Sunday Morning Showdown: An Alternative — Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer”
Is Tudor owned by Rolex? Yes, it is. But does that allow the brand to legitimately use designs from Rolex’s past for its own catalog? Furthermore, if Tudor is in fact allowed to do so, are the results even worth your money? Let’s see what RJ and Brandon have to say about this as they debate the merits of the new Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer”.
If you’re looking for our hands-on review of the Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer”, you can check it out here. But if you’d like to read a discussion between two editors about the sense and non-sense of this Tudor release, please stick around.
RJ — In defense of the Tudor Black Bay GMT Steel & Gold M79833MN
As soon as I laid eyes on the new Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer” (as it was quickly dubbed), I knew it would result in big discussions about the design. It is clearly based on the famous Rolex GMT-Master in bi-color, which is actually one of my favorite executions of that model, but one I’ve never had. Back in the 1980s and ’90s, you could often find them on the wrists of shady-looking people (take this with a grain of salt). Now, however, times have changed, and the Rolex “Root Beer” is one of the most coveted watches in the world.
When I put the new Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer” on my wrist, I liked it. A lot. But that’s not a surprise, because I also like the original version from Rolex. And in my opinion, if there’s one brand entitled to put out an homage to Rolex, it’s Tudor (not Steinhart). Later that day, when I ran into someone from the Tudor team, the person actually told me that the brand jumped into the gap that Rolex leaves behind due to unmet demand. On top of that, an original Rolex Explorer II 1655 (the inspiration for the Tudor Black Bay Pro) or a vintage “Root Beer” GMT-Master (II) are difficult and expensive to obtain.
I would love to own a vintage Rolex GMT-Master II in bi-color, such as a reference 16713. I wouldn’t even mind owning a modern reference 126711CHNR (which is technically not a “Root Beer”, and neither is this Black Bay GMT). But I am just not willing to spend €15K on the former and certainly not over €30K on the latter. Is the Tudor Black Bay GMT in bi-color a nice available and affordable alternative then? It sure is! For €5,270, I can feel like a shady used car dealer from the 1980s. Awesome!
All things considered
Jokes aside, I think that approximately €5K for a watch is a very serious amount. Let’s not forget that the majority of people do not even want to spend 10% of that on a wristwatch. For that amount, however, I feel that you get a very serious watch from Tudor that is heavily inspired by its big brother with the crown logo. I am also someone that couldn’t care less about what other people think I am wearing; if they’re so obsessed with convincing me to buy the real deal, let them buy it themselves. To me, this offering from Tudor delivers great value. You get a well-made watch with an in-house, true GMT movement (caliber MT5652) and a beautiful bracelet with faux rivets.
There’s only one thing that bothers me a little bit, but given the price point, it’s an understandable decision. The bracelet and crown are not solid gold, but rather, gold-capped. I get it, and perhaps it’s not even half-bad when you realize that the vintage bi-color Oyster bracelets from Rolex had hollow center links. One thing that I would have done differently, but which is certainly not a dealbreaker, is the color of the dial. Since it is clearly a homage to the GMT-Master “Root Beer” anyway, I would have used a brown dial. Tudor is known to dive into the archives of both companies and experiment a little, so why not?
Brandon — Why the Tudor Black Bay GMT “Root Beer” misses the mark
Unbeknownst to him, RJ just provided the perfect segue into my argument. In fact, the lack of a brown dial is one of my main sticking points with this model. But before we get to that, I just want to say that I actually agree with several of the points that RJ made. If any brand has “the right” to make a Rolex homage, there’s no doubt in my mind that Tudor is it. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, either. Historically, that’s kind of what the brand has always done. These days, however, I think Tudor has what it takes to bring a little more of its own personality to the final product. Overall, that’s the real reason I’m not a huge fan of the new Black Bay GMT S&G “Root Beer”. It’s not that I’m against the concept, per se. Rather, it’s the execution that leaves me cold.
It isn’t a “Root Beer”
RJ mentioned this above, and I fully agree. This Black Bay GMT is technically not a “Root Beer.” Granted, Tudor never claimed that it was. As always, this was a nickname that the fans gave the watch. But fans did the same with the current Rolex offering, and I love the real “Root Beer” too much to let that slide. Last year, I wrote an ode to Rolex 16713 “Root Beer”, explaining my undying love for that model. To me, much of the magic of the Root Beer GMT comes from the striking combination of gold and brown.
