The Tudor Black Bay Pro Is (Mostly) the GMT Watch We Were Waiting For

Make it thinner and give it a rotating bezel, and it would be perfect.

tudor black bay pro worn on wrist
Zen Love

Upon the debut of the Tudor Black Bay GMT at Baselworld in 2018, the watch world let out a collective “huzzah!” Here was a “true” GMT watch — one with an independently adjustable local hour hand — plus a rotating, bi-directional 24-hour bezel, a handsome dial, a great, matching bracelet and even an in-house movement. And all at under $4,000.

Produced by Rolex’s sister company, it was less than half the retail price of a GMT Master II, yet had largely the same feature set. Really, the only issue for many, was the case size: it measured 41mm in diameter by 15mm thick. The GMT Master II, on the other hand, measured 40mm thick by roughly 12mm thick. These upsized dimensions on the Black Bay GMT make an appreciable difference on-wrist, and it turned certain buyers off from pulling the trigger (including yours truly).

Many Rolex and Tudor fans and aficionados have been waiting since 2018 for a new Tudor GMT — something that would take the case dimensions of the beloved Black Bay Fifty-Eight, with its 39mm sizing, and lend them to a travel watch. Well, Tudor listened — sort of. At Watches & Wonders 2022, it debuted the Black Bay Pro, which did indeed fit a GMT complication in a 39mm case — albeit in a slightly different form than what anyone anticipated.

At a glance: the Tudor Black Bay Pro

Tudor Black Bay Pro
tudorwatch.com
$4,000.00

  • Great alternative to a Rolex grail watch
  • 39mm is arguably the perfect size
  • Hell of a strong value

  • 14.6mm thick is pretty chunky
  • 12-hour bezel doesn't turn

Case Diameter: 39mm
Case Thickness: 14.6mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Tudor Cal. MT5652 automatic
Price: $3,675 (w/straps); $4,000 (w/bracelet)

What's Notable About the Black Bay Pro

The Black Bay Pro, Rolex fans will be quick to point out, looks quite a bit like a vintage Rolex Explorer II reference 1655 — the first-generation Explorer II that will run you about $30,000 on the vintage market. The fixed, steel 24-hour bezel; the orange accent on the GMT hand; the vintage-colored lume; the black dial — much of the design language is there, it’s true.

And you know what? It’s all good stuff! For those who love the look of the ref. 1655 and will never pay tens of thousands for one, the BB Pro is a welcome option. For everyone else, it’s simply a good-looking watch, and it’s not as if Tudor didn’t add its own design flourishes — the “snowflake” hands, the dot-and-triangle indices, etc.

I had the fabric strap-equipped version while reviewing the watch, but I’ve handled both the hybrid rubber-and-leather strap as well as the bracelet-equipped iterations at Watches & Wonders. The polished and satin-finished watch case itself measures, as we said, 39mm by roughly 14.6mm from case back to crystal top. It’s stainless steel and features nice, Rolex-esque bevels to the lugs, though these aren’t punched (they don’t feature holes), meaning changing straps and bracelets is a bit of a chore.

A substantial, screw-down crown on the right-hand case flank is finished with the Tudor rose logo, while the watch’s fixed, satin-brushed steel bezel features a black 24-hour scale. The case back is largely blank and only features writing around its periphery, making for a perfect blank canvas for an engraving.

What’s most significant about the Black Bay Pro for those who have been waiting on a second Tudor GMT-equipped model is that this watch does indeed solve one of the issues of the Black Bay GMT — namely, the case dimensions. Or, rather, part of the problem: the watch now measures 39mm wide and wears much better on smaller wrists.

The thickness is still similar to that of the BB GMT; however, these watches share a movement and both provide 200m of water resistance, so this isn’t particularly surprising. There are other respects in which Tudor might have improved the design, IMHO, but we’ll get into these later.

tudor black bay pro
The crown features the old Tudor Rose logo which was replaced by the current shield logo in 1969.
Zen Love

What's good about the Black Bay Pro

On to the good stuff: The dial is black, with an outer, closed minute/second track and the famous Tudor dot/triangle applied indices — all executed in a luminous ceramic with substantial amounts of luminous material. The BB Pro makes use of the Tudor “snowflake” handset in a matte finish — on the minute and hour hands, the surrounds match the hand color, while on the GMT hand, the surround is orange, reminiscent somewhat of that on the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655.

A date window at three o’clock features a white background and black typeface, and does not feature a cyclops above it. Printing is in the same off-white/eggshell color as much of the rest of the watch (the indices, hands, etc), except for the water resistance text, which is in orange. The whole shebang is topped with a domed sapphire crystal.

tudor black bay pro
Tudor watch assembly takes place at the Rolex facilities in Geneva.
Zen Love

Inside is the Tudor Caliber MT5652 automatic GMT movement with independently adjustable local hour hand — the same movement that’s found in the Tudor Black Bay GMT. This caliber, produced by Kenissi (a company founded by Tudor in 2016 to handle production of in-house calibers), is an impressive one, with 70 hours of power reserve and wonderful utility.

