I have spent close to a month with Tudor’s Black Bay ref. M7941A1A0NU-0003, which some are calling the Black Bay “Monochrome.” These are my thoughts on why it is the brand’s most significant release in a decade.

Autumn in Sydney usually presents itself in one of two ways. One way greets you on the horizon, demanding your attention and awe. You watch as monolithic, anvil-shaped storm clouds herald ocean storms with the ability to cause instant flooding. Windows groan and flex from the southerly buster winds, and you wonder how your humble abode can survive the pummeling. Sydney faced a few weeks of this treatment recently, and, boy, at times, it was ferocious — perhaps not for a 200m-depth-rated Tudor Black Bay but certainly too ferocious for me.

Using the new Black Bay underwater 

Thankfully, the other way redeems the drawn-out moments of soaked boredom with beautiful, high-contrast sunny days, crisp ocean air, and the promise of calm seas. This is when you can hear some of the local bird life busy battling for territory in the skies above. The screech of large black cockatoos is offset by the percussive rhythm of lorikeets. Then, there’s the drawl of the Australian crow. It’s during these periods of calm weather that the skin-diving conditions are ideal. Luckily, Tudor had provided me with the new Black Bay for a hands-on review, which allowed me to make the most of the clear skies and ocean.

Before I get to that, it will be helpful and instructive to provide a little context for this particular Black Bay and why it’s such a significant design in Tudor’s lineup.

Tudor’s coming of age 

Tudor is an interesting brand. The shield of Rolex has managed to rebound with enormous vigor since a period of relative dormancy in the 2000s. In just over 10 years, the brand has gone from the wilderness to one of the big players. The establishment of the Kenissi caliber manufacturer, heavy investment into a new production facility, and a steady release of value-focused products have breathed fresh life into Tudor.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003

It helps that Tudor is backed by the horological Goliath that is Rolex. But that doesn’t fully explain the brand’s success because it was also a matter of timing. Tudor’s resuscitation coincided with a cultural shift to focusing on vintage watch designs and a greater interest in the hobby overall. The original Black Bay from 2012, a commercial success, is surely the most significant model Tudor ever released. In the 20th century, Tudor offered more affordable versions of watches in the Rolex lineup, including Oysters and Submariners, as well as a few designs of its own. But it is the Black Bay that surely propelled Tudor onto the path to maturity. Well, folks, that maturity is here. It’s no pimple-scored ugly duckling.

A mix of shapes 

The new Master Chronometer-certified Black Bay, to me, represents Tudor’s coming of age. What a way to announce it. Now, before going into the Black Bay, I would like to address a couple of the consistent critiques I see come up when we discuss the Tudor Black Bay line. Please bear with me. People have criticized the Tudor Black Bay for being a hybrid of designs. There’s the dial layout of a Rolex Submariner, with its mix of circle and rectangle markers, mixed with the block “snowflake” handset of a Tudor Submariner. There are a lot of shapes, to be sure. Yet the design of the Black Bay actually closely resembles a Tudor Submariner produced in the 1970s.

Ross Povey, the man behind the Tudor Collector site, tracked down an original Tudor advertisement that shows the use of the Rolex Submariner-style dial with the snowflake handset. This was a rare variant, and not many have popped up in the wild. But it does show that there was a precedent for this combination. I hope this puts to rest the notion that this dial and handset design was a new creation in 2012. It was not.

Image: Major D.E.L. Homard

“Poor man’s Rolex”

Collectors and enthusiasts have long cast aspersions on Tudor for being the “poor man’s Rolex”. I’ve always scratched my head at this criticism. I would much rather be associated with the working man’s object. Levi’s jeans, for example, built their success on being the working man’s pants. The association with hard work and durability turned Levi’s jeans into a fashion icon. If you are into cars, then you will know the same is true for early Land Rovers and Toyota Landcruisers.

Image: Major D.E.L. Homard

Tudor watches of the 20th century provided Rolex’s bulletproof designs and incorporated tough and easily serviceable third-party movements from ETA and A. Schild, among others. This served them well in the frozen landscape during the North Greenland Expedition and on the wrists of soldiers, divers, and specialists in the Marine Nationale, US Navy, South African Armed Forces, and many others. The fact that Tudor was a more affordable, working-class version of Rolex in the golden era of 20th-century Swiss watchmaking is a boon. Being associated with this context by wearing the brand’s watches is something I wouldn’t mind at all.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003

The Black Bay line 

When Tudor first released the Black Bay 79220R in 2012, it was a watch with a burgundy bezel, the old Tudor rose logo, and “smiley” text indicating an automatic movement. It also had plenty of gold-tone accents (something the brand seems to remain fond of). The watch debuted with a modified ETA 2824-2 movement, though it went on to incorporate Kenissi MT movements from 2016 onward. With this change, the Black Bay lost its Tudor rose logo and smiley text. This makes those MK I Black Bays modern-day collector items. By the way, Tudor’s original revamped take on the Ranger also had this characterful smiley text and the Tudor rose.

But there were elements to the initial Black Bays’ design that, to me, seemed a little off. First, a colored metal spacer between the crown and the case would be used in many Black Bays (though it is now absent from the latest version). Second, the use of smooth bezel teeth made it difficult to grip and use the bezel with any moisture thrown in, like during swimming or diving. This problem carried over to the Black Bay 58, which I own, and it’s probably my biggest problem with the watch since it’s a functional issue. Third, the crown was serrated so finely that it was quite smooth and a bit slippery to operate (again, an issue that carried over to the Black Bay 58). Other issues were present too, such as the lack of on-the-fly micro-adjustment in Tudor’s clasps.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003

The newest Tudor Black Bay

The latest version of the Black Bay essentially unpacks every issue with the previous ones and solves them with design tweaks. This is an evolutionary design process in motion. The Rolex Submariner is a horological example of taking such a design process and applying it to seven decades of technological advancement. Tudor’s decision to release this new Black Bay reveals an intention to do the same. At a philosophical level, this is why I think it’s such a significant timepiece for Tudor.