Just as Jorg has a penchant for gold and black, the combo of gold and brown always gets my heart racing. This pairing of colors warms the depths of my soul, and that’s why I also love Day-Dates with tiger’s eye dials. I understand that this is a matter of personal taste and that to some people, it’s a “sleaze-bag” look. If you’re one of those people, my arguments won’t convince you. To me, however, nothing compares to the original “Root Beer” combination of gold and brown. As you may have noticed in the title of my article from last year, I dubbed the current Rolex 126711CHNR the “Cough Syrup”. Why did Rolex have to throw black onto the dial and bezel? For me, that ruined it in one fell swoop. To see Tudor do the exact same thing with this model left me disheartened and disappointed, to say the least. Mike had wished for a true Tudor “Root Beer” GMT this year. Shame on me for getting my hopes up as well!
Make up your mind
To be honest, I would feel less opposed to this model if Tudor had left brown off the bezel altogether. With a fully black-and-gold aesthetic, it would still have looked great, and hearkened back to certain versions of the Rolex GMT. Would it have been a “Root Beer” GMT? No. But at least people wouldn’t try to call it that either. I’m just not a fan of this noncommittal design. I understand that Tudor wanted to provide an alternative to the current Rolex “Cough Syrup”, and I’d do well to see this release as just that. In the end, though, it just feels like a missed opportunity to fill the gap that the real “Root Beer” GMT left behind.
What could make it a winner?
I know some people have beef with the 41mm case. And at 14.6mm thick, there’s plenty of “beef” to back that up. The demands for a smaller and slimmer Black Bay GMT with a rotatable bezel have resounded for years now. I’ll admit that I would also love to see this happen, but today, I’m picking my battles, and it’s down to aesthetics for me. I’m willing to let the dimensions of the current GMT slide. I just want a truer “Root Beer” with plenty of Tudor flair. I think Tudor could easily make that happen, and we needn’t look much further than the Black Bay Bronze to see how.
I’m a massive fan of the brown dial and bezel on this watch, and I’d love to see them both on a Black Bay GMT! If Tudor used this dial style in the Black Bay GMT, I think that would be a huge step in the right direction. The dégradé finish is extremely alluring, and the color suits the rich golden aesthetic to a tee. And as much as I’d like to see a half-brown/half-gold bezel, an all-brown GMT bezel would look great as well. It would remind me of the bezel of the Rolex ref. 16718, which still looks pretty awesome on a 16713.
To set this hypothetical model even further over the top, why not combine steel and bronze instead of steel and gold caps? Oris has done that with the Divers Sixty-Five, and in my opinion, it looks absolutely phenomenal. To me, there’s just something more authentic about a solid metal that’s the same color all the way through. Like RJ, I understand the gold-capping from the perspective of cost, but it just seems like another halfway decision to me. Tudor has a real opportunity to make a badass offering with a brown-dialed “Root Beer” GMT Steel & Bronze. Until that happens, I’m afraid the new Tudor “Cough Syrup” is going to be a hard pass for me.
Brandon: Is the new Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G a good alternative to the Rolex “Root Beer” GMT? For some people, maybe, but for me, heck no! Yes, the watch offers good value for what it is. But to me, Tudor’s dart has completely missed the target, ricocheted off the wall, and lodged itself in my retina. Again, I have no problem with Tudor “homaging” Rolex. But the brand could do so in a way that felt so much more inspired. I believe this offering falls short of its true potential. I’ll happily stick with my burgundy Black Bay for now.
RJ: Is it perfect? No, it’s relatively thick, and a brown dial would have been nice. But looking at the watch as such, I think it is great value for money and a good looker. The thickness of the watch, as Brandon also briefly mentioned, also has to do with the price point and overall case design of Tudor watches. If you want to produce thinner watches, you need to work with thinner movements. And making a movement thin, is exactly the thing that costs a lot of money for a brand. Taking that last millimeter off of a movement comes at an exorbitant price compared to the movement as it is. It probably would have made this Tudor much more expensive, and would you then still be interested? And let’s not forget, it’s an homage, not a copy, so I feel it is a nice alternative to the unobtainable GMT-Master in bi-color. I recently came to the conclusion that I am becoming less of a purist with certain watches. I just like a watch or I don’t, and the Black Bay GMT we have here is a watch I simply like very much despite its minor shortcomings.
But what do the Fratelli think? Vote now and comment below!