Two For Tuesday: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Versus Rolex Submariner
It’s time for Two for Tuesday where we consider a pair of watches that just might make it to your shopping list. Today, we look at a couple of standards. The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight takes on the Rolex Submariner.
Steel, no date, automatic, and with a durable bracelet — these are attributes that many of us enjoy on a dive watch. Plenty of brands offer a diver with these characteristics, but there’s one true king of the genre. The Rolex Submariner sits at the top of the food chain and it does so for a lot of reasons that we will cover below. With go anywhere good looks, fantatsic build quality, and a reputation for holding or growing value, it’s hard not to like this watch. The problem, of course, is availability. Enter the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, a watch from the Rolex family at a more approachable price that’s much easier to find. Is it worth your consideration as a substitute or is it simply a stopgap until you can find the “real thing?” We’ll break down both of these no date version in steel and then you’ll have your say.
The Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner was introduced back in 1954. Since that time, things have changed, but pick up a Sub from any era and the family resemblance is clearly there. Big black bezel, black dial with big lumed indices, and that Mercedes hour hand: these are the tell tale signs of the famous diver of them all. Therefore, when Rolex decided to update the entire lineup during September, 2020, things changed, but in a very minor way.
The brand new Rolex Submariner 124060 saw a case size increase from 40mm to 41mm, some needed updates to its case, and a movement upgrade. Originally, the 41mm diameter caused concern amongst the cognoscenti, but the reality is that the watch seems to have a similar footprint as its predecessor. Rolex did increase the lug width by 1mm up to 21mm and that does give the watch a larger “look.” Despite all these size changes, the watch is only 12mm thick. The movement changed to the caliber 3230 and that means 70 hours of power reserve and +/- 2 seconds of daily accuracy. Water resistance remains at 300 meters and the watch comes equipped with the Oysterlock bracelet with Glidelock system. Pricing continues its slow climb and now sits at a rather heady $8,100.
Hard to deny…
It’s seriously hard to deny the classic good looks of a Rolex Submariner. I know that scores of copycat watches exist and this has led to enui from some. Still, the styling is classic here that the watch continues to transcend categorization. It can be worn anywhere with anything. Plus, it will look good in 10, 20, or 30 years. Plus, Rolex added some nice technical improvements within the past year. It’s also the watch people think of when they hit a milestone in life. Whether it’s a special birthday or a promotion, the Submariner is the top celebratory choice. That leads me to a bit of criticism.
The Submariner plays hard to get and getting pricey
I’d never dissuade anyone from buying a Rolex Submariner. It’s a fantastic choice for all the reasons I mention above. Heck, when I bought my Submariner 14060M back in 2011, it felt like a real accomplishment. I still look down at it and it brings me great satisfaction. However, a real difference versus today is that my watch was readily available and it was 25%(!!!!) less expensive! It’s been decades since the Submariner was a true tool watch, but these latest pieces are true luxury items. Regarding availability, I don’t expect Rolex to flood the market with Submariner watches. However, the current steel sports Rolex hoarding and flipping craze even has this watch on the impossible to find list. While many liked this watch in the past, most preferred the Date version. Now, it seems that speculators gobble up anything in steel and because of this, prices are north of $12,000 on the market. So, if you want to stay in the Rolex family, what do you do?
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight made its way to Baselworld in 2018. The result was near unanimous praise and a watch that, in my view, is still easily the best model the brand offers. The Black Bay line contains a lot of watches in all sorts of materials, sizes, and complications. Prior to the Fifty-Eight, though, all the dive models had one trait in common; they were thick! The Fifty-Eight changed all that.
The first model came with a black dial, aged lume, and looks very similar to the original Tudor Submariner from back in 1954. The diver comes with a 39mm case and has just 11.9mm of thickness. It does have a screw down crown, but loses 100 meters of water resistance to the Rolex. Still, 200 meters is more than enough for 99.9% of wearers. Versus older Tudor models with third party movements, the Fifty-Eight has an in-house MT5402 automatic complete with chronometer certification and 70 hours of power reserve. To keep things affordable, Tudor uses an aluminum bezel in lieu of ceramic on the Sub.
Whereas the Rolex Submariner comes in any color you like as long as it’s black, Tudor offers choice. Last year, Tudor caused a minor internet meltdown when it released a blue version of the Fifty-Eight (on strap above). The model is identical to the black version, but lacks any aged lume. Finally, after over a year, these models are becoming easier to source. The great thing about the Fifty-Eight, in addition to availability, is the pricing. These models retail for $3,700 on bracelet and that makes them a relative bargain.
What I’ve always liked about the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is that it feels like an earlier Submariner. What I mean by that is that it’s lightweight and feels agile if that makes any sense. It’s a lot like putting on my Submariner 14060M. As far as demerits, there are very few. I don’t love the riveted Oyster bracelet because I think it looks a little kitschy. I am ok with the no crown guard look, but the space between the crown and case has always struck me as a bit odd. However, it has become a hallmark of the Black Bay dive lineup. Finally, I think most would love to see a basic black model with white lume, but it seems that Rolex avoids this on purpose.
In my view, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight is now more in keeping with the original premise of the Rolex Submariner. Essentially, it’s a no nonsense (aside from some decidedly retro touches) dive watch with good specs and an approachable price tag to boot. It has become a bona fide option for a great everyday watch that looks good in a variety of situations. The Rolex Submariner, on the other hand, brings high end finishing, great specs, and a high price tag to boot. It’s impossible to find and occupies a space with other high fashion brands more often than not. Sure, it can still perform if it needs to underwater or during fishing outings. However, it has reached such a level of exclusivity that most would probably throw on a less expensive watch for such activities. That’s a shame, but we are where we are.
You can vote for either watch for any reason you’d like. It could be price, availability, or aesthetics. I’d also ask you to consider whether the Fifty-Eight is a good substitute for the Submariner or if you’d be left wanting. Or, is the Tudor the “new” Rolex when it come to getting a high quality mechanical tool watch for whatever life throws your way? Cast your vote and let us know why you chose what you chose!