Welcome to another installment of Sunday Morning Showdown! We are stretching last week’s theme a little bit further this week. We remain in the realms of vintage-inspired divers. This time, it is the Tudor Black Bay 54 versus the 2023 version of the Longines Legend Diver. What bonds these watches? Well, apart from the clear vintage vibes, both also received a downsizing treatment this year.

So the question for you, dear Fratelli, is who makes the better downsized retro diver? Thomas will take the Tudor’s corner, while RJ will defend the Longines. In the end, of course, the winner is up to you. Have a look at the arguments, and don’t forget to cast your votes. If you care to elaborate in the comments, we’d love to read your motivations.

But first, last week’s Sunday Morning Showdown

As mentioned, today’s theme is a continuation of last week’s. We pitted the Seiko SJE093 against the Airain Sous-Marine. Of course, the Airain was the clear underdog against the crowd-pleasing Seiko. Indeed, the results reflected this but to a lesser extent than we expected. The Seiko took the crown by a small margin, earning 56% of the votes.

There seemed to be some confusion in the comments section about the Airain’s design. We saw some claims that it was a Glashütte Original homage, which, historically speaking, is simply not true. That’s a point we didn’t mention in the arguments but clearly should have. Luckily, judging by the result, it seems that misunderstanding hasn’t affected too many voters.

There is no underdog in today’s showdown. These are two heavy hitters putting all their weight behind new, smaller dive watches. Without further ado, let’s get into it. Thomas, take it away!

Thomas: Tudor Black Bay 54

Tudor surprised all of us with the release of a downsized version of a watch that had already been downsized before. The Black Bay 58 (formerly “Fifty-Eight”) was already down two millimeters from the regular Black Bay divers. But then Tudor shaved off another two millimeters with the Black Bay 54. Anyone who says they saw that coming either had inside information or is lying.

Tudor Black Bay 54 pocket shot

The crucial thing to realize here is that the size reduction isn’t actually about size at all. The 58 was about size, bringing the Black Bay from substantial to more accessible for a larger range of wrists. The 54 doesn’t repeat the same move, but it is about internal proportions and overall vibe. The bezel and the bracelet, for instance, are now larger in relation to the case. That completely changes the overall appearance and stance of the Tudor Black Bay 54.

Yes, it is smaller. Yes, it is a small dive watch. But it certainly doesn’t look or feel dainty on the wrist. It just has a very old-school and unique kind of wrist presence. It is beautifully thin now as well. Frankly, it instantly became my favorite model in the Black Bay lineup.

Tudor Black Bay 54 dial close-up

The less sentimental Tudor Black Bay 54

You have probably heard me use the word “sentimental” in connection to vintage-inspired watches before. I feel many such watches are covered in a bit too much vintage sauce. While I don’t mind the occasional nod to history, it can get a bit gimmicky when overdone. I cannot imagine that such watches will age very well.

The Tudor Black Bay 54 has, interestingly enough, dialed down the vintage vibes. Two big changes make all the difference. For one, it ditched the Black Bay 58’s gilt-tone bezel. Additionally, the oversized crown was replaced by a more subtle alternative. Paired with the new proportions, that makes it feel like an actual vintage dive watch rather than a 2023 throwback. It took the sentimentality out of the vintage inspiration, and that is a great thing if you ask me.

Tudor Black Bay 54

Picking the Tudor Black Bay 54 over the Longines Legend Diver

Admittedly, I like the Longines a lot. To be fair, though, it doesn’t feel like it is on the same level as the Tudor. If I had to guess, I would have put a price tag of just around €2.5K on the Longines. To me, that is what it seems to be worth in terms of fit and finishing. At the risk of offending people, let me put that very bluntly: in terms of fine details, finishing, and overall feel of the bracelet and case, it is only a tad more refined than microbrand offerings like Baltic’s divers. The caliber, proprietary as it may be, is based on familiar ETA architecture. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I just don’t see where all that money goes here.

Tudor Black Bay 54 lifestyle

The Tudor is two or three steps better in terms of tolerances, detailing, and finishing. The bracelet is significantly sturdier and equipped with a great T-Fit clasp. The entire package feels more substantial and luxurious.

These points are hard to bring across in writing. But having spent time with both, the Tudor Black Bay 54 feels sharply priced at €3,880 on the bracelet. The Longines Legend Diver feels very ambitious at €3,600. I am sure, though, that RJ can offer some counterweight to my points. Let’s hear it, RJ!

