Sunday Morning Showdown: Tudor Black Bay P01 Watch
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week, we finally pit two writers against what is possibly the inspiration for Sunday Morning Showdown — the Tudor Black Bay P01. This time, it’s personal.
Firstly, let’s cast our minds back to last week’s pummeling. There’s no other way to put it. Despite the difficulty to obtain an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202, and the eccentricity in which the brand operates. With an 80% “rate it”, the readers unanimously agree the APRO 15202 is categorically a design icon.
This week, we’re tackling one of the most controversial releases of the last few years. The Black Bay P01 was Tudor’s last hurrah at the final Baselworld fair. That’s a fact now, as the MCH Group has re-branded the event “HOURUNIVERSE”, with details to follow this month (stay tuned). To say Tudor went out with a bang with the P01 is an understatement. What would have been a divisive model at the best of times, was cast out into the world at first via grainy pirate images snapped on some idiot’s cellphone and shared with the wider community.
This is not how Tudor or any brand would choose to have a product announced. Significant effort is put into release strategies to convey a clear message. Without context, almost any new design could seem out of place. Thanks to a band of boneheads, all that work went out the window. For me, breaking an embargo is a short-term gain for long-term pain. Even if you have not signed an NDA, you should respect a brand’s release schedule. Most of the time, it is only a polite request from the brand upheld by trust, rather than signatures in blood.
But now we’ve all had a bit of time to calm down from the initial shock of the P01’s bizarre appearance, it’s time for two of our writers to debate its merits and demerits before passing on the final word to the Fratelli.
Suffice to say, seeing the watch up close saw my opinion change immediately. It is a little clichéd to say, but in this case, it was accurate. If you are new to the watch world, firstly, welcome — we are glad to have you. Secondly, the Black P01 was contentious last year for a few reasons…
The P01 was based on a prototype designed by Tudor for the US Navy in the ‘60s under the code name “Project Commando”. As such, the case bulked up to holster some unique elements. Depressing the far side tab at 12 o’clock releases the bi-directional 12-hour bezel. Once the bezel is set to the desired hour, pressing the near-side of the tab locks it in place. The interlocking teeth added security during strenuous activities undertaken by US Navy divers. Well, at this point, I should say would have undertaken. As the original never made it past the prototype stage. Partly due to the complexity requiring specialist repair jobs.
From prototype to production
The P01 prototype was an interesting animal. Thankfully, Tudor has retained the unusual bezel locking mechanism and the articulated lugs from the prototype. Those articled additions may look a bit unnecessary or cumbersome, but they do serve a purpose. They make a large watch more wearable, even if, on paper, they extend its length to mind-blowing proportions…
Lug-to-lug dimensions are 55.6mm for the fixed lugs, and with the articulated links laying flat, the lug to lug is 77.5mm
Without the articulation, the lug-to-lug length is a considerable 55.6mm. With the lug extensions laying flat, it is an astonishing 77.5mm. Surprisingly, it was this very unorthodox lug design that changed my opinion. In all the leaked shots, the watch was resting on a stand. The watch looked as long as a train carriage. And although it didn’t sit so well on my wrist, when my friend Simeon strapped on the P01, it all clicked. The lugs contoured to his wrist perfectly. He had smaller wrists than me, but the P01 was in the sweet spot of wrist shape and size — a watch he now owns. That is ultimately what makes the P01 so polarizing. It is specifically not for everyone. And I like that.
Over time, my appreciation of the P01 has grown even stronger thanks to the pro-aging work done by Phil Toledano. On his Instagram feed, Phil took us on the journey of accelerating patina to his P01 via various means. The case underwent deliberate denting, scratching, and the dial and lume went through some form of tea-staining. A personal touch was an engraving of his father’s service number on the case-back and the distressed strap.
Shielding the crown
Another point of contention was the placement of the crown. A lot of comparisons from the community were made to Seiko dive watches with a similar 4 o’clock position. Seiko was using the comparable crown position around the same time in the early ’60s with the Silver Wave. For your reference, Fratello recently made a history of Seiko divers up to the ‘80s that you can watch here. To me, those complaints hold no water. Tudor simply reproduces the crown position and prominent crown guards of the prototype for the P01.
