being released in 2019, and it was inspired by a 1960’s prototype presented to the US Navy. This thing is 42 mm of crazy, weird, probably not going to own vintage coolness. And this is not a watch I’d recommend to most people, but it sure is cool to see Tudor throw caution to the wind and release something so outlandish. I’d admire that.
So, assuming you’re not in the market for the P01 it comes down to whether you want the Black Bay Classic or the Black Bay “Smooth Bezel”. If you like the dive watch aesthetic, then go with the Black Bay Classic. But if you like the sleek design for the Black Bay “Smooth”, then go with the Black Bay 41, and we think the Blue dial is the best option.
Okay, so we’ve just covered a lot so let’s recap, and I will give you my recommendations for category.
Under 40 mm – The Black Bay Fifty-Eight
If you want under 40 mm then go with the Black Bay Fifty-Eight. It’s truly one of the best modern watches. You get the creature comforts of a new watch with all the panache of a vintage watch.
Black Bay with Complication – The Black Bay GMT
If you’re wanting a Black Bay with a complication, then we recommend going with the GMT. The red/blue aluminum bezel is just the right color and the GMT is always a great choice.
Over 40 mm – Black Bay Heritage 79220
If you’re looking at a Black Bay over 40 mm then we think the only way to go is the Black Bay Classic. And to throw a curve ball into the mix. Specifically, the first iteration, pre 2016. Yes, you forgo the in-house movement, but the ETA movements from Tudor are rock solid, and what you get in return is the “Rotor Self-Winding” text on the dial with the Tudor rose at 12 o’clock. To me these additions are the cherry on top for that vintage styling. They’re just perfect.
Really, I think the choice comes down to. Do you want that classic Black Bay look? That’s what most of the line is built around. That unidirectional rotating bezel, that vintage dive look that inspired it all. And once you say yes to that, then it comes down to preference on color. You really can’t go wrong because I think a really cool factor that the Black Bay line thinks about is additional strap options. And that can make your watch seem so much different from strap to strap. And from the beginning this was something Tudor really cared about with this line. So, you can get really cool Tudor NATOs, really tight weave, really nicely made, cool color combinations, stripes, interesting patterns. Leather straps, a lot of bracelet options too. So, you can really build out your watch collection around one particular model. So find what you like, go after it, and know that you can always mix and match with different straps. So there you have it. All the Black Bays and a simple decision tree to help break down the numerous models. Let us know which Black Bay you like most and why. And if you like content like this go ahead click subscribe, and then go and click that bell again so you get notified when we release more. And as always, thanks for watching.