You could very well say that the Rolex Submariner is the ultimate dive watch. You could maybe even say it’s the ultimate watch, period. But because it’s so famous and popular, many other brands try to challenge it for what it is. Even Tudor, Rolex’s very own sister company, tries to take a piece of the dive-watch pie with the Black Bay. In this week’s Sunday Morning Showdown, RJ and I are going to see whether that Tudor Black Bay stands any chance against the Rolex Submariner.

In the long history of the Sunday Morning Showdown, we’ve only featured the Rolex Submariner once before. That was in August of 2020 when Ben defended the Omega Seamaster 300M and Jorg had the honor of defending the Sub. They’ve been in a 50/50 arm wrestle ever since. We’re very curious to see what will happen today. Will the Rolex Submariner finally take home its very first victory? Or will it have to accept its first-ever loss? Let’s find out, right after we take a look at what happened last week.

Robert Redford wearing the SKX009 in All Is Lost

Classic Seiko vs. Modern Seiko

That was a battle between Thomas’s all-time classic Seiko SKX009 and my (Daan’s) newer Seiko SPB317. In a way, it stood for the old against the new Seiko. And just like the battle I mentioned above, the votes for these two watches have also reached a steady 50/50 draw. A lot of people think the modern Seikos will never even come close to the legendary status of the SKX. Others feel that the modern Seiko divers are simply better watches and therefore deserve to win. If you feel like you can still make a difference in this battle, head on over and cast your vote. But make sure to come back because we’re about to get this week’s edition of Sunday Morning Showdown started!

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

Daan: Tudor Black Bay

That’s right, I’m the guy that used to own a Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight in blue and sold it. However, I still think I can build a strong case for why it’s the watch to get instead of the Rolex Submariner. First of all, let’s talk about price. I wanted to save this one for last, but it’s the very obvious elephant in the room, so why not just get on with it, right? Back when watches were still somewhat affordable, buying a Submariner might have been a fairly sensible thing to do. But now that the list price for a Submariner Date has officially passed the €10K mark (€10,250), I think it’s safe to say that it has become too expensive for what it is. And I haven’t even mentioned prices on the pre-owned market yet.

Rolex has made selling steel sports watches for the highest possible price into a true art form. Of course, this is easier with the prices on the pre-owned market, which Rolex would like to now have a piece as well. But when is this going to stop? And how is Rolex able to continue to justify the price? I know a Rolex timepiece is so much more than just a watch. It’s a status symbol. But soon it’ll only be — or maybe it already is — the status symbol of the rich and famous. Tudor, on the other hand, tries to offer near-Rolex quality at a much more affordable price point. You could even go as far as to say that Tudor has become the brand for the true watch enthusiast.


Spot the Tudor, spot the enthusiast

Whenever I see a Tudor Black Bay on someone’s wrist, I know that the wearer knows about watches. On the other hand, anyone with enough money could wear a Submariner, even someone who’s not into watches at all. But Tudor really has a hold of the aficionados. These are people who know exactly what they are buying, namely, a high-quality stainless steel dive watch with a very capable movement at a compelling price. And I know that no one buys a watch in a 100% rational way. But at the end of the day, you also want to save some money to buy other watches, right?

Tudor Black Bay

Tudor Heritage Black Bay ref. 79220R — Image: Xupes

You can actually buy one

And that brings me to the second reason why the Tudor Black Bay is the better option, and that’s simply because it’s available. It’s true that every time a new Tudor watch is presented, people line up to get their hands on one. That might cause a fairly short waiting period in those first months after launch. But after some time, usually, the watches are readily available in store to both try and buy. Well, that’s certainly not the case when it comes to the Rolex Submariner.

You can only get your hands on a Submariner when an authorized dealer grants you permission to buy one. And to earn that permission in a reasonable amount of time, you either need to have a long history with that AD or be some blockbuster superstar. Forget about it if you’re just a normal individual like you and me unless you’re prepared to wait for years, potentially in vain. And even though I feel that exclusivity adds some kind of glamour, I prefer not to have to play games in order to spend my money.

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

Rolex chooses for you, but Tudor gives you options

Furthermore, when I do decide to buy a watch, I like to have some options to choose from. The current stainless steel Rolex Submariner lineup only consists of three. There is one without a date, a black dial, and a black ceramic bezel, and then there are two options with a date, a black dial, and a black or a green ceramic bezel. I know Rolex is trying to maintain the status of an all-time classic icon here. Still, I’d prefer to have some additional choices.

