Hands-On With The New Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer”
The Tudor Black Bay Pro was the big one for Tudor at Watches And Wonders 2022. The watch was met with a lot of praise, but its design also sparked a lively discussion. Did Tudor make the right move by copying the design of the legendary Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655? Or is it a different watch influenced by the original Explorer II? The same questions can be asked looking at the second big Tudor introduction. The new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer” was inspired by the iconic Rolex GMT-Master “Root Beer” models. The original models represent the style of the ’70s and ’80s perfectly. Did Tudor successfully salute that aesthetic, or should the brand have left it alone? Let’s find out.
For Tudor, 2022 is all about the GMT. We might forget that when getting caught up in discussions about the individual watches. But it’s the first time that Tudor has introduced two different new Black Bay GMT models simultaneously. The new Black Bay Pro story is one of a completely new watch. The new steel and gold Black Bay GMT story, however, is a lot simpler. Essentially, the looks are the main discussion point of the new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer.” As most of you know, the first Black Bay GMT model was introduced in 2018. Back then, it was an instant hit at Baselworld, and it made complete sense in the context of the development of the Black Bay collection. But is this new “Root Beer” addition also a natural progression?
The Tudor Black Bay GMT
When the Tudor Black Bay GMT was first introduced, I was an immediate fan of the watch. Mike called it the shocker of Baselworld 2018, and it was universally praised as a logical next step for the Black Bay collection. Four years later, it is one of the standards in the Black Bay lineup. I have selected the watch for multiple “best of” lists because the Black Bay GMT offers a lot. The watch combines the best of the classic Rolex GMT-Master charm with modern technology to create a very compelling offer. In my opinion, the Tudor captures the spirit of the classic GMT-Masters a lot better than Rolex’s current GMT-Master II. While the current offering from Rolex is a great watch, it has lost its charm in favor of a modern execution. The Black Bay GMT, however, combines both charm and modern-day execution successfully.
And that is the crux of Tudor’s success. The vintage charm of the brand’s watches plays a huge part in their overall appeal. But now, with the introduction of the two new GMT models, some feel Tudor is not just using it as a starting point. Instead, some feel that Tudor is now copying iconic Rolex models from the past. This has sparked a lot of debate within the Fratello team. As you might have read in our coverage of the Black Bay Pro, Lex is not a fan of the Freccione-inspired design. On the other hand, Nacho is not troubled by the stories from the past and sees the new Pro as a potentially more affordable alternative for his much-admired Explorer II ref. 16570. Wherever you stand in this discussion, it shows that people care about Tudor.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer”
Do these different opinions represent a generational clash? Or are they simply a difference in preferences? The same discussion that the Black Bay Pro sparked can also be had for the Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer.” But before we get into the heart of the matter, let’s find out more about this new model. The new Black Bay GMT S&G features the same dimension as the fully stainless steel model. The case has a 41mm diameter and is 14.6mm thick with a water resistance of 200 meters. The watch comes equipped with an 18K yellow gold bezel with an anodized aluminum inlay in matte brown and black with a 24-hour scale. Furthermore, the watch features a yellow gold screw-down crown.
Under the domed sapphire crystal, you will find a matte black dial with applied hour markers featuring gold surrounds. The gold printed minute track and gold hands up the vintage vibe even further, creating a charming aesthetic. Tudor offers the watch with either a fabric strap, a leather strap, or a gold-and-steel riveted bracelet. While the leather strap offers a lot to love, it’s all about the version with the bracelet to get the full gold-and-steel “Root Beer” experience. The bracelet features a mix of stainless steel outer links and yellow gold center links. As most of you will know, for the S&G models the end links are executed in solid gold and the rest of the links are gold-capped.
The Black Bay GMT platform
Inside the stainless steel case, Tudor equips the watch with the same manufacture caliber MT5652 that also powers the stainless steel “Pepsi” version and the new Black Bay Pro. Along with hours, minutes, and seconds hands, the movement features a 24-hour GMT hand and a date function at 3 o’clock. This automatic caliber operates at 28,800vph, has 26 jewels, and provides 70 hours of power reserve. Furthermore, it is COSC-certified and features hacking seconds, an independently adjustable hour hand, a variable-inertia balance with micro-adjustment, and a silicon balance spring.
If you have had the Black Bay GMT on your wrist, you know it’s a pretty substantial timepiece. At 41mm in diameter and 14.6mm in height, you won’t forget that you’re wearing a watch. For a smaller wrist size, this might be too big, and that’s why the Black Bay Pro is a great alternative with its slightly smaller 39mm case size. But overall, the 41mm Black Bay GMT is not a huge watch, and it will comfortably fit a wide variety of wrist sizes. The thickness will put off a lot of people initially. My advice would be to try one on your wrist to see how it fits. I’ve never felt that it was too large or too thick overall. The watch sits comfortably on my wrist and has a ton of wrist presence, especially in this new two-tone execution.
Does the root beer taste sweet or bittersweet?
This brings us to the obvious question. Is this a great new release, or is this too much of a copy of the GMT-Master “Root Beer” models from the past? The answer to that question is very personal. I love the classic GMT-Master “Root Beer” models, especially the 1675/3 and 16753 nipple-dial models from the 1970s and ’80s. They are easily within my top five favorite vintage Rolex watches ever. There is a ton of charm in the combination of the brown nipple dial with the gold-and-brown bezel and a two-tone Jubilee bracelet. It oozes the great ’70s and ’80s style that is incredibly specific to the Rolex GMT-Master “Root Beer.”
The vintage Rolex “Root Beer” models come with a world of memories and references that I hold very dearly. That’s where this new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer” feels strange. For me, the story and the looks of this watch are so directly connected to these specific Rolex models that it just feels a bit awkward to see them come to life in the form of a Tudor. The brand has done everything right in making this look like a Tudor Black Bay version of the “Root Beer.” But sometimes, that leads to the personal conclusion that nothing beats the original.
Final thoughts on the Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer”
I have to be honest; it was weird seeing both the Black Bay Pro and this Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer.” Both watches mimic an aesthetic that is specifically connected to one or a small number of Rolex watches. It’s hard to claim the design in a broader context like the Black Bay GMT with the Pepsi bezel does. Does that make them bad watches? Not in the slightest. But for people like me who hold the Explorer II ref. 1655 and the GMT-Master “Root Beer” models so close to our hearts, that is where the shoe pinches.
But I also perfectly understand that for a large number of people, the story of the original Rolex “Root Beer” models is not as familiar or important in liking this new Black Back GMT. If you don’t hold that against the watch, it undeniably results in a very appealing offering full of vintage-inspired charm. In that case, this could easily be your perfect two-tone travel companion. I think Tudor did everything right in making the watch look great. Add the great COSC-certified movement, the great quality of execution, and the €5,270 list price on the bracelet or €4,080 on the leather or fabric strap, and this new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer” is very hard to beat in terms of price, quality, and appeal. For me, there is only one watch that does that, and that happens to be the original.
What is your opinion on this new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer”? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.