Possibly what tipped enthusiasts over the edge was the build-up to the unveiling. Many assumed the macro shots of the indices hinted at the return of the Tudor Submariner. That one is on you, dear watch fans. However you interpret teaser images, even en masse, is still speculation and Tudor should not succumb to those expectations.
Mike, you have made it blindingly obvious that the Black Bay P01 is not to your liking. You’re not alone in this, but I’d like to hear what you have to say.
Ben, I know your watch tastes, and I have to say that we agree on most things. Sadly, the Black Bay P01 is not one of them. To say that I find this watch ridiculous at best would be an understatement. I was at Baselworld in 2019 and even attended the Tudor press event. As you mentioned above, I had seen the snippet pictures on the Tudor Instagram feed and was hopeful for some sort of retro Submariner reissue. Of course, that would have been weird in light of the Black Bay, but whatever. Unfortunately, what we got was a massive — and I mean massive — dose of whatever.
…a steel mill’s worth of metal
As the room sat with mouths agape listening to the typical PR spiel, the Black Bay P01 stared back at us. Afterward, we got up and tried on the novelties. On my wrist, it looked like some sort of ridiculous implement that would’ve been right at home on the set of Fifty Shades of Gray. I mean, I looked at this amazing dial surrounded by a steel mill’s worth of metal. Exactly which micro-demographic was Tudor aiming for with such a crazy watch? I’m not sure we’ll ever know because I can only identify one watch friend who bought one.
Now, when it comes to consumer products, I will tell you that I like a good passion project. And with the Tudor Black Bay P01, the only real admiration I have for this hunk of horology is simply for the fact that it exists. It’s such an odd piece that it makes me think that it must be the result of something like a lost bet. I could envision two employees with decision making power betting whether the schnitzel at Kronenhalle costs 50 or 60 Swiss Francs (ohne Beilage), with the winner somehow landing one carte blanche production slot.
Ben, I like creativity, but the Tudor P01 looks like a limited edition freakshow. Oh, and I’d wager that a microbrand would make it. It’s just so odd, so unusable, and unwearable that it still baffles me that Tudor is somehow behind it.
…thankfully, this government agency made a sensible decision
The other thing I don’t get is that this watch was created for US Navy divers. If it had been commissioned — thankfully, this government agency made a sensible decision — this watch wouldn’t have shown up in officer’s clubs. This would have been a hardcore diver. But now? It comes on leather, and that seems pretty far away from its intended roots. That leather is rubber lined, and it looks ok, but it tells us that Tudor sees the Black Bay P01 as more of a fashion piece.
In the end, I still go back to the case that the Black Bay P01 is such a wild card that it still astounds me. As a limited edition, I think it would’ve been taken far differently. As it stands, I can’t help but wonder precisely how much of the heavy metal Tudor is able to move.
Ben: I am glad you made mention of the strap. I was also surprised this was the only strap pairing to the P01 — particularly when displayed alongside the original prototype with the far more practical full rubber band. This hybrid strap uses rubber as the base and leather for the outer surface. We’ve seen these types of straps at Hublot and Zenith. But this was another first for Tudor on the P01.
The strap is water resistant to a point, but continuous diving may deteriorate the leather coating.
I can see your point about the overall package better suited to terra firma than the great abyss. The strap is water-resistant to a point, but continuous diving may deteriorate the leather coating. Once gone, an entire replacement strap would be needed. But as the P01 has a standard 20mm lug width, many aftermarket two-piece options in various materials are available to connect to the articulated lugs. So at least the choice is there.
That’s not to say the P01 is not without utilitarian elements. The 42mm case is entirely satin-brushed stainless steel to reduce glare. It reminds me of certain #SpeedyTuesday watch that was based on the Alaska project to follow the same premise. After the initial showing, the P01 could have sunk or swum. And Tudor took a long time to deliver to customers. But the wait was worth it, as the satisfying actuation of the bezel lock and clicks gave credence to the eccentric design.
Keeping some restraint is the standard Black Bay Date dial. Possibly the only feature that brings home that the P01 is still, in fact, a Black Bay. Did the P01 need to be part of the ever-expanding Black Bay family? Perhaps. But in a parallel universe, I could see the P01 being a limited edition with a rubber strap and called the “Tudor Commando”. And in that universe, “Stike Mockton” is a huge fan.
But what do you think? Do you revere or revile the Tudor Black Bay P01? Let us know in the voting and comments section below.