What Tudor offers here is an updated bezel with larger teeth and a 0.5mm overhang, making it significantly easier to use. The watch also boasts a grippier crown, a thinner case profile, and an improved, easily micro-adjustable clasp. Additionally, this METAS-certified Master Chronometer houses a more rigorously tested and better-regulated MT5602-U caliber, accurate to 0/+5 seconds per day and antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss. The fact that Tudor implemented all of these changes simultaneously last year was huge. But now that the Black Bay has a fauxtina-free, classic black-and-white dial, every change shows that Tudor has improvement, not the fashion of the times, in mind.

An aquatic outing 

At a practical level, I think this new Black Bay is significant because it improves on almost all of the ergonomic shortcomings of the previous generations. These evolutionary tweaks make a big difference underwater. The bezel, in particular, is where I noticed the largest improvement over my Black Bay 58, which has a smoother coin-edged bezel design. The slightly toothier bezel on the new Black Bay is very easy to grip, whereas I find my hands can slip when adjusting the Black Bay 58.

The lollipop seconds hand is perhaps less identifiable as a shape underwater. This is because it now competes with the round hour markers. The Black Bay 58’s seconds hand has a diamond-shaped lume plot, which I find easier to distinguish in a rough-and-tumble underwater environment. The new hand does hark back to the earliest Tudor Submariners and matches the hour markers aesthetically, so I can see why Tudor’s designers decided to adopt it. Thankfully, the minute hand and bezel are more useful in swimming or skin-diving applications anyway.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003

Improved bracelet, bezel, and crown ergonomics

Back out of the water, we can examine some of the watch’s other elements more closely. First, I hope you can see in the image gallery below how the bezel subtly overhangs the case. Also illustrated, I hope, is the beefier crown design. The bracelet — in this case, Tudor’s relatively new five-row option — flows very nicely. On one hand, it feels lighter than the Oyster-style bracelet, making the watch feel a little top-heavy in comparison. On the other hand, the clasp is much improved. The adjustment system is easy to use, and the clasp isn’t too long, even for my small 15.25cm (6″) wrist. The 13.6mm case thickness is reasonable, though I prefer the thinner Black Bay 58 in this regard (12mm or 11.9mm depending on who you ask). Still, it’s a far cry better than the 14.8mm thickness of the 2016 model.

The five-row bracelet uses alternating brushed and polished components in its design. No doubt, this is a flashier option than the Oyster. I prefer the look and build of the latter, but the technical elements of this Jubilee-style bracelet are impressive. It may indeed be a little more comfortable too, especially on hotter days. The Tudor shield serves as the opening of the clasp, which is a nice touch. One thing that has proven difficult to capture is the very subtle sunray finish on the dial. Yes, sunray! This provides a playful touch to what is, in many ways, a rather somber watch.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003 wrist shot

A second opinion

This new Tudor Black Bay does not attract as much attention as other watches do. I love it for that. I also asked my father to look it over closely. Since he used to own a few Rolex watches, I was curious to get his impressions. He noted — and this stuck with me — that the Tudor Black Bay is one of those rare watches you keep finding opportunities to look at “in an almost addictive way.” The inky black of the dial and the overall balance of design elements and materials are a bit of a marvel.

My father added, “I much prefer the matte stainless steel to the polished Rolex ‘Oystersteel,’ which is a bit of a pain because, if you’re at all active, it scratches so easily. I think this is a real game changer.” I agree that many Rolex watches are starting to feel a little too blingy for hard use these days.

Tudor Black Bay "Monochrome" M7941A1A0NU-0003

Closing thoughts

This new Tudor Black Bay “Monochrome” wears very well. Objectively, it is a better watch than my blue Black Bay 58. The clasp, bezel, and crown are ergonomically superior. I would love to switch out the bezel on my Black Bay 58 for a navy version of the new, grippier bezel on this larger Black Bay. The movement has also gone through a more rigorous testing regime. Nevertheless, I have already created too many memories with my Black Bay 58, and I find that its shorter lug-to-lug wears better on my wrist. Ultimately, this new Black Bay will always face competition from the numerous other Black Bay models.

But while there are many, many Black Bays, this is the Black Bay. Its small but significant changes and monochromatic design (we will never get bored of a “boring” watch) mark a cornerstone moment for Tudor. The brand seems to be going from strength to strength. Price increases across the board are an issue in the watch industry, but the brand continues to offer high-quality watches at prices within grasp. Now we must seriously ask ourselves, “Is the Rolex Submariner worth the price difference?”

What do you think? Is this new Black Bay Tudor’s most significant release in the last decade? Let me know in the comments.

Watch specifications

Black Bay
Black with subtle sunburst finish and applied luminous applied indices
Case Material
Stainless steel with aluminum bezel insert
Case Dimensions
41mm (diameter) × 50mm (lug-to-lug) × 13.6mm (thickness)
Domed sapphire
Case Back
Stainless steel, screw-in
Tudor MT5602-U: automatic with manual winding, 28,800vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve, 25 jewels, Master Chronometer certified, accurate to 0/+5 seconds per day, antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss
Water Resistance
Stainless steel five-row bracelet (21/16mm) with micro-adjustable T-fit clasp
Time (hours, minutes, seconds) and 60-minute dive bezel