Tudor is one of the few brands whose desirability has increased significantly in recent years. This is mainly due to the attractiveness of its models, most certainly including the Black Bay and the smaller version, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, launched in 2018. The version we tested here came on the market in 2021 in a silver case with a taupe-coloured dial and bezel.
The name Fifty-Eight refers to 1958, the year in which Tudor introduced its first dive watch. French Navy divers turned to the brand to develop an ideal dive watch, designed especially for their needs, and Tudor consequently became the outfitter for French combat divers. The 39mm case size is the same as its historical predecessor. The rotating bezel and smaller dial give the watch an understated look that is in line with current trends.
The vintage appearance is heightened by a domed scratch- resistant sapphire crystal, which replaces the original acrylic glass. The dial also has a slight retro-style curve. The narrow lugs and the typography on the rotating bezel also cite Tudor’s history. Even the date was omitted for a more historically accurate impression. The traditional ‘snow-flake’ hands have been in use at Tudor since the late 1960s.
In contrast to previous models, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 that was introduced in 2021 has a taupe-coloured bezel and dial. The colour, which could also be viewed as a faded black, goes well with the vintage design. While on the other hand, the grey-brown tone is also a modern trend colour, especially in current interior design.
A Secret Silver Alloy
The taupe colour harmonises well with the warm tones of the 925 silver case. The designation ‘925’ means the case is made of 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent other materials. Conventional sterling silver also contains this amount of pure silver with the rest being primarily copper, which gives the metal a reddish hue. However, sterling silver has a tendency to tarnish, as anyone owning sterling silver flatware can attest to. It is the result of a chemical reaction between the silver and sulfur-containing substances in the air, darkening the silver over time. To prevent this, Tudor has used a different alloy that is touted as being non-tarnishing. Although Tudor has not revealed the other materials, there are known alloys containing palladium and germanium that prevent tarnishing and can even be hardened. This material’s hardness is still more comparable to gold than to steel. The Tudor case shines with a bright lustre and is warmer in colour than stainless steel or platinum.
While the aluminium scale on the diving bezel is not as resistant to scratches as a ceramic alternative, its matte surface goes better with the watch’s vintage look. All in all, our test watch impresses, with an attractive design and very harmonious colours.
Happily, functionality did not fall victim to design here. Large luminous markers and a generous application of luminous material on the hands provide excellent legibility both day and night. The screw-down crown is easy to grasp; it decouples itself from the winding mechanism to reduce wear. The inclusion of a hack mechanism, plus no date display and no pulled-out crown position for that function, make date setting simple. The unidirectional rotating bezel ratchets in one-minute increments and is easy to grasp and turn thanks to its coined edge. Its clicking operation feels almost as rich as a Rolex timepiece. A luminous marker shows dive time, even in the dark. Thanks to the case, which is waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, the Black Bay is truly suitable for diving, at least when you wear the NATO textile strap.
Our test watch came with an attractively textured dark-brown leather strap with contrast stitching and a rubber lining, which extends the life of the strap. A very well-constructed, practical pin buckle is made of brushed silver, which matches the case. Visually, we liked the taupe textile strap with a silver central stripe better than the leather strap because it doesn’t taper toward the buckle as much. However, the textile strap obscures the caseback, which is especially unfortunate here since this is the first Black Bay model in regular production with a transparent window that permits a view of automatic Caliber MT5400. The calibre is produced by the movement manufacturer Kenissi, which is also a supplier to Chanel, Breitling, Fortis and other watch brands.
A Robust Calibre
The movement boasts both sturdiness and precision. Its considerable height of 4.99mm makes it robust to avoid functional disturbances, even in the case of the smallest tolerance fluctuations that may have occurred in production. In addition, the balance is secured by a full bridge rather than on just one side. The silicon hairspring maintains centricity, as it is resistant to deformation caused by impact or other disturbances. Other high-quality features of this in-house movement include the extended 70-hour power reserve and free-sprung balance wheel with four regulating screws—so the rate is not adjusted by changing the active length of the hairspring, as is usually the case with most ETA calibres. Decorations to the movement are modest but the rotor is skeletonised and has a sunburst finish and a Tudor engraving.
Rate precision is certified by COSC, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, where Tudor sends a majority of its movements to be checked (the MT5602-1U used in the new Black Bay Ceramic comes with a Master Chronometer certificate from METAS). In addition to other criteria, the rate results are guaranteed to remain within a range of -4 and +6 seconds per day. Results shown on the electronic timing machine confirm this level of accuracy—the values in different positions remain quite close, while the average deviation was almost perfect: Only +1 seconds per day. On the wrist, we saw a gain of 2 seconds per day, which was likely due to the fact that the watch had been placed ‘dial-up’ overnight, the position that showed the greatest gain of +5 seconds.
The technical features of the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 put it on the cutting edge, and its execution and finishing make it a standout. The design mix of retro elements and warm grey tones inspires, and the additional cost of `70,000 (approx.) above the base price for the silver version feels moderate and appropriate.
The story first appeared in WatchTime USA magazine and carried on to WatchTime India's October-December 2021 issue.
Images: Courtesy Tudor