Tudor Black Bay Chronograph, $4,900+
We know, we know — this is far from the first Black Bay Chrono you've come across on the pages of Gear Patrol, or elsewhere: there were black ones, special ones, steel and gold ones, etc. We get it. But this one is different.
This one resurrects the "panda" dial and the "reverse-panda" dial, classic, mid-century configurations that represent the pinnacle of chronograph aesthetics. Also — this version is thinner than past versions, which is welcome news for those of you with slimmer wrists, or who simply prefer the look and feel of vintage models. Let's dive right in.
Case Diameter: 41mm
Case Depth: 14.4mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Tudor Cal. MT5813 (COSC)
The two new models — panda (white with black sub-registers) and reverse-panda (black with white sub-registers) — are each available in three configurations: on bracelet, on a "Bund"-style leather strap, and on a fabric strap. This gives the user a choice of two different price points as well as different band options. The case size has also been slimmed down somewhat to 14.4mm, which, while still chunky, is thinner that that of previous iterations. In short, this is a handsome, classically inspired take on the midcentury chronograph that should provide a great alternative to sister brand Rolex's Daytona. It also stands well on its own.
Who It's For
If you want a Daytona but you can't find one, or you can't afford one, or you don't wanna be yet another dude wearing a Daytona, then this is the watch for you. If you dig midcentury chronograph aesthetics — especially the whole "panda" dial thing — then this watch is for you. If you just like chunkier, hefty tool watches, then this watch is for you. If you like to time things, like pasta boiling on the stove or how long you can stand on your head, then this watch is for you. In short: this is a watch for many, many different types of people.
Well, you could go for a Daytona. (LOL.) If you can get your hands on one of those in steel at retail, it'll set you back $13,150. Despite a price difference of over 2x, there are still a fair number of similarities: sizing, dial configurations, in-house movements, etc. Though of course the Daytona uses a triple-register layout and leaves out the date.
Zenith's Chronomaster Sport is a page out of the old Daytona book, and thus a good alternative to the BB Chrono — though it'll run you $10,000 on a bracelet. Moving a bit downmarket but sticking with the dual-register-plus-date configuration, we've got the Intra-Matic Auto Chrono from Hamilton for $2,195, though it comes on a leather strap. The layout and similarities in look are striking, however. Another good reverse-pandal option is Yema's Speedgraf, an awesome, affordable mechanical chrono with a dual-register layout and an uncommon movement from Seiko. They're about $1,500.
We're talking about a 41mm chronograph with a 14.4mm depth and, on my review model, a matching steel bracelet. So first things first: this thing has some heft to it. And that's welcome, frankly — a svelte, dressy Patek 1463 or 1518 this most certainly ain't, but you also don't have to worry about banging it around.
The exciting upgrade to the BB Chrono is two new dials in panda and reverse-panda configurations, so let's start there. And what's with the whole bear-themed thing, you ask? Well, a "panda" dial just indicates a white dial in which the sub-registers are black; a "reverse-panda" is the opposite. (You can no doubt guess why in both cases.) In the case of the review model I have here, we're talking about a panda configuration.
And a handsome panda dial it is: we've got applied, lume-filled dot indices and "snowflakes" hands — a handset unique to Tudor watches — plus two registers (one for running seconds at 9 o'clock and one 45-minute counter at 3 o'clock) in addition to a recessed date window at 6 o'clock and a minute and 1/5th-second track around the dial edge. Then there's an outer black tachymeter scale with silver printing, and some branding on the dial. (The water resistance rating is printed in red, for a nice, vintage Rolex-inspired touch.) A domed sapphire crystal tops it all off.
Of course, given that Tudor is Rolex's sister company, we have handsome case-work: the steel case features nicely beveled edges, brushed tops and polished sides, plus a largely blank case back that's perfect for engraving. (The case is not punched, meaning there are no lug holes — you have to get a spring bar tool behind the lugs in order to swap straps.) On the right side of the case is a large, screw-down crown and two screw-down pushers, ensuring water resistance of 200m.
And the matching bracelet? Everything you need and nothing you don't: it's a brushed, "rivet"-style strap, vintage inspired but featuring a modern clasp and three micro-adjustment positions. I can't speak to the other two strap options, but to my mind, one should almost always buy the bracelet-equipped version and then spring for extra straps – which are relatively inexpensive — later.
The thing about a chronograph with screw-down pushers is that, to operate the chrono, you have to, you know, unscrew the pushers — which is much easier done with the watch-off wrist. Once you do operate the chronograph on this particular watch, it's oh-so buttery smooth, courtesy of the in-house Tudor cal. MT5813 (COSC) developed in conjunction with Breitling, which provides 70 hours of power reserve. Of course, you could leave the pushers unscrewed if you, like me, actually use your wristwatch to time stuff fairly often. You just have to be cognizant of water ingress.
Ok, so here are my honest feelings about this watch, which, for better or worse, mirror my feelings for many other watches: I love it, but I still feel like it's slightly too big.
Yes, yes, I know — the case depth has been shrunk down to 14.4mm on this version. (Thank you, Tudor.) And the thing wears great in short sleeves, I must say. I checked out my wrist in the mirror like some vain psychopath just to make sure.
But I don't want a 14+mm-tall watch, nor do I necessarily want a 41mm-wide watch. I think men are finally coming around to the fact that the '90s, with their oversized Panerais, JNCO jeans, Oakley A Frames and XXXL t-shirts, didn't exactly set a sartorial standard that looked good on anybody. People are coming around to smaller watches again, and we should let them. Even Tudor acknowledged this with their 39mm BB58, a wildly successful watch (and deservedly so).
All I'm saying is, though I love this watch (and I'm not just saying that — I truly think it's killer and would wear the shit out of it), I want a smaller, more wearable version. I have a permanent indent in my left wrist from the crown of my Sub — just imagine what the onion-sized steel crown on this thing is going to do to me! Tudor, if you're listening, I know you can do this: Give us the 39mm, 13mm-thick version of this chronograph. I would buy one in each color.