Simply pull out the crown to the third position and the seconds hand will stop; now you can easily set the reference time using the GMT hand and the minute hand. Once this is done, you put the crown into the second position to set the local time, plus the date. This is quickly accomplished, as the local hour hand jumps in one-hour increments when the crown is moved in either direction. (The date function is tied to this position, also, and can be set by sweeping the local hour hand quickly around the dial.) When you land somewhere, you can quickly adjust the local hour hand thusly without affecting home time. Easy-peasy.

tudor black bay pro
The distinctive "snowflake" hour hand design is reflected in the Black Bay Pro’s seconds hand and GMT hand.
Zen Love

And what of the straps? The black fabric strap is pretty darn well made — it’s black with a yellow stripe down the center and sort of vaguely regimental looking, and features seven holes, two polished and brushed steel keepers, and a substantial buckle with the Tudor shield logo. Made in France, it’s a piece of high quality, woven fabric that deals well with sweat and moisture. Notably, it’s a one-piece design, but not of the NATO type — rather, it fits into one spring bar, is laid across the back of the watch head, and then the second spring bar loops through a second hole. On my roughly seven-inch wrist, I typically used the third strap hole.

The hybrid leather and rubber strap is a two-piece affair with a steel, deployant-type clasp and two keepers — well made and innovative with respect to materials to be sure, but not my thing, personally. I was much more taken with the steel “rivet”-style steel bracelet with Tudor’s T-Fit micro-adjust system.

tudor black bay pro
Despite a moderate diameter, the Tudor Black Bay Pro wears prominently thanks to its thick case.
Zen Love

As the bracelet design echoes vintage Gay Freres/Rolex designs from the mid-20th century, it seems vaguely appropriate on a watch that recalls somewhat a 40-year-old model. The $325 premium on the bracelet would be worth it to me, personally, but if you’re more of a strap guy, then the fabric or hybrid are certainly well-made options.

So what of this thing, day in, day out? Overall, I must say I’m smitten by it: The case diameter is perfect on my wrist, the bracelet/strap options are comfortable, the watch’s utility is perfect for someone who travels often, as I do, and the thing is handsome as hell.

At this price point, it’s tough to argue with: though $4,000 is no small amount of money, if I were going to drop a few grand on a GMT-equipped watch that wasn’t an OG Rolex model, I’d prefer it to have the “true” GMT functionality I prefer when traveling; to look and feel great; and, if it’s going to borrow Rolex design language, to come from the Rolex-Tudor universe.

(This doesn’t necessarily mean that I’d never buy a different watch with an Oyster-style bracelet, or with a 24-hour bezel, but somehow, a Tudor equipped with these functions does feel more…what, authentic? Something.)

What's less ideal about the Black Bay Pro

I do have a few qualms with the watch, however. While I, like many Tudor and Rolex fans, desired a thinner, smaller version of the Tudor Black Bay GMT, I would have loved to have seen a watch with a fresher design.

tudor black bay pro glow in the dark dial
Legibility is key in a sports watch, and the Tudor Black Bay Pro nails it.
Tudor

I understand the compunction to design watches that borrow from Rolex’s back catalog, I do; someone who can’t find (or afford) a GMT Master II will very likely spring for a Black Bay GMT, and Tudor can justify this design, with its upsized case, snowflake hands, and crown guard-less design, as being its own. However, why limit the use case of something like the Black Bay Pro via design constraints from a watch born in 1972 (the ref. 1655 Rolex Explorer II)?

A fixed bezel on a GTM isn’t, to my mind, practical compared to one with a rotating bezel, for two reasons: One, a modern GMT watch with a rotating bezel allows for time-telling in three time zones, should one desire. There’s local time as indicated by the main hour hand; a second zone can be read using the dial’s hour markers and the fourth GMT hand; and a third can be offset using the rotating bezel, though this means that one has to be careful in telling the time in the second zone, accounting for hours between the dial’s indices.

Secondly, a rotating bezel, even if not inscribed with a minute scale, can be used to time events in a pinch. Personally, I use the dive bezel on my Submariner to time things every single day: Sections of my practice routine on guitar; things cooking on the stove; laundry in the dryer. Everything. I need this functionality, because I can’t always resort to timers on my phone. (Shit, I don’t want to.)

man looking down at tudor black bay pro
A good travel watch should also be rugged, and the BB Pro is solidly built with 200m of water resistance.
Tudor

Let’s consider the history of the fixed bezel on the ref. 1655: At the time (1972), this watch was designed for spelunkers and featured a 24-hour hand that was linked to local time. This allowed someone underground in a cave to know if it was 12 am or 12 pm, despite the absence of light, but did not allow for tracking of a second time zone. In 1985, Rolex released the ref. 16550 with the updated Cal. 3805 movement, which did allow for an independently adjustable 24-hour hand.

