A couple 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 couldn’t 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. However, the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight 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. 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 a slender profile of just 11.9mm and though this may sound like I’m exaggerating; trust me this makes all the difference.
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. Three years ago, Tudor introduced their first in-house calibre and last year when this watch launched it, they added another.
In order to make this slender Black Bay 58, Tudor had to produce a new smaller and thinner calibre – the MT5402. With its 26 mm diameter, the Calibre MT5402 displays hour, minute and second functions and has been designed for medium-sized Tudor watches. And, just in case you were wondering the normal Black Bay makes use of a 31.8mm calibre – so the difference is rather significant. Moreover, it is certified as a chronometer (COSC), with a 70-hour power reserve.
The dial on the BB58 is well executed and incorporates an all matte blue dial with finishing touches of text in white, as well as minute track – evoking memories of the original examples donned by the Marine Nationale. Tudor have also gone further by using inlaid hour markers with Super-Luminova which Tudor have taken the liberty to not add any faux-patina this time round. The snowflake hands also make use of the same material.
Like the rest of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue, the bezel has been well executed too. The blue “coin edge” bezel creates the perfect backdrop to the silver scale, with a silver 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. Oh, and of course there is the bracelet. We first saw this 1950s/1960s vintage-style inspired, riveted bracelet last year on the Black Bay Black/Dark. This modern interpretation is true to form and features the very distinct stepped construction, though instead features faux rivets, with solid links that deliver that vintage look with modern robustness.
As many of our regular readers may well know, I’ve had the original BB58 since it was first released a couple of years ago and this new iteration follows on from Tudor’s past releases. The first Black Bay Fifty-Eight kind of paid homage to the original 1958 Tudor Submariner “Big Crown” 7924. However, this new Navy Blue BB58 loosely pays homage to the already mentioned Tudor Submariner Marine Nationale. The relationship between Tudor and the French Marine Nationale began in the late 50s and is perhaps one of the more enduring relationships between a brand and the military, with pieces produced until the 80s.
The 39mm x 11.9mm case of this new BB58 Navy Blue is just the perfect size for those who prefer vintage watches. The balance of the watch is just right and incorporates enough vintage touches, which always makes people have a double take – me included. But the 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 mainly comes from the solid riveted bracelet, but this extra weight will soon disappear with regular wear. Moreover, 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.
That said, with all the glowing praise I’ve given the BB58 Navy Blue there is perhaps one thing that would’ve been nice to see. It would’ve been nice to have Tudor opt for square hour markers, akin to those used on the Pelagos. That said, I do see why Tudor haven’t done so; they don’t want to confuse the Black-Bay line with the Pelagos line – which makes sense.
Nonetheless, the real question is does it have the same allure of the very watch for which it pays homage to – that is perhaps a difficult question? On the one hand it doesn’t have the provenance or the feel of a MN but on the other hand it’s perfect for those of us who don’t have the means to buy an original Marine Nationale, and that’s providing you’d be able to find one in a well-preserved condition. Not only that but there is plenty to be said for its modern waterproofness.
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue on the riveted steel bracelet is priced at £2,760 and is priced at £2,520 on the leather or fabric strap. For more information on visit the official Tudor website.