The New Tudor Black Bay Chrono Panda (With Video Review)
A slimmer case, a new black bezel and two-tone dials for Tudor's Chronograph
The Black Bay is, without doubt, the most successful collection of Tudor. This watch has been instrumental in the resurrection of the brand in the early 2010s. Since its introduction in 2012, this vintage-inspired diver’s watch has been a commercial hit and the collection has been enlarged with multiple complications, in various materials and in a wide range of colours. The collection is a classic for Tudor, mixing modern execution and retro-looking elements, such as the iconic Snowflake hands or signature applied indexes. And in 2017, the brand introduced its first Black Bay Chrono, which caused quite some reactions… A good base for sure, but there was room for improvement. Well, it’s here, with the new editions of the Tudor Black Bay Chrono for 2021. And we have a video review of these models too, that you can check on top of the article.
The Black Bay Chrono… a controversial piece in a success story
The Black Bay is like a piece of well-oiled machinery for Tudor. One edition after another, its road is paved with success. And even though the recipe is well-known and the evolutions are most of the time quite conservative – not always, as seen with the 925 Silver edition – it remains the brand’s best-selling collection, by far. But, from time to time, one of the version can cause some discussions.
In 2017, Tudor launched a chronograph based on the Black Bay. Not the first chronograph of the brand, which already has in collection racing-inspired models such as the Heritage Chrono, based on the Montecarlo. So, in order to differentiate this new Black Bay Chrono from the rest of the crowd, Tudor gave it the Black Bay touch with some diving credentials – both in terms of design and specifications. Also, and importantly, this watch marked the beginning of an industrial alliance between Tudor and Breitling, as the movement found in the Black Bay Chrono was (and still is) openly presented as based on a B01 architecture. Nothing wrong with this. Actually, it is something we even applauded back then.
The issue was somewhere else. What caused discussions was the strange mix between diving elements of the Black Bay – the dial, its indexes and the Snowflake hands – and racing features such as the chronograph (even though diving chronographs are far from new) and the tachymeter scale on the bezel. The Snowflake hand, and the way it could obstruct the 45-minute counter even cause strong reactions… More on that later.
All in all, the first generation of Tudor Black Bay Chrono had some strong arguments, was a solid base but still was perfectible on some aspects – some of which were totally subjective. A couple of years later, the brand launched a black-coated version, the Dark Limited Edition. Finally, there was also in 2019 a two-tone version of this chronograph, which was somehow announcing the evolution that has been introduced this year, with a black bezel and contrasting sub-counters.
The new Tudor Black Bay Chrono for 2021
For 2021, we have the new Tudor Black Bay Chrono ref. 79360N, which actually replaces the full steel model with black dial. And now, instead of one model, we’ll have two watches with so-called panda or reserved panda dials. And if this evolution appears, at first, rather conservative, there are actually many things to discover, many aspects of the watch that have been changed, and overall some improvements – but no miracles, as some of the original discussions will certainly reappear here.
As said, the recipe appears almost unchanged at first sight, but most elements of the watch have been updated for the millésime 2021. First, the case. Still made of stainless steel, still sharing its traits with most of the watches from the Black Bay collection, it shows brushed surfaces on top, a nice polished chamfer on the side of the lugs and polished surfaces on the casebands. The shape is almost identical, with strong flanks and tapered lugs that give a certain vintage appeal to the watch – recalling 1960s models.
Regarding its size, the new Tudor Black Bay Chrono still measures 41mm in diameter but the case has been slimmed down, and by quite a margin. Previously being about 14.9mm in thickness, the new editions are now around 14.2mm in height, making them more acceptable on the wrist – such a height is quite standard for a robust, sporty automatic chronograph. The case is topped by a highly domed sapphire crystal, which gives some retro flair but also helps to visually reduce the thickness of the watch. On the wrist, the Tudor Black Bay Chrono remains a fairly large and heavy watch, specifically when worn on its steel bracelet. The lug-to-lug dimension is around 50mm, which can feel slightly impressive on paper, however, the watch felt surprisingly ergonomic for such a large piece. It is balanced and sits flat on the wrist. By no means a compact watch, but one that is comfortable.
Several elements of the watch recall its diving past, such as the screw-down crown and pushers – the latter might help water-resistance, but they are clearly not the most practical solution when it comes to using the chronograph. Combined with a solid stainless steel screwed caseback, the Tudor Black Bay Chrono is still rated with a 200m WR, sufficient for most conditions. The overall execution of the case, like the rest of the Tudor production, exudes quality and durability.
A major evolution compared to the first generation of Black Bay Chrono is the bezel. The brushed steel element, which visually enlarged the watch, is gone and replaced by a contrasting bezel made of anodized aluminium. No doubt that the Black Bay Chrono benefits greatly from this update, as it brings more contrast and visually reduces the size of the watch – specifically on the Panda version. What remains is the tachymeter scale, here printed in silver. Its presence on this diving-inspired model is still questionable and, personally, I still think that a rotating 60-minute bezel would make more sense… To each his own. But at least, the black insert changes drastically the look of the BB Chrono.
The second major evolution is the dial. First, it is now available in two colours. In addition to the classic black option, Tudor adds a matte opaline white dial. Also, the dials now have contrasting sub-counters, with a so-called Panda or Reserved Panda look. Once again, it makes the watches easier to use and visually more attractive. What doesn’t change is the layout, as we find back the classic Snowflake hand and the luminous applied markers. One small issue with the white “panda” version, the hands blend a bit too much into the dial, making then hard to read in some angles. Finally, a date window is positioned at 6 o’clock.
One thing that needs to be addressed is the presence of the Snowflake hour hand. I can remember strong discussions regarding the fact that, between 1:30 and 4:30, it was partially hiding the 45-minute counter of the chronograph. In my first encounter with this watch in 2017, I wrote this “To me, this is a nonsense debate, as many other chronographs (not only divers) face this issue. Surely, when the hour hand passes over the sub-counter, it will be more or less hidden… but only for a while. And in all objectivity, it’s the same with most of the diving chronographs (Omega PO 600m, IWC Aquatimer, UN Diver…) and it has never been that much of an issue for them.” And I didn’t change my mind. More questionable is the design itself, and how this hand visually works in conjunction with the bezel for instance. Still, I understand its presence in terms of DNA of the collection.
At the heart of these new Tudor Black Bay Chrono Panda 79360N, there’s still the calibre MT5813. Based on a Breitling B01 architecture, with some minor technical updates, it is a real upgrade compared to the other movements used by Tudor. This calibre is technically advanced – it has an integrated architecture, it features a column-wheel and vertical clutch, but also a variable inertia balance, an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring and it boasts a comfortable power reserve of 70 hours. Finally, its precision is chronometer-certified by COSC.
The new Tudor Black Bay Chrono is launched with 6 references, as each dial colour can be ordered with 3 different strap/bracelet options. For our review, we had both watches on the classic riveted stainless steel bracelet, found on most watches from the Black Bay collection. Brushed on the flat surfaces and polished on the sides, it is our preferred choice here and complements the watch. The built quality is above suspicion and it feels as solid as the watch. It is closed by a folding clasp, with a simple micro-adjustment system – something that could be improved. In addition, a “bund” leather strap and a textile strap are also available.
Availability & Price
The Tudor Black Bay Chrono 79360N, whether in panda or reversed panda, is now available from retailers. It is priced at EUR 4,920, USD 4,900 or CHF 4,950 on a steel bracelet. For more details, please visit www.tudorwatch.com.