Size Does Not Always Matter. Up-close and Personal With The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36
I must admit that, when the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 Ref. 79500 was introduced at Baselworld 2016, I was quite indifferent towards it. Instead my attention was focused on all the other Black Bay’s, the black, the total black and the bronze. These I said to myself were proper watches, bold, and greatly executed. The 36mm meanwhile was a watch I just could not understand. However, when I finally had the chance to strap it on my wrist for a few days, in order to write this review, I started to realize how much it reminded me of that famous line from the great F. A. Porsche: “A formally harmonious product needs no decoration, it should be elevated through pure form.” Thus my attitude began to completely change. This watch has something special, read our review of the Black Bay 36 to discover exactly what it is.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 Ref. 79500
The basic idea of this model is to sit below the now standard 41mm Black Bay and the not-so-standard 43mm-bronze, which are basically retro re-editions of the classic Tudor Submariners dive watches. You might think of it as the Rolex Explorer I to the Submariner analogy. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 is the equivalent of the Explorer which is a classic and elegant three-hand timepiece that sports a smooth bezel and can be worn almost anywhere.
Once you start to wear this 36mm watch on a daily basis, you suddenly realize that the small size (by modern standards) is not that small after all. Numbers don’t always give the full picture, and because of the Oyster case (not exactly but pretty close to the Rolex equivalent) this Black Bay 36 is suited perfectly to either men or women. The size strikes a good balance between elegance and sportiness, just like all the classic Air-King and Datejust models that dominated the wrists of countless people throughout the years. This model has a timeless elegance that makes it feel balanced and unobtrusive.
The non-rotating smooth bezel on the Black Bay 36 gives it a cleaner appearance and in fact makes you focus on the dial – a dial that clearly is a beauty and perhaps one of the most characteristic dials in the industry. The iconic snowflake hands are present, against the backdrop of the familiar hour marker layout found in the rest of the family. I particularly liked the silver printing on the glossy dial – it immediately brought to mind the very last of the Tudor Submariners (ref 79190) especially with the new shield logo. The indexes are: triangle at 12, batons at 3 – 6 – 9 and large dots for the rest, but the dial is now flat and polished. The result is a pleasure to look at. A total pitch-black look, which of course gives more reflections and a totally different response against light, all of which serves to further emphasize the dual dress/tool character of this watch . It’s a real all-rounder, if I may say so.
Do not forget that aside from the dimensions, the most important attribute, generally speaking, is how the watch wears – and that means how the case is designed and also what the eye sees, which in this case is mainly the dial. In both areas the heritage 36mm Black Bay excels. The case follows the classic lines of the Oyster case, a true masterpiece in design. It has thickness that is basically the same across the lugs and sits beautifully on top of the wrist. This combination of the extremely well finished case (with polished bevels on the lugs and brushing on flat surfaces) and the smooth polished bezel creates a subtler approach that is amplified by the uniqueness of the dial. These three characteristics create a stunning result. Overall, the size is lovely, the looks are great and, on top of all, legibility is superb.
The new Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 is powered by the automatic-winding calibre 2824 (modified ETA). The 2824 is a fine movement that can and will provide many years of accurate and reliable time keeping. Introduced in 1961, the 2824 has been regularly revamped through all these years and beats at 28,800vph. The 2824 shares a 25.6 mm diameter with its “big brother”, the ETA 2892, though this movement is slightly thicker at 4.6 mm. The 2824 also sports larger wheels and balance and fits the automatic unit entirely above the top plate. It is a mechanical movement with automatic winding, ball-bearing rotor, bi-directional winding, 38-40 hours power reserve and hacking seconds. This calibre is one of the best known and most widely used mechanical movements. It is considered to be accurate, robust and reliable and I consider it to be the best choice for this watch. There is no in-house chronometer movement yet but this might actually equip the model in the near future (this is my personal assumption, not breaking news).
With Tudor, straps and bracelets constitute a great part of the design and feel, and this is again the case with the Heritage Black Bay 36mm. Two options are available: a fine and slightly distressed beige-coloured leather strap with steel folding clasp or a sportier, still marvellously executed and very comfortable, steel bracelet with full brushed surfaces. As usual with the heritage collection, an additional fabric strap with buckle will be included in the box – here with a camouflage strap, produced according to the traditional “Jacquard” technique (mastered by a century-old family business located in the St-Etienne region of France). The pattern is the result of the weaving technique and is not printed.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 is in fact a very interesting wristwatch, which, I admit, I did not initially understand – although I am a big fan of smooth-bezel professional watches with smaller diameter cases. However, after I wore it for a couple of days, I was hooked. The smooth steel bezel gives it a very different presence, and as a result, it sits right in the middle between a dress watch and a tool watch. The classical Tudor dial and the iconic Tudor snowflake hands make it particularly attractive. After all, I think that this trend of having a functional bezel on every sports watch is somehow an abuse. For example, a graduated 1-55 bezel was exclusively reserved for dive watches in the old days. Water-resistance and a good design with antimagnetic properties was more than enough for a proper everyday sports watch, and this wristwatch is exactly that, with perhaps a bit of flair. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 is a lovely exception that returns to the roots of what is an everyday sports watch. Yes, all it does is tell the time. But it does that beautifully, accurately and with unmatched versatility, thanks to its simple design and classic lines that strike the balance between sport and dress with top finishing on the case and bracelet, and superb legibility. Even its price is great – 2,370 Euros on leather and 2,670 Euros on bracelet.
