The Tudor Black Bay took watch fandom by storm when it hit the market in 2012 and the sporty, vintage-inspired divers' watch has since grown into an extensive family with something for just about everyone, now boasting in-house calibers, multiple styles and sizes, and even some precious metals and complications. In this comprehensive guide we explore the origins of the Tudor Black Bay and showcase the standout models you can buy right now.
FOUNDATIONS OF TUDOR
With an eye toward making watches that would be affordable while still maintaining a high level of quality, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf registered the Tudor brand trademark in 1926, and began running the Tudor company as a subsidiary brand of Rolex in 1946. Tudor watches were the only watches on the market at the time that featured reliable third-party movements inside the famed waterproof Rolex Oyster case, also developed in 1926, and were initially more geared toward the tool watch market than were Rolex timepieces, which already enjoyed a reputation as luxury items. The first Tudor watch with the “Oyster” name followed shortly after the launch of the brand, in 1947, kicking off a long tradition of timepieces suitable for underwater adventure. The first Tudor Prince model followed in 1952, around the same time that Tudor began an R&D partnership with the French Navy (Marine Nationale), from which would emerge the brand’s first dive watch.
THE OYSTER PRINCE SUBMARINER
The Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner, Tudor’s first dedicated divers’ watch, surfaced in 1954, one year after the debut of big brother Rolex’s own diving model, also called the Submariner, as well as another historically significant dive watch, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms. The first Tudor Submariner (Ref. 7922) used the same familiar “Mercedes” handset found on many Rolex models and was water-resistant to 100 meters; its successor in 1958, Ref. 7924, upped this rating to 200 meters, which is still the standard for Tudor dive watches today, and was nicknamed the “Big Crown,” as it was the first Tudor Submariner with an enlarged 8mm winding crown (from the previous 5mm). The watch underwent a series of mostly small evolutions in subsequent years, chiefly in details like the crown guards and dial verbiage, before its most substantial redesign in 1969. That’s the year the now-famous Ref. 7016, nicknamed “Snowflake” after its distinctive square-themed hands and markers, made its debut, remaining in Tudor’s catalog until the early 1980s and providing the template for the next decade’s worth of Submariners. Each of these landmark models would lend an element of inspiration to the Tudor Black Bay.
BUILDING THE BLACK BAY DNA
The Black Bay collection, initially dubbed the Heritage Black Bay, debuted in 2012 with the attention-grabbing Ref. 79220R (above) — a watch that played a huge role in Tudor stepping out from under Rolex’s substantial shadow to establish an impressive identity all its own. The watch, whose burgundy-colored divers’ bezel was a bold choice at the time, provided the foundation for all Black Bay models that followed and it did so by deftly combining a mishmash of elements from several earlier Tudor dive watches. The so-called “snowflake” hour hand that is so emblematic now to the Black Bay family was drawn from the Submariner Ref. 7016 from 1969. (The oddly shaped hour hand was apparently a concession to legibility: one of Tudor’s main clients for its Submariner was the French Navy, whose divers found two distinctly different hands to be beneficial in reading the time underwater.) The large screw-down crown, with engraved Tudor rose emblem, was introduced on the 1958 "Big Crown" model. The geometrical hour markers — round dots and rectangles, with a dominant inverted triangle at 12 o’clock — are derived from Tudor Submariners on the market in the ‘60s and ‘70s, as is the subtly domed shape of both the dial and the sapphire crystal.
So successful was this vintage-inspired timepiece that it copped the prize for best “Revival” at the following year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. And as one would expect, subsequent years would see the growth of the Black Bay into a full collection, beginning with the next year’s model, Ref. 79220B (above), whose dark blue bezel replaced the burgundy one of its predecessor and brought the Black Bay closer to its maritime roots; and another version with a black bezel. The success of both meant that the floodgates were officially open for more versions, in different case materials, sizes, straps, dial colorways, and eventually even complications. The only missing piece — outfitting them with an in-house movement — would fall into place shortly thereafter.
