Fratello’s Top 5 Tudor Black Bay References Ever Produced
Another Friday, another Top 5! In this series, we take one classic watch and choose our five favorite references ever produced. Four of these references will be based on the historical importance of the specific watch in the grand scheme of things. Though there may be some overlap, it’s not a question of which references are the most collectible or of the highest value on the market. The fifth pick is our Fratello favorite that considers the current market price and collectability, potentially making it a sleeper reference. As such, the last pick could be described as our wild card. This week, we’ll take a look at the Tudor Black Bay. More specifically, Black Bay divers. What are the best references in just over a decade of Tudor’s success story?
After taking a break for a week, we are back with another list. Last week, in the madness of Watches and Wonders, there was plenty of other news to cover. Without a doubt, one of the most talked-about brands of last week was Tudor. The brand has a tremendous amount of hype and expectation surrounding the announcement of its new models every year. And this year was no different. I have to say that Tudor delivered. While not every Tudor release was for me, the smart additions and updates to the brand’s collection show its great potential. It triggered us to look back at the best Tudor Black Bay dive watches that have been released since 2012. Let’s get started!
The great Tudor success story
By now, you are probably aware of the great Tudor success story. With the introduction of the first Heritage Black Bay model in 2012, Tudor launched a line of watches that defines today’s watch landscape. It has cemented Tudor as the go-to brand for the perfect watch for under €5K. And the brand has been able to expand the collection with a string of great releases. After the initial 41mm Black Bay, the smaller and thinner Black Bay 58 followed to great critical acclaim and commercial success. It was followed up last week by the 37mm Black Bay 54, which will undoubtedly also become a huge success.
But it’s not just about size because Tudor has brought out a variety of different materials and executions of its Black Bay models. The easy sidesteps are the Black Bay GMT and Pro models, just like the chronograph and the Rolex Explorer-esque Black Bay 31/36/39/41 series. And I can’t forget the Black Bay Bronze and the P01, of course. But let’s not also forget the use of materials like bronze, gold, and silver for the Black Bay line. Altogether, there are plenty of watches to choose from. Due to the great number of releases within the Black Bay line, we focused on the dive watches, and a second list may follow with other Black Bay models. For now, these are our top five Tudor Black Bay divers ever produced.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay ref. 79220R
It only makes sense to start this list with the very first Black Bay model. Reference 79220R was part of the brand’s Heritage line before there was “just” a Black Bay line. The “R” in the reference is for Rouge, referring to the burgundy bezel color. It’s a bezel color that we saw reintroduced just last week with the introduction of the new METAS-certified Black Bay. It’s a smart move as this will always be the first bezel color of the Black Bay line. On top of that, the dial of the original Black Bay has a number of features that collectors love. The first is the Tudor rose at 12 o’clock, and the second is the curved, vintage-inspired “self-winding” text at 6 o’clock, giving the watch its “Smiley Face” nickname.
The combination of the burgundy bezel color and the gilt-tone/gold details works very well and gives the watch a great overall presence. The vintage vibes were spot-on and paid tribute to the Tudor and Rolex Submariner divers from the past. Like the current model, the original Black Bay featured a 41mm case. But the case was 2mm slimmer at 12.7mm thanks to the ETA 2824-2 that Tudor used until its thicker MT5602 movement debuted in 2016. Another difference is the bracelet that Tudor offered for the watch. Buyers had the choice of a leather strap, a fabric strap, or an Oyster-style bracelet that did not have the faux rivets of the current one. It’s another reason why Tudor fans love this first Heritage Black Bay. This future classic goes for roughly €2.5K–4K. It’s not rocket science to realize that these prices will only go up over time.
Tudor Black Bay 58 ref. M79030
The second model in our Top 5 is the Tudor Black Bay 58 (formerly spelled out “Fifty-Eight”) from 2018. You might think, “Wait a minute, what about the regular 41mm Black Bay with the manufacture MT5602 movement that came out in 2016?” And you would be right, but before you scroll down to complain in the comment section, a version of that watch is our wild card. So it will be part of this list; don’t worry. But the Black Bay 58 sparked true enthusiasm in the watch community. With a slightly smaller 39mm × 11.9mm case compared to the 41mm × 14.8mm case of the regular Black Bay model, it was a major improvement. And those smaller dimensions in combination with the vintage-inspired Submariner looks made the Black Bay 58 an instant hit.
In addition to the black version with the gilt-tone accents, Tudor also released a blue version. The latter reminds us of Tudor’s famous Submariner models for the Marine Nationale. I had a chance to go hands-on with that model and was really impressed by its crisp presence. Inside the 39mm case, Tudor equipped the Black Bay 58 with its COSC-certified MT5402, allowing the brand to develop a significantly thinner case. Whether to choose the black or blue version is an entirely personal question. I prefer the blue version, but as the black version was the first to be released, it is the more important one in the history of the Black Bay line.
