Battle Of The Tudor Black Bays: How The Fifty-Eight Completely Knocked Out The Black Bay 36
There are many people who have similar watches in their collections. Heck, there are even collectors who specialize in one specific model and all of its different iterations. So why can’t a Tudor Black Bay 36 and Fifty-Eight sit next to each other in the same collection? That was exactly my thought when I went out and bought the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight while I already owned the Black Bay 36. But somehow, the Fifty-Eight won the battle for wrist time and the Black Bay 36 left the ring crying. What happened!?
As a new “collector”, I wasn’t even really aware of Tudor as a brand. Omega, Rolex, IWC, Cartier, Oris, and NOMOS were names that sounded familiar. I could even name or recognize some of their models. It was only when I started reading watch blogs and forums that I got more familiar and learned that Tudor was part of the Rolex family. Of course, I also quickly “learned” that if you wanted a Rolex, you shouldn’t buy yourself a Tudor because, in the end, you’d be disappointed. I think more or less due to that “lesson”, the brand stayed off my radar for a bit.
Tudor Black Bay — The perfect dial for Instagram
I was, of course, aware of all the praise the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight received a few years back upon its introduction and that, in the meantime, a blue model had come out. I just didn’t want to immediately jump on the horological hype train again. But then the Instagram algorithm started playing me. I was starting to see more and more posts of the Tudor Black Bay, and in particular, the shots by @onceuponatimepiece of his Black Bay 36 were quickly grabbing my attention.
Sometimes, people refer to this model as the “Tudor Explorer” due to its resemblance to the Rolex Explorer both in size and dial style. I had tried on the Rolex Explorer 114270 once in a store in Amsterdam, and it hadn’t worked for me. The size was perfect, but I think those characteristic 3-6-9 numerals put me off. On the other hand, the dial of the Black Bay 36 has this, in my eyes, perfect play going on between circles, squares, and triangles. It’s plain and simple, and I know it’s a case of loving or hating it, especially that “snowflake” hand. But to me, it looked very attractive in all those perfect Instagram shots.
It’s a perfect Go Anywhere, Do Anything (GADA) piece!
I went to my local AD and tried the watch on. Both in size and in looks, it was just as perfect as I imagined it would be. That 36mm-wide Black Bay case had just the right amount of beef to not look too small. It also gave the watch a more aggressive attitude, which works great in combination with the fairly friendly dial design. That friendliness is obviously thanks to the smiley text on the dial and is reinforced by those round hour markers. When you look at the Black Bay 36 on your wrist, it makes you smile, but it still has enough presence to make you feel confident.
In addition, it’s a watch you can wear in many situations, or at least in my case it was. I wore it to the office just as often as I wore it on a night out or for a day with my kids. It’s a perfect Go Anywhere, Do Anything (GADA) piece! So why did it eventually leave the collection? Well, it all started when I visited a few ADs to go check out the 38mm Blancpain Bathyscaphe. While trying out that Bathyscaphe at one of those ADs, the sales assistant told me they had just gotten a delivery from Tudor and that both the black and the blue versions of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight were now available.
Try it once and you’ll never go back!
He proposed to bring out both of them to compare them to the Blancpain, as they were quite similar in size. I agreed because it’s always nice to have some comparison, and at that time, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight was not always readily available. But I had no intention of buying the Fifty-Eight, not that day, not ever. I even remember saying I already owned a Black Bay 36, and that a Fifty-Eight would have too much overlap. But of course, I did try on both the black and blue versions and took some pictures of them.
In the end, I didn’t buy any watch that day. Eventually, I bought the Bathyscaphe through another collector on Instagram, and I continued my journey with my Black Bay 36. But I do think something happened in my mind when I put on those Black Bay Fifty-Eights and looked at the pictures afterward. I tried to hold on to my own argument of too much overlap. But only a couple of months later, I convinced myself that the 36 and the Fifty-Eight felt and looked like two completely different watches on the wrist. So, I got myself a Black Bay Fifty-Eight in blue.
Changing perspectives on the Black Bay 36
I got the blue one because, when you look at my wardrobe, blue is almost the only color you see there, and there’s basically no black to be found. By the way, I bought the Black Bay 36 in black, rather than in blue, so please don’t pay any attention to my reasoning here. As we all know, watch collecting is mainly driven by emotions rather than foolproof arguments. But anyway, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight in blue was the perfect watch to pair with my favorite denim shirts.
And boy, it really is a joy to wear the Fifty-Eight! The tone of blue that Tudor chose in combination with that matte dial is magnificent, and the overall dimensions are perfect for my wrist. But, wait a minute, those perfect dimensions were also something I mentioned about the Black Bay 36 when I got that. I very much noticed while I was wearing the Fifty-Eight that my opinion about the 36 started to change. Its dimensions slowly began to feel a little bit off to me.
There’s a new sheriff in town — the Black Bay Fifty-Eight!
The Black Bay case in 36 millimeters was starting to feel too small to me. In addition, the fact that the Black Bay 36 didn’t have a bezel made me think that it was a watch with an identity crisis. It clearly had a diver’s dial and case; the only thing missing was the bezel. That was also the thing that made it my perfect GADA piece in the first place, but at this point, its lack of identity was starting to annoy me. All this criticism is completely unfair to the great watch that is the Tudor Black Bay 36 — I know that. But from that moment on, it was clear that there was no place for the Black Bay 36 in my collection anymore.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight completely “ruined” my experience with it, so I sold it the Black Bay 36 through one of the watch forums. And I must say, I didn’t even miss it, not even for one day after it left my possession. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoy seeing it around on other people’s wrists or on Instagram. I also liked taking a look at my own pictures of the Black Bay 36 as inspiration for this article. But I’m very certain that the Fifty-Eight has completely taken over its place in the collection as my perfect GADA piece.
I won’t even try to rationalize what exactly it is that makes the Fifty-Eight my preferred GADA watch over the Black Bay 36. It’s just a feeling I get when wearing the watch, I guess. I also see many people who own both the 36 and the Fifty-Eight simultaneously, so it can be done. But, for me, it just didn’t work out.
And as far as Tudor goes, after having experience with two of its models, I really think the brand makes some extraordinary watches. I won’t go so far as to say that if you want a Rolex, you should consider a Tudor. But for me, Tudor brings back the vintage aesthetics perfectly, inspired by its own and Rolex’s heritage, and in a modern and robust package. If you don’t mind that the brand has a lot less of an image to non-watch-enthusiasts, then go for it. I certainly don’t mind that fact, and I very much enjoy wearing my Black Bay Fifty-Eight in blue, especially on that magnificent Oyster bracelet with faux rivets.
What about you? Have you got two or more very similar watches in your collection? And what’s your experience like? Is one of those watches being pushed over by the other? Or maybe you don’t agree with me that the watches discussed above are similar at all!? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
And if you’d like to see more shots of my ex-Black Bay Thirty-Six and current Fifty-Eight for comparison, check out my Instagram @fliptheparrot.