When it comes to horology we all have our grail watch. That one piece whose design simply clicks with us when we see it. For me that piece was Tudor’s Black Bay 58. When Tudor announced the Black Bay 58 at Baselworld 2018 I knew immediately that I’d end up owning one sooner or later.
So earlier this year I made the conscious decision to slim down my existing collection and purchase a Black Bay 58 for myself. As you might already know, the Black Bay 58 is not a watch you’ll usually find in a shop window, and many Authorised Dealers have a waitlist. If you’re interested my experience of purchasing from an AD and going on such a list, you can check out my video here.
To cut to the chase, after three and a half months I became the happy owner of a new Black Bay 58, and it’s barely left my wrist since.
The Black Bay 58 is a call-back to Tudor’s first ever diver watches, specifically the Ref.7924, which was Tudor’s third iteration of a dive watch, but the first to be water resistant to 200m (and, if you hadn’t already guessed, was released in 1958). As such the Black Bay 58 has some neat vintage design cues, such as a modest 39mm case, faux rivet bracelet and gilt hands and markers.
Tudor haven’t done anything radical with the steel case. It’s still the same classic style they use on the BB58’s larger brother, and the overall look is that of a classic Submariner. Of course what makes the Black Bay 58 so much more popular is the more conservative 39mm size, and the 11.9mm thickness. Where the 41mm version is pretty darn thick at 14.8mm, the BB58 is slim enough to easily fit under a shirt cuff.
As you’d expect from Tudor the finishing is top notch. The brushing on the lug tops is incredibly fine and uniform, with a smooth transition to a polished chamfer that adds just the right amount of detailing to the classic, but simple, design.
Tudor’s manufacturing tolerances really shine through when it comes to the rotating bezel. Its classic fine coin edge and anodized aluminium insert ooze vintage charm, whilst the action itself is perfect, with no play to it whatsoever. It’s also incredibly thin, and perfectly proportioned so as to blend into the main body of the case.
The Black Bay 58 has a respectable 200m water resistance. It’s not the highest depth rating out there, but Tudor aren’t trying to break any records with this piece. Besides, 200m is plenty for the average owner to dive and swim in.
When you look at the crown you’ll see that Tudor have done away with the anodised aluminium crown tube of the 41mm line. Though I didn’t mind the coloured tubes, it’s a change many will welcome. The screw down crown itself is signed with the Tudor rose and is buttery smooth to wind.
As with so many watches these days, you’ll find a double domed sapphire crystal protecting the dial. And as I’ve said many times, it provides the gorgeous distortion of a plexiglass crystal, but with incredible scratch resistance. Tudor make no mention of anti-reflective coating, but I don’t have any problems with legibility.
The dial layout is of course that of the classic submariner, which Rolex and Tudor have used since their first divers. It’s a design that’s been copied countless times over the years, but nothing compares to seeing it here.
That matt black dial is the perfect backdrop for the polished gilt markers and matching minute track. The gilt itself is not so bold as to appear gaudy, but adds a touch of warmth to the watch. I also think that Tudor stopped at just the right point regarding the amount of dial text. I certainly wouldn’t want any more than the logo and three lines above six o’clock that we get.
The iconic snowflake hands are just as well executed as the dial. You can’t see any flaws with the finish with the naked eye, and all three are well proportioned with the dial itself.
The lume filling the hands and markers is a creamy off-white that complements the gold accents. I’m glad Tudor didn’t succumb to the current trend of adding a more yellow lume, as I think it would look out of place of the BB58.
Like the rest of the watch, the dial is the epitome of understated sophistication. It’s got no gimmicks, or quirkiness to it, but it is flawlessly executed. And that simple perfection is what makes the BB58 so brilliant. Whilst I’m conscious that design is subjective, speaking personally I can find no fault with the aesthetics of the Black Bay.
Lume can make or break a dive watch. If it’s not up to standard than it can let down what is otherwise a great piece. Thankfully the Black Bay 58 has some of the best lume I’ve come across.
I’ll admit that you’ll find a good few affordable pieces with lume as decent as this, so it’s not unique to Tudor, but it’s supremely legible in low light. It also doesn’t take much to charge it, so it doesn’t just look good in a photo.
It’s yet another component that proves that the Black Bay isn’t just some overpriced statement piece, but a true dive watch.
Tudor have used a new in-house calibre on the Black Bay 58 in the MT5402. It’s a 27 jewel movement with a free-sprung balance wheel.
The MT5402 is what sets the Black Bay 58 apart from more affordable dive watches. There are plenty of small brands out there making some great quality pieces with ETA & Miyota Movements, but equally there are plenty of consumers who’ll prefer an in-house movement.
The MT5402 offers a very healthy 70 hour power reserve, and is of course chronometer certified. In fact in the first 3 weeks of owning the watch it lost only 1 second. I couldn’t hope for better accuracy!
Believe it or not the bracelet is probably the most divisive aspect of the Tudor Black Bay 58. Why? Because it’s done in a faux-rivet style, as opposed to using genuine rivets or just being a standard oyster-style. Whilst I’m sat in the pro-oyster camp, I really don’t notice the difference in style on the wrist. If you’re staring at the bracelet, rather than the watch itself, then there’s something wrong with you.
Aesthetics aside, in terms of quality the bracelet is pretty good. The end links fit incredibly snugly to the case, though why they aren’t the same height as the lugs is beyond me. I find the BB58 very comfortable to wear on the bracelet, to the extent that I genuinely forgot I was wearing it once! Though it doesn’t have any half-links, so it might be awkward to size for some.
The biggest let down for me is the clasp. It’s a standard fold-over, and whilst the ceramic bearings and Tudor logo are a nice touch, I would prefer a spring loaded clasp with micro-adjust as seen on the Tudor Pelagos (not to mention a number of cheaper dive watches).
For me the Tudor Black Bay 58 is the epitome of what a brand’s heritage inspired piece should be. Its size is conservative, resulting in a watch that’s sleek, understated, and perfectly proportioned. When you combine that with beautiful finishing the result is simply sublime.
With the exception of the bracelet clasp, there is genuinely nothing else I would change about the watch. Everything about the design fits together perfectly, from the classic aluminium bezel insert, to the polished gilt indices. And yes, the faux rivet bracelet is included in that sentiment too!
If you’re ever lucky enough to try one of these on yourself, then you’ll see why Tudor’s established a strong reputation for quality and value. It’s hard to argue with a brand that has such strong designs, history, and which offers an in-house certified chronometer, all for £2600.
To put it simply, Tudor’s Black Bay 58 hits the sweet spot on pretty much every level. It’s an incredibly tempting package – one that I think most die-hard watch nerds will find hard to resist.