We all have an origin story when it comes to our watch collection. Mine began nearly five years ago with a watch and a brand that were never on my radar. A pending milestone in my life brought me on this journey, and like many, I went down the research rabbit hole. That is how I discovered Fratello, watch collectors, and the Tudor Black Bay Steel. This was the first watch in my collection. With the watch having been quietly discontinued, now seems an excellent time to revisit what drew me to this timepiece and how it established some criteria that I’ve used in building my collection.

I didn’t set out to be a watch collector. Five years ago, my wife and I were expecting our first child, a boy. However, my family didn’t have anything you would consider an heirloom. My grandfather has worn a Seiko Kinetic watch in titanium as far back as I can remember, but while the watch is special to me, it is not one that you would traditionally consider as significant. I wanted to start something new. After discussing it at length with my wife (this is key), we agreed that a “nice watch” would make for an excellent tradition.

What seemed like a simple idea morphed into something else entirely. Purchasing a watch to pass on to my first-born son placed a different sort of weight on this decision. It had to be a watch that would stand the test of time from both a quality and design perspective. Not just any watch would do. And so, my research began.

Rolex or Omega?

How little I knew about automatic watches became apparent early on in this journey. As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, my first knowledge of what a “nice watch” was came from James Bond. Of course, the GoldenEye 007 video game on Nintendo 64 was a staple of my formative years long before I had ever seen the film. The Seamaster Professional 300M in navy blue was an easy choice. I had loved this watch for a long time and had recently become an even bigger fan of the Bond franchise. This was a no-brainer.

A funny thing happened about halfway through my research: we decided to name our son Pierce. It was at this point that I knew a Seamaster Professional 300M in navy blue would be a bit too on the nose. The new “Commander’s Watch” limited edition had just come out as well. The striking white dial with blue bezel and red seconds hand seemed like an excellent fit, but the overt 007 branding was a bit too much for an heirloom, in my opinion. I shifted my focus to the Speedmaster and all of its variants, but these were just slightly outside of my budget at the time. Then it hit me: I needed to establish some criteria to help me decide.

Tudor Pelagos LHD

The criteria

Thematically, an heirloom should have a tie-in to the milestone that it marks. I decided that the watch I was purchasing should have been released in the year my son was born. That helped narrow the field. I was also keen to stay away from limited editions. If there was any sort of significant increase in value, this would make both myself and my son unlikely to wear it in the future. Additionally, since I would be wearing the watch until it was passed down, it had to be something I would be able to wear on a daily basis. This drew me to more tool/sports watches than anything else. I also much preferred the aesthetic of stainless steel for daily wear. However, now that titanium can be finished in a similar way, I did not rule that metal out.

These criteria (as well as price points) helped me narrow down my choices. The watches released in 2017 that were on my list included the Tudor Pelagos LHD (as I am left-handed), Tudor Black Bay Steel, Tudor Black Bay Chronograph, and the Breitling Superocean Heritage II. As luck would have it, all of these watch brands were carried at the local watch shop down the street from my office.

Tudors and Breitlings and Omegas, oh my!

The first time walking into an AD is a bit overwhelming. There are so many choices at a variety of price points. Luckily, I had narrowed my selection down. All of these models were available at the AD, as were several Rolex models. Like any good sales associate would, when I mentioned I was interested in Tudor, they also politely steered me to the Rolex case. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39mm had just come out, and several were available (with a slight discount!). These were still more than I wanted to spend, though, and given that the price point was similar to the Tudor chronograph, the OP39 didn’t make the cut.

The watches that remained in contention each had their own positive attributes. The Seamaster Professional 300M was the watch I originally thought made the most sense, but something about it in person didn’t set off fireworks for me. The flat blue dial and ceramic bezel were nice, but in real life, I felt this version just wasn’t for me. The Pelagos LHD is a great watch. I will probably own it at some point. The LHD is both what drew me to the Pelagos and relegated it to a future purchase. As an heirloom, however, it didn’t make sense to foist my left-handedness upon my son.

Classic, but modern

In the end, the Black Bay Steel spoke to me in a way the other watches simply did not. I was surprised by this, as it is the most sterile in terms of color and materials of all the watches I was considering. The case dimensions fit comfortably on my wrist despite it being a larger watch. The Oyster-style bracelet drapes beautifully over my wrist. The ceramic ball bearings in the clasp make opening and closing it addictive for me. The tactile “click” is also present in the dive bezel. The bezel action on the Black Bay line is second to none. Since then, I have also owned a Submariner, and I prefer the Tudor bezel.