So we’ve had this functionality available to us for 30-plus years with respect to movements, and now we have a movement with an independently adjustable local hour hand. Man, pair this thing to a rotating bezel and you’ve increased both the travel and the timing utility — why would you not do that? Why tie the BB Pro in this way to a Rolex model from the 1970s when this small upgrade would so vastly improve the utility of the watch? They could retain the steel look of the bezel and simply spring-load the thing. Boom.

This is something I’d love to see in whatever GMT model Tudor does next — take the practicality of the BB GMT’s functionality and the sizing of the BB Pro and slam ‘em together into one watch. In terms of the lume color, some folks have commented that it looks like “fauxtina.” To me, it’s somewhere in between white and outright “fake patina,” and I think it looks fantastic.

tudor black bay pro
The BB Pro references the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655, but adds its own design signatures.
Tudor

Really, my only other gripe is that I’d love to see a sub-13mm thick GMT from the brand, though if it truly takes a nearly 15mm case to house this movement and ensure 200m of water resistance, then there’s not a whole lot I can say…because I want that water resistance. If they could make a 13mm version that only had 100m of water resistance? Admittedly, I’d take it. I’m not going to be diving with my GMT watch…unless they can make me a combination dive-GMT bezel. Now that’s a watch I would buy in a heartbeat.

Who is this Tudor for?

Though a GMT-equipped watch with an independently adjustable local hour hand is generally best suited for those who travel, a watch such as the Rolex GMT Master II has become, for lack of better terms, an icon and a status symbol. (I have a friend who admitted to me that he never sets his second time zone, even when traveling. He’s like the Andy Warhol of Rolex GMT watches.)

So while the Black Bay Pro is a perfect wrist companion for those who cross the seas and skies often, it’s also perfectly suited to those who simply want a cool, accurate watch that they can take anywhere — including in the water.

The BB Pro is not, however, for someone who needs to time events. You can do this in a pinch with a GMT watch equipped with a rotating bezel, because even though most feature 24-hour scales rather than minute scales, you can align the 24-hour pip with the start of a given event in order to keep track of elapsed time. With a fixed-bezel GMT watch, such as the BB Pro, you’re outta luck.

tudor black bay pro
The Black Bay Pro comes on a steel bracelet, hybrid rubber-and-leather strap or a fabric strap.
Tudor

Tudor Black Bay Pro Alternatives

Tudor’s own Black Bay GMT ($3,850+) is a perfect alternative to the BB Pro for someone who doesn’t mind a slightly larger watch, or someone who wants a rotating bezel (which, by the way, also allows someone to keep track of a third time zone).

The fairly new Longines Spirit GMT “Zulu Time” ($2,950+) is another “true” GMT (with an independently adjustable local hour hand) at 42mm that’s also available on a steel bracelet, much like the Tudor options. For slightly less money there’s the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT ($1,200), a handsome option available in multiple colors on bracelets or straps — though it uses an independently adjustable GMT hand, not a local hour hand.

And of course, if you truly wanna go ham, there’s always the Rolex GMT Master II ($10,750), but good luck finding one of those at retail.

The Tudor Black Bay Pro: the Verdict

I really dig this thing. Like, to the extent that I’ve seriously considered taking my review model and skipping town with it. (Dear Tudor: I’m not actually going to steal your watch. I just thought about it, that’s all.) I would want one on a bracelet, and I would travel with it whenever I wasn’t actually going SCUBA diving. For that, I would want my Sub.

I do want to see a watch like this — sized like this, rather — with a rotating bezel. It doesn’t need to be bi-color, like that of the Rolex GMT Master. I’m tired of everyone and their mother copping this look. It could be this exact bezel! Just make it go around in a circle like that Billy Preston tune so I can use it to time things. It would so vastly improve the utility of the BB Pro that it seems like a travesty that it wasn’t done right out of the gate.

My hope is that Tudor will “go their own way” a little bit more in the future with these flagship releases, borrowing less from the Rolex catalog and introducing truly unique designs. We need to collectively get over this vintage-inspired thing, and this is coming from a vintage watch nut.

But I love this watch. It’s my personal favorite of 2022 thus far, and I highly recommend it to anyone drawn to its combination of style and features.

Tudor Black Bay Pro
tudorwatch.com
$4,000.00

  • Great alternative to a Rolex grail watch
  • 39mm is arguably the perfect size
  • Hell of a strong value

  • 14.6mm thick is pretty chunky
  • 12-hour bezel doesn't turn

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