IN-HOUSE CALIBERS & VINTAGE BRACELETS
As the more affordable alternative to Rolex, Tudor had long installed off-the-rack ETA calibers in its Oyster cases, even when Rolex itself had shifted nearly all of its movement production in-house. In its first few years of existence, the Tudor Black Bay was powered by the ETA 2824, a workhorse automatic movement with a 28,800-vph frequency and a somewhat pedestrian 38-hour power reserve. Tudor’s modern forging of an independent brand identity, which began in earnest with its return to the U.S. market in 2013 after nearly a decade’s hiatus, took its most significant step in 2015 with the launch of the first-ever Tudor manufacture movement, Caliber MT5621. The movement, which made its debut inside the now-discontinued North Flag watch, was significant in several respects, including its 70-hour power reserve, its silicon balance spring held in place by a traversing bridge, and its COSC chronometer-certified timekeeping accuracy. The MT5621 (“MT,” as one might expect, denotes “Manufacture Tudor”) and its offspring (the MT5612, MT5601, MT5602, et cetera) now find homes in numerous Tudor watch models, including nearly every version of the Black Bay.
Elements from Tudor's decades-long dive-watch history can also still be found in the bracelets and straps of the Black Bay, which are anything but off-the-rack. The design of the steel bracelets comes directly from those used on Tudor watches produced in the 1950s and 1960s, notable for the visible rivet heads on the side of the bracelet for attaching the links, and for a distinctive, stepped construction. The NATO-style fabric straps (above), woven on 19th century looms by Tudor’s longtime partner, 150-year-old French family-owned Julien Faure, take their historical cues from a now-famous makeshift strap made during wartime by a French naval officer from a discarded parachute.
The core Black Bay family directly descended from the original Heritage models is sized at 41mm, in the classic diver’s configuration, with cases predominantly in steel and dive-scale bezel inserts made of anodized aluminum. Nowadays, these Black Bay 41mm models contain the above-mentioned Tudor Caliber MT5602, which replaces the ETA calibers used in the very first ones. Most of the dials are matte black, with some notable exceptions, including the champagne-colored dials of the S&G (Steel and Gold) bi-material models, which dresses up a steel case with a crown and bezel made of yellow gold; the models on bracelets also feature yellow gold center links.
Price: $3,575 - $5,400, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 14.8mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5602
Black Bay Bronze
In 2016, Tudor introduced a version of the Black Bay in a case made of bronze, an increasingly popular material in modern watchmaking, which has been used historically in maritime equipment such as diver’s helmets and ships’ propellers. Bronze watches are prized by some collectors for the material’s propensity to gain a patina over the years that makes each watch unique to its owner and his or her experiences. At 43mm in diameter, the Black Bay Bronze is the largest option in the Tudor Black Bay catalog, and is also the only Black Bay to use Arabic numerals at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. The brown aluminum bezel inserts harmonize with the brushed bronze case and slate-gray dial for an understated look.
Price: $4,250, Case Size: 43mm, Case Thickness: 14.5mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5601
Black Bay Ceramic
Unveiled to great fanfare in 2021, the most recent iteration of the Black Bay in ceramic (following up previous iterations starting in 2015) riveted the watch world’s attention not only with its all-black “stealth” design — matte-black, micro-blasted, monobloc ceramic case, black-PVD-steel bezel with engraved ceramic dive-scale insert, domed black dial — but also with its movement. The automatic Tudor Caliber MT5602-1U boasted not only the COSC chronometer certificate that all Tudor calibers carry but also a Master Chronometer certificate from METAS, the Swiss Institute of Metrology, which measures not only precision but other factors like resistance to magnetic fields. Outside of Omega, which instituted the Master Chronometer tests for its own watches in 2015, Tudor is the only watch brand to earn this certification. The Black Bay Ceramic also earned Tudor another GPHG award the year of its release.
Price: $4,825, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 14.4mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5602-1U
Black Bay 41/39/36/32/31
Notable for their smooth, stationary bezels — which replace the functional, rotating bezels of the “classic” Black Bay — the smaller line extensions of the core collection, in 41mm, 39mm, 36mm, 32mm, and 31mm case sizes — take the Black Bay out of its usual milieu as a stylish tool watch for divers and place it firmly within the “everyday” sports watch category. Those seeking a Black Bay model suitable for a dressier occasion can also choose from an expanding array of bi-metal S&G options in each size, with yellow-gold bezels, crowns, and links adding a layer of luxury to predominantly steel cases and bracelets. All of the S&G models contain Tudor in-house movements, with COSC chronometer certification.