I was drawn to the classic design of the watch. The snowflake hands and applied indices are reminiscent of vintage Tudor Submariners. What makes this specific design more modern is the use of steel hands and indices in place of gilt ones. While other models in this line are clearly going for the vintage look, the steel bezel and bright white lume make this a modern take on vintage design. I will also admit that the red triangle on the bezel and the red text used for the depth rating are two of my favorite details. Adding a small amount of color to an otherwise sterile design is a subtle touch that I find visually pleasing. This is also the only non-two-tone 41mm Black Bay to have a date, a function that I find rather useful.

Proud papa

Adjusting to wearing the Black Bay took some time. I was keenly aware of the watch on my wrist for the first week or so, not because of the heft, but because of the quality. I was now wearing a serious watch, a luxury timepiece, and it felt amazing on the wrist. The most enjoyable part of my new wearing experience was coming inside on a sunny day. The green glow of the lume plots upon entering the parking garage on my daily commute became a highlight (and began to feature prominently on my Instagram). Most importantly, each time I wear this watch, I think of my son. I make sure to wear it for his big life events, the first of which was his baptism. My hope is that when he looks back at photos of us, he will see the watch that eventually ends up on his wrist.

To be discontinued…

The Black Bay Steel has always been the odd duck in the Black Bay lineup. Seeing one in the case whenever I ventured down to our local AD highlighted this fact. I knew it was only a matter of time before Tudor discontinued this piece. Five years after its introduction in 2017, that happened. Tudor also did something interesting. The brand added another steel-bezel model to the Black Bay line — the new Tudor Black Bay Pro.

As the proud owner of a now-discontinued watch, I cannot help but compare it with the new model. While the case and bezel material are the same, that is where most of the similarities end. The Pro’s case is smaller at 39mm versus 41mm. The thickness is roughly the same, however, at 14.6mm. I have yet to try on the new Black Bay Pro, but I have a feeling that I will prefer how the original Black Bay Steel distributes the height over its 41mm case footprint to that of the 39mm Pro.

Tudor has tried its best to create a new version of the Rolex Explorer II 1655. In theory, this watch should be something we collectors love, but I don’t see it. Part of it has to be that I never much liked the 1655 design. The bezel seems too busy when done in all steel. I also prefer the functionality of a rotating dive bezel to that of a fixed GMT bezel. While some Tudor design cues are present, this watch feels like a Rolex homage. I am with Lex on this one.

Final thoughts

Nearly five years on, my collection has grown quite a bit, and so has my family. We have welcomed two more boys in the ensuing years, which means two more watches (maybe a topic for future articles). I have refined my criteria slightly, as it now has to be a stainless steel watch that was released in the year of my son’s birth. Looking back, do I wish I would have gone in another direction with my first addition? Not a chance!

The Black Bay Steel reminds me of a time when Tudor walked the fine line of vintage design with a modern aesthetic. This watch is my favorite modern Tudor because it is familiar, yet new. It contains the classic Tudor elements, but in a modern wrapper. The watch is timeless, but also of a time. When I inevitably pass this watch down to my son, the watch will look worn, but still attractive. Some designs stick around for a reason. I hope he wears it with the same joy that I experience knowing this watch is as old as he is. He and the watch share a birth year, and in this case, that has made all the difference.

We all have an origin story as a collector. Marking a significant milestone, receiving an heirloom from a relative, or perhaps stumbling across a Speedy Tuesday article. What is yours? Leave us a comment below about how your watch-collecting journey began!

About the author:

Michael Spencer (or Spence to many) is a husband, father, and watch collector. He came into the hobby as a way to pass along a family heirloom to his first-born son. Since that time, his passion for watches has continued to grow. An enthusiast, not an expert, Spence is a co-host of the Whiskey&Watches podcast, which serves as yet another outlet for his watch hobby. While his enthusiasm is wide, Spence’s collection and tastes tend to gravitate towards tool-oriented watches. The chronographs and dive watches in his collection come from Omega, Zenith, Seiko, Oris, and Tudor. Follow him on Instagram at @mspence127 or @whiskey.and.watches.podcast