Robert-Jan: Longines Legend Diver 39mm

That’s harsh, Thomas, and I know you don’t mean it. For the readers, Thomas and I sit opposite each other in the office, so I can see him grinning. The finishing of the Legend Diver’s case and bracelet is very nicely done! The case has a satin finish on the sides and a high-polish finish on top. We also see this combination on the bracelet, with brushing on the outermost links and polishing on the five rows in the center. The most important thing is that the brushing is properly done and not superficial. That’s something you won’t find on many cheaper watches these days.

Longines is on a new track

But let me start by taking a step back and telling you that I think Longines and Tudor are worthy competitors. This used to be a bit different not even that long ago, but Longines stepped up its game with proprietary (or exclusive) movements and by using its back catalog for inspiration.

With CEO Matthias Breschan at the helm since 2020, Longines is taking a slightly different direction with its watches. The brand is showing more attention to detail and taking a step forward by using chronometer-rated movements. Longines sharpened its swords to battle enthusiast brands like Oris and Tudor.

Reference 7042 as the blueprint

Tudor, on the other hand, did its best to get the most out of its back catalog without creating 1:1 copies. Instead, the brand gave its previous Submariner references a modern twist with the Pelagos and Black Bay models. With the new 39mm Longines Legend Diver, the brand from Saint-Imier used the Longines Diver from 1959 as the blueprint. It is a step forward from their previous (2007) model, which measured 42mm in diameter. Admittedly, the vintage version was the same size, but these days, many enthusiasts feel that 42mm is too big.

The new case is not only smaller but also more elegant than its predecessor. What is most impressive, however, is the dial of his new 39mm Longines Legend Diver. Whether you opt for the blue or black version, it has very soft and round lines, respecting the original dial from 1959. Longines also (wisely) chose white for its luminescent material. There is no faux-patina for a change and no gilt-tone printing to avoid making it look like something it is not.

Longines also designed a new beads-of-rice bracelet for this new Legend Diver. It is a very comfortable bracelet with both polished and brushed surfaces. The Legend Diver also looks pretty amazing on a (Tropic-style rubber) strap.

Chronometer certification based on a cased movement

Inside this Longines Legend Diver is a proprietary movement, just like Tudor’s Kenissi calibers. The L888.6 is made by ETA exclusively for Longines and offers chronometer precision. Importantly, Longines had the entire watch tested and certified by the COSC instead of the movement only. This more accurately simulates real-life wear. Tudor only offers this with the 41mm Black Bay “Burgundy” and Ceramic models. That said (and correct me if I’m wrong here), I don’t believe the Legend Diver or Black Bay 54 are watches you buy because of their specifications. You buy them because you like the design or story behind them, not because of their movement performance.

So, in the end, it boils down to which watch you like better. Both watches are inspired by their 1950s counterparts — the Longines to the 1959 ref. 7042 and the Tudor to the ref. 7922 from 1954. Other than the diameter, the Longines is truer to the original 1950s model than the Tudor is, but it’s also a very modern watch.

Longines Legend Diver 39mm header

The Black Bay 54 is the BMW 3-series Compact from Tudor

Between these two 1950s-inspired divers, I prefer the Legend Diver. The Black Bay 54 has several off-putting “features” in my opinion. The profile, albeit already better than that of other Black Bay models, still looks a bit chunky. The Longines has a nicer profile due to its curvy shape. Also, I’m not too fond of the faux rivets on Tudor’s bracelet. Brands like Oris and, more recently, microbrand Méraud have done rivets right.

Lastly, what I dislike most about the Tudor Black Bay 54 is its 37mm diameter. Now, I don’t mind a 37mm watch, and I wear my Breguet 7027 (also 37mm) and smaller watches, such as the 36mm Day-Date, without any problem. Even today, I’m wearing a 36mm Chopard 1860 on my 18cm wrist, and I think it looks perfectly fine. However, to me, it simply depends on the style of watch. And 37mm for a diver with a (rotating) bezel makes it look compressed. It’s like a BMW 3-Series Compact in the 1990s and early 2000s, and that was not a good look. If the Longines Legend Diver were up against the 41mm Black Bay, I’d probably have a harder time defending it as I can live with the faux rivets and gilt-tone printing on the dial. But wait… I just remembered that the 41mm version also has a brick-like case profile. Nope, it’s a no-go; sorry!

Cast your votes!

There you have it, Fratelli. Which vintage-inspired diver do you think should take the Sunday Morning Showdown crown this week? Is it the less sentimental Tudor Black Bay 54 or the optimized 39mm Longines Legend Diver? Choose your champion, cast your vote below, and let us know why you picked it in the comments. We’ll see you next week for another episode of Sunday Morning Showdown!

Tudor Black Bay 54 vs. Longines Legend Diver