Price: $2,725 - $3,050, Case Size: 32-41mm, Case Thickness: Up to 10.5mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 150 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5201
Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Boasting both the original divers’ bezel of the 41mm model and a more modest case diameter of 39mm, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight collection hits the sweet spot for many contemporary connoisseurs. Named for the year 1958, in which Tudor released the Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7924, the most clear forerunner to the Black Bay, the Fifty-Eight sub-family contains the automatic, COSC-certified Caliber MT5402, a slightly downsized version of the MT5602 caliber, and has played host to a number of bold experiments in the areas of color and case materials. The Fifty-Eight Bronze combines a brown gradient dial and brown aluminum bezel insert with a bronze case and a (very rare) bronze bracelet whose newly designed “T-Fit” clasp allows for easy adjustment to five different positions on the wrist. The Fifty-Eight 18K and Fifty-Eight 925, released in 2021, are the first all-precious-metal iterations of the Black Bay, the former in a case of 18k yellow gold (above), the latter (below) in a case of 925 silver — which is even rarer than a bronze bracelet.
The Black Bay 18K pairs its golden case with a dark green dial and matching dark green aluminum bezel insert with a gilded dive scale; the Black Bay 925 uses a matte taupe color for its dial and bezel insert. The gold watch comes on a brown alligator strap while the silver model is mounted on either alligator leather or a fabric NATO, each taupe-colored to match the dial.
Price: $3,475 - $16,825, Case Size: 39mm, Case Thickness: 11.9mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5402/MT5400
Black Bay Chrono
To develop the movement for the Black Bay family’s first-ever chronograph watch, Tudor turned not to its parent brand Rolex but to an outside source, fellow Swiss sports-watch giant Breitling. The resulting Caliber MT5813, which uses Breitling’s self-winding B01 movement as a base, features an integrated chronograph powered by a column wheel, a 70-hour power reserve and a COSC chronometer certification. The bezel on the 41mm steel case does not rotate and its anodized aluminum bezel insert is inscribed with a tachymeter scale rather than a dive-time scale, bringing this model more into the realm of motorsport than marine exploration, though the screw-down crown and chrono pushers help ensure the same 200-meter water resistance as the diving models. The dials feature contrasting subdial counters at 3 and 9 o’clock in the classical and enduringly popular “panda” style, as well as a date window at 6 o’clock. The steel-and-yellow-gold S&G models host champagne-colored dials with black subdials.
Price: $5,000 - $7,200, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 14.79mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5813
Black Bay GMT
After the Black Bay Chronograph launched in 2017, Tudor’s growing legions of fans were undoubtedly wondering what the brand would do for an encore, complication-wise, in the Black Bay series. The answer came the following year, as Tudor, now firmly established as a collectible brand in its own right, pivoted back to an iconic Rolex model for inspiration. While the Black Bay GMT owes an obvious aesthetic debt to Rolex’s GMT-Master, it also fits firmly within the design language of the Black Bay, with its familiar dial framed not by a dive scale or tachymeter scale but by a bicolor 24-hour ring on which the wearer can read a second time zone thanks to the dial’s additional red GMT hand. The famous bright red-and-blue “Pepsi” bezel of Rolex’s original GMT-Master is here slightly modified to a more muted indigo-and-burgundy combo. The Black Bay GMT, powered by the COSC-certified automatic Caliber MT5662, is the latest model to debut in a two-tone S&G edition, which we covered in detail here.
Price: $3,850 - $5,550, Case Size: 41mm, Case Thickness: 15mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5652
Black Bay Pro
Launching at Watches & Wonders 2022 alongside the Black Bay GMT S&G Editions was another sporty take on a travel watch within the Black Bay family, the Black Bay Pro, which differs from the more colorful GMT models in its use of a stationary, satin-finished steel bezel with engraved numerals for its 24-hour GMT scale. The movement is the same automatic MT5662 that beats inside the Black Bay GMT, but the case is a more understated 39mm and the central hand that points to a second time zone is in yellow rather than red, offering an even greater contrast with the matte black dial.
Price: $3,675 - $4,000, Case Size: 39mm, Case Thickness: 14.6mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5652
Price: $3,675 - $4,000, Case Size: 39mm, Case Thickness: 14.6mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Automatic Tudor Caliber MT5652
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A very comprehensive and very well researched article. Many thanks for the effort.
It was fun to read
Nicely written and very informative!!!! I’m glad I got a blue Black Bay 58, only slightly regret getting it on a nato strap. I’ve got my eyes on their Pepsi GMT when the time is right
Love this watch! One of my favorites !
Great article! Black bay pro was released in 2022!