Tudor Black Bay 54 ref. M79000N
Now we’re going straight to the smaller 37mm brother of the Black Bay 58. The brand-new Tudor Black Bay 54 is another possible hit for the brand. After hearing many opinions and reading the first reviews, the overall reaction to the Black Bay 54 has been very positive. Tudor managed to create a new smaller Black Bay inspired by the original Tudor Submariner ref. 7922 from 1954. And Tudor did an awesome job of creating a modern version of that watch. The newly designed 37mm case, at 11.24mm thick, is slimmer than the case of the Black Bay 58. But Tudor managed to keep the lug-to-lug at 46mm, which is only 1mm smaller than its bigger brother. Because of this, it will be a great watch for people that love the vintage Tudor vibe.
As I explained in last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown, I love what the Tudor designers have done for the Black Bay 54. There are no excess gilt-tone accents as on the Black Bay 58, and an overall clean bezel and dial design. The crown is also new, and it reminds us of the early Rolex crowns. Inside the case, Tudor equips the watches with the COSC-certified caliber MT5400. The smaller movement is in line with the MT5402 of the Black Bay 58 and offers 70 hours of power reserve. The watch comes equipped with Tudor’s T-fit clasp for great practicality and comfort. At €3,800 on a bracelet, this is bound to be the next hit for Tudor.
Tudor Black Bay “Burgundy” ref. M7941A1A0RU
The fourth model on this list is the new 2023 Black Bay “Burgundy.” It sees the return of the original bezel color of the 2012 model. While that is a great pick for this new piece, it is not the most exciting news about this model. First, Tudor redesigned the 41mm Black Bay case and made it significantly slimmer at 13.6mm. That is a great improvement over the other models. The crystal was redesigned to win in height, and the dial was also slightly changed. On top of that, the bezel also got a new grip design, and it looks a lot crisper and better overall in combination with the new “toothy” crown. In addition to the faux-rivet Oyster-style bracelet, Tudor now offers the Black Bay on a rubber strap and a new five-link Jubilee-style bracelet. The combination of elements makes this update an absolute stunner.
Next to the new aesthetics, the biggest news is the METAS-certified caliber MT5602-U. Most of you will know it’s not the first METAS-certified Black Bay because that was the black ceramic version. But bringing the METAS-certified caliber to the regular stainless steel Black Bay is a great step forward. With plans to incorporate METAS-certified movements into the entire Black Bay line, this is a really significant step forward for Tudor in terms of movements. With a price of €4,440 on the Jubilee-style bracelet, €4,330 on the Oyster-style bracelet, and €4,130 on the rubber strap, this new Black Bay “Burgundy” is a solid and important step into the future for the Black Bay line.
Tudor Black Bay Harrods Edition ref. 79230G
As promised, I would come back to the 41mm Black Bay ref. 79230. We picked the special green Harrods edition of the Black Bay for this fifth and final spot on our list. The watch is similar to the other 41mm Black Bay models with the manufacture MT5602 movements that were introduced in 2016. But this special Harrods edition comes with a beautiful green bezel insert. Additionally, it features a green tip on the seconds hand, and the water resistance is written in green. What seems like a simple color change results in a stunning piece with a combination of green and gilt-tone accents. The 41mm stainless steel case is a chunky piece of kit at 14.75mm thick. That’s always been the biggest criticism of the 41mm model.
But with the introduction of the new burgundy-bezel version last week, we might see an update for the entire line of 41mm models, including the special Harrods Edition. As mentioned, this watch is powered by the caliber MT5602 with a 70-hour power reserve. Most of you will know that you can only buy this watch at Harrods in London for £3,370. With a waiting list in place, you might have to wait a couple of months at least before you can get your hands on this very nice-looking green Black Bay. If you don’t have the patience or if you are not geographically close to London, the watch sells at a premium for €4K–5K on the pre-owned market. We picked it as our wild card because you know these will become sought-after collector’s items over time.
There you have it — five great Tudor Black Bay dive watches that are part of the bigger Black Bay family. Writing the article made me realize this is only the tip of the iceberg in 11 years of the Black Bay. Browsing through the different current and discontinued models, I noticed some more great releases, like the Black Bay One for Only Watch 2015 and Black Bay GMT One for Only Watch 2021. There are also the gold, silver, and bronze Black Bay Fifty-Eight models. We realize that you might not agree with all the picks for this list. That’s why we would love this to be the start of a bigger discussion. Let us know your picks for the most relevant references in the development of the Tudor Black Bay. We will see you next week for another Top 5 list of references for a different classic watch.
For more information, visit the official Tudor website.