A few of years ago, Tudor introduced arguably their best vintage inspired watch in the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight. While 2018 was the year of the GMT and the watch people could not stop talking about, the BB58 was a nod to the past but done with Tudor panache. Of course, over the past few years we’ve seen the emergence of vintage inspired watches but only a handful of brands are even capable of pulling this feat off. That said, I’m sure this is something that Rolex would like to participate in but fortunately for them they have a sister brand that can indulge in these nostalgic exercises – plus, let’s be honest, Rolex don’t do trends, even if they do have quite the back catalogue.
Previous Black Bay models have maintained the link to previous Tudor diving watches with nice little historical nods through visual elements but perhaps the biggest differentiator has always been the size of the cases, sized at a very modern 41mm. This new Black Bay Fifty-Eight 18K is aptly named after the year in which the first Tudor divers’ watch, waterproof to 200 metres, the reference 7924, dubbed the “Big Crown”, was introduced. However, the 18K part of the name points towards the use of case material.
There’s no secret that Tudor was created by Hans Wilsdorf to cater to those who couldn’t afford a Rolex by virtue making the Tudor cheaper. However, one of the ways in which this was done was by using non-in-house movements, such as the ETA workhorse 2483 calibre, this kept costs down, which allowed Tudor to compete at a lower price point. That said, the Tudor Black Bay of today makes use of an in-house calibre. A few years ago, Tudor introduced their first in-house calibre and just a couple of weeks ago they introduced their first in-house calibre that has been METAS tested – so what the feature will bring is rather intriguing.
What’s more, among other aesthetic illusions to the historic watch, this model has been endowed with a 39 mm case, in-keeping with the characteristic proportions of the 1950s. But more interestingly the case has been fashioned out of 18-carat yellow-gold, a first for the brand. The use of gold for a dive watch may seem a little odd for Tudor, considering they are known to be the cheaper alternative to their big brother brand (Rolex), but they’ve definitely toned it down somewhat. The 18k yellow-gold case has been given a full satin-finish for a matte effect, which makes it appear more understated.
The Black Bay 58 18K makes use of a new calibre, which for the first time is visible through the exhibition case back. With its 30.3 mm diameter, the Calibre MT540o displays hour, minute and second functions and has been designed for medium-sized Tudor watches. And, is certified as a chronometer (COSC), with a 70-hour power reserve.
The dial on the BB58 18K is well executed and incorporates an all-green dial with finishing touches of text in gold, as well as minute track – giving the watch a very restrained elegant appearance. Tudor have also gone further by using 18-carat yellow-gold inlaid hour markers with Super-Luminova, as well as “Snowflake” hands that are made from the same material, which Tudor have taken the liberty to not add any faux-patina.
Like the rest of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight 18K, the bezel has been well executed too. The green “coin edge” bezel creates the perfect backdrop to the gold scale, with a gold triangle at 12 o’clock with a pearl that has also contains Super-Luminova. Adding to the overall vintage inspired look too is the “Large Crown”, though this is more finely fluted and features a Tudor rose. Unlike previous iterations of the BB58, the 18K is fixed to the wrist via a brown grained leather strap or Tudor’s green and gold woven fabric band with an 18-carat gold pin buckle.
As many of our regular readers may well know, I’ve had the original BB58 since it was first released a few years ago and while this new Tudor doesn’t toe the line of their past releases it does add an interesting twist. The first Black Bay Fifty-Eight kind of paid homage to the original 1958 Tudor Submariner “Big Crown” 7924. However, this new BB58 18K doesn’t, it is just unapologetically bold in gold and green, and for this reason I love it.
The 39mm x 11.9mm case of this new BB58 18K is just the perfect size for those who prefer vintage watches. The balance of the watch is just right, incorporating enough vintage touches but with the added contemporary waterproofness and overall robustness make it the perfect everyday wearer.
On the wrist it just feels so right especially if you already own a vintage submariner or two, though you’ll of course notice there is a lot more heft to it, which due to the solid gold case, but this extra weight will soon disappear with regular wear. But it’s not overly uncomfortable and this is down to the fact it comes with either a leather strap or Tudor’s woven fabric strap. Though it would be nice to see it on one of Tudor’s faux riveted bracelets – I’m guessing this is something that would never happen as it would start to put it more in price bracket of a solid gold Rolex Submariner. That said, if you already own some 20mm straps for any of your vintage pieces, you’ll be happy to learn they’ll also fit the BB58 perfectly.
As for the exhibition case back, I do feel that Tudor perhaps didn’t need to display the movement as it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing but I’m sure deploying this has saved a us and them a few pounds, as less gold is required. I think a solid cask back would’ve benefited the wearer, who would’ve at least had an option to engrave it, which in some cases is far greater than seeing the movement.
The current trend of green dials in sports watches for 2021 is either a happy accident or orchestrated, whatever one, it’s in vogue. Tudor has opted to pair this green dial into an 18-carat gold case and while I’m not adverse to gold watches it would’ve been nicer to see this dial paired into a steel case or for that matter a silver case (as they’ve done with the new BB58 925).
However, I guess the real question is if this new Black Bay 58 18K still has the same allure as the namesakes that have come before it? Initially, I thought it was a bit odd for Tudor to produce a watch upward of £10K and in this guise but then why not? We’ve seen dive watches from Omega, Rolex and Panerai in gold but even amongst these brands mentioned, you’ll noticed Tudor have maintained their competitiveness when it comes to price. Nonetheless, with this release Tudor are now playing in a different marketplace and while they are swimming in different waters with this new release, only the future will tell if they are out of their depth with the Black Bay 58 18K.
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 18K is priced at £12,610 on a leather, with a complementary fabric strap too. For more information on visit the official Tudor website.