Certain trends are difficult to reverse. Take watch case sizes: for many years their dimensions seemed to be ballooning with no end in sight, to the point where men were walking around with flying-saucer-sized behemoths on their wrists. It wasn't until the last several years that watch companies as a whole responded to the growing sentiment among the collecting community, a complaint that said, "Make watches wearable again."
Since its return to the U.S. market in 2013, Tudor has largely been hitting it out of the park with vintage-inspired watches that take design cues from the numerous classics in its catalog (and by extension, from its big brother Rolex). The Black Bay line is a prime example. But if there was one problem with the Black Bay dive watches in all their various iterations, it was that the watches were just too bulky — a case with a 41mm diameter and 14.75mm thickness was pushing the limits of what many men were comfortable wearing. This year at Basel World 2018, however, that all changed with the introduction of the Black Bay 58.
Finally, here was a vintage-inspired dive watch in the vein of the Submariner that was eminently wearable. At 39mm by 11.9mm, it offered "vintage Sub" proportions and a timeless, utilitarian case design. Tudor realized that while there's certainly a market for large vintage-inspired watches, its demographic is varied. "The Black Bay 58 resulted from a desire to offer an alternative option to vintage enthusiasts and smaller wrists," says a Tudor spokesperson. "It lives next to the 41mm diameter Black Bays and complements the Black Bay line well."
But its smaller stature doesn't make it any less mighty than other watches in the line. The Black Bay 58 is a tool watch and dive watch. It's water-resistant up to 200m and made for serious use beneath the waves. Tudor isn't one to ignore its legacy of building timing instruments for some of the world's best naval forces. Though the Black Bay 58 is available on several strap options, including a brown leather strap with a folding clasp and a black fabric strap with a gold-colored band, its vintage-inspired rivet-style bracelet really stands out. Comfortable and handsome, it excellently complements the watch and adds another vintage styling cue.
Tudor also managed to incorporate numerous vintage elements into a modern watch without the end result looking like a Frankenstein of disparate influences. Fans of Tudor and Rolex alike will instantly recognize its matte black dial and gilt printing, snowflake hands, lack of crown guards and rotating dive bezel with red triangle as nods to vintage Submariners of the past from both brands' catalogs.
The vintage Tudor Submariner is an iconic watch, and though the original Black Bay models did well to modernize it, some fans felt that perhaps Tudor went too far with respect to case dimensions. The Black Bay 58, however, is the Goldilocks watch.
Downsizing the original Black Bay models required building a new movement, so the Black Bay 58 saw the introduction of the caliber MT5402, an entirely in-house creation complete with silicon balance spring, 70-hour power reserve and a Chronometer certification. The lack of a date window echoes vintage, no-date Submariners and keeps the watch's lines clean and the dial uncluttered. A domed sapphire crystal, meanwhile, adds modern materials without sacrificing too much of the vintage aesthetic. All of this is an intentional move by the brand to bring just enough of the vintage aesthetic to a thoroughly modern watch. "Tudor prefers not copying or reissuing its discontinued watches," says a company spokesperson. "It is always about subtly reinterpreting the heritage of the brand and organically creating watches that are relevant today."
While many modern dive watches are replete with superfluous features — and this despite effectively being "desk divers" that will only be worn in the office — the Black Bay 58 is designed specifically with utility in mind. About those snowflake hands that have become such an iconic Tudor feature? They aren't shaped that way simply for the sake of brand differentiation. In the 1960s, the French Navy requested a special hand design that would be more visible to their divers underwater, and this feature eventually trickled down into Tudor's commercially available models. That oversized winding crown? Well, if you're a professional diver wearing gloves, a large crown is going to be significantly easier to grip and manipulate (though hopefully, you're doing this while on dry land). And the MT5402's COSC certification? If you're going to be using the Black Bay 58 as a true tool watch and really putting it through its paces, you're going to want the extra accuracy and precision that only a top-tier movement can provide.
Watch collectors are a finicky bunch — they're detail-oriented, they know what they like and they're generally hard to please. So when this particular community is in general agreement on something — when die-hard watch fans love a timepiece for its vintage-inspired styling and the casual wearer considers it for his one and only watch — that's when you know a brand has really hit it out of the park.
That's when you know you have one for the ages. — OH
- Case Diameter: 39 mm
- Winding: Automatic
- Power Reserve: Approximately 70 hours
This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Eight, available now at the Gear Patrol Store.