For starters, Tudor offers you the choice between a 39mm or a 41mm case size, whereas Rolex only offers you a 41mm case. Then, regarding the colors, Tudor lets you choose between black/black/gilt, black/red/gilt, and black/blue/silver for the 41mm Black Bay. And then there’s a black/black/gilt and a blue/blue/silver option for the 39mm Black Bay Fifty-Eight. Admittedly, there is no option to add a date on the stainless steel Black Bays, but who needs a date to clutter up that beautiful dial anyway?

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Blue

Too shiny and bold vs. elegantly modest

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the looks. This, of course, is both very personal and subjective, but I just think the current Rolex Submariner looks a bit too shiny and graceless. That flashy ceramic bezel and the straight, hard lines along its case don’t even come close to the modest aluminum bezel and elegant curves of the Tudor Black Bay. The Sub really looks like a watch that wants to be seen. The Black Bay, on the other hand, looks like a watch that I want to be seen with. And with that, I’d like to conclude my plea. Let’s see what you got, RJ!

RJ: Rolex Submariner

I read that Daan gives a lot of reasons why to buy a Tudor Black Bay over a Rolex Submariner, but not many of them are about the watch itself. The lack of availability, the price, the fact that it’s often worn by people who don’t care about watches (do they need to care?), etc… Yes, all of these are partially true. But simply focusing on the watch, I only need to show you the Submariner and Black Bay side by side, and you will immediately understand why the Rolex is a classic and the Tudor isn’t. Especially when we show the watches from the side, the 41mm Black Bay is THICK (15mm versus the Submariner’s 12.5mm).

Rolex Submariner 126618LB

And believe me, I don’t mind a thick watch (hence the Ploprof on my wrist every summer), but the Black Bay is just out of proportion compared to the Submariner. And I get it; developing a watch that needs to have water resistance and shock resistance while — here comes the kicker — being somewhat affordable comes at the cost of things like thickness. The Rolex Submariner doesn’t suffer from this. It’s very comfortable to wear and also ticks all the boxes when it comes to specifications.

Quality, quality, quality

The first thing you will notice when you put on the Rolex Submariner is the quality that is present in every bit of the watch. Whether it’s the wearing comfort, the finishing of the case and bracelet, or the hands and applied indices, everything is just perfect. And I haven’t even talked about the movement yet. Inside is either the Rolex caliber 3235 (date) or the caliber 3230 (no date). These are in-house movements with a 70-hour power reserve and a guaranteed accuracy of ±2 seconds per day on average. Furthermore, these latest Rolex movements have paramagnetic hairsprings and high-performance shock absorbers. Tudor’s movements aren’t bad either, and they are developed by Kenissi (owned by Tudor, Breitling, and Chanel). But Rolex and Tudor do not share much more than some non-production-related departments today, so don’t be fooled by a salesperson telling you that Tudor is an entry-level Rolex. It’s simply a different brand and product.

The real treat with (any) Rolex is in the bracelet. These are incredibly comfortable and easy to adjust using the Glidelock extension system. Whether you pick the President, Jubilee, or Oyster bracelet, they’re all hard to beat. Only a few other bracelets even come close to the Rolex ones.

Enough variety

The Tudor Black Bay might offer more variety, but the Rolex Submariner is just good as it is. We can have lengthy debates about why you’d want a vintage one or one with an aluminum bezel, but every new Rolex Submariner iteration is a technically better watch than its predecessor. Rolex changes and updates slowly but does so with a lot of thought. And besides the regular black Submariners in steel, there’s the version with a green ceramic bezel. There are also models in gold and steel with black or blue dials, as well as full yellow/white gold Submariners with blue ceramic bezels and black or blue dials.


The Rolex Submariner is a true icon

I don’t like the overuse of terms like “icon” or “cult watch,” but if there’s one watch that definitely deserves this definition, it’s the Rolex Submariner. And yes, it is hard to get (but not impossible), Rolex lacks proper distribution, and dealing with authorized dealers can be a nightmare (asking you to buy some other watches before you are even allowed to be on a waitlist), but that’s not the fault of the watch itself. It’s a great watch, it’s just that people get nasty when money is involved.

Rolex Submariner 5513 Maxi Dial 4

A Submariner 5513 on the left, and its cousin, the Sea-Dweller 1665.

Aesthetically, the Submariner hasn’t changed much over the decades. It has become a bit bulkier, a bit shinier, and it now uses ceramic, but it is unmistakably related to those very first Submariners from 70 years ago. If you’re not a fan of the current generation, you can also look at models from the past (like I did). There’s enough to choose from.

Cast your votes!

Let us know which watch you like better — the undisputed king of diver’s watches or the very successful and more affordable alternative from the Rolex sister brand. Cast your vote for the Rolex Submariner or the Tudor Black Bay below!

Tudor Black Bay vs. Rolex Submariner