So who is this model for? What did Tudor have in mind upon its release? I am a big fan of the classic 36mm Oyster case and there is a striking resemblance if you compare these two. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36 has all the vintage aura that you like but it is built with modern specifications and quality. Thus, it might be the perfect modern choice for people who prefer a smaller watch, and which actually does not wear as small as its dimensions suggest. It can be worn easily on a day-to-day basis and has a timeless elegance that makes it feel harmonious and unobtrusive.
I think also it can be worn with the same ease by both men and women and it clearly demarcates a slight turn of the industry toward smaller sizes. Yes, larger watches like Panerais are here to stay but smaller watches might return as well. Yet again, Tudor is slightly ahead of the competition regarding the creation of trends – let’s not forget that it was actually the release in 2012 of the Burgundy Black Bay that brought the cool retro dive watches on to center stage. It’s always good to have more than one choice and the Black Bay 36 proves exactly that. It is a fine looking watch with purity of design and much more presence than its dimensions suggest. Do not forget that truth is not always depicted purely by the numbers.
I just purchased one a week ago and I can’t sing enough praises about it. While I’ve always wanted a 36mm explorer, I can’t say that I’m that enamored by the Mercedes hands. This one ticks all the right boxes, no date, 36mm, thin profile, beautiful brushed bracelet, snowflake hands, really deep black dial with beautiful silver printing on it, awesome NATO strap which is the perfect length for me without having to double fold like conventional nato(warning: could be a bit short despite adjustment for larger wristed people), and that super perfect smiling curved “self winding” word.
That curved word really clinches it IMHO. Such a simple touch with such a huge impact for me.
A con I’ve noticed is the leather strap isn’t a nice in person. The color is a lot more faded than what the other watch blogs’ posts suggest. The leather quality is a bit meh.. Suggest just getting the bracelet option with the included NATO, buying the deployant and customising your own leather strap.
Anyway it is really an awesome buy, this article is absolutely spot on about its features.
I thought that this model isn’t longer available. Because yesterday I read something about a slight changes in the dial. So for example the lower text on the dial is now written in aatraight line instead of a bit round. The name rotor is gone. And some more things.
Is there someone who can tell me if this model is updated or not?
Hi Peter, you’re referring to the full size Black Bay. When it was updated with the Tudor in-house movement, earlier this year, the text on the dial changed as you say. The Black Bay 36 is still equipped with ETA 2824 and the text remains as in the photos
Tudor is truly addressing a very complete audience. I personally think the 36mm.Black Bay is stunning however I also believe that fewer units w/ be sold. I am so enthused about the current styling that I may at some point consider the 36mm. I wear my 1016 Explorer w/ some regularity yet my 40mm watches do have priority!
All a great job Tudor! Your elders should be proud & take note of your success!
Best, Mike Cotter
About one month now owning this watch. There is nothing about it that I can fault. I also find that, for it’s smaller size, it still has a very substantial feel on the wrist. Not light at all. The ETA movement is perfect, consistently +2-3secs/day. It doesn’t bother me that it has a relatively short power reserve, as I wear the watch every day anyway.
This watch quite simply fills the void – and then some – of my 36mm Rolex Explorer I which I sold a few years ago. There is no compromise in fit and finish on this watch at all. And it actually fits my wrist far better than the Explorer did. Although the Explorer is a wonderful timepiece, and I did regret having sold it until this one came along.
Thanks for your great review.
I’ve had my Heritage Black Bay 36 for seven months.The watch itself,to me is an instant classic.The steel bracelet spot on(The bracelet is almost identical to the Explorer albeit a different type of steel.I’ve looked carefully at The Rolex Explorer a nice watch,but at two and half times the price albeit with a slightly better movement almost a should purchase save for the fact it’s a easy to sell.I may in time have another mechanical watch.Will it be as clever a purchase-No.This defines the cleverness of this design.
I tried this on a couple of weeks ago and I have to say I have never been so disappointed by a watch. The leather strap could not even go over my 7.5″ wrist with the deployant clasp in place and the “nato” is nothing of the sort. It feels cheap and is far too short.
Also the lug width is 19mm, which is just pathetic. This should have been noted in the review. I notice a trend of late from watch companies, bringing out all sorts of odd numbered lugwidths; 19, 21, even 23mm and there is no reason for this at all except grubbing after pennies from their own straps.
And the kicker? The “old-fashioned and not collectible” 36mm Tudor Prince suited me perfectly and had to get 2 links removed for a perfect fit. So much for modern design improvements. It is the height of hypocrisy for these charming pieces to be disparaged as little more than authorised fakes whilst the horological press fawn over the 25th Black Bay release, which is exactly the same beast.
I love mine. Beautiful watch in every way. My every day, every occasion watch. Sport or the office or black tie. Perfect.
No love for the fabric strap it came with though. Almost childish design
I bought this watch about two weeks ago and I’m so in love with it. It’s smaller than all of my other watches but when I tried it on at the AD store I couldn’t get it off my wrist even while I shopped for more expensive pieces from Rolex and Omega. I’ve worn it every day except one since I bought it and on that day I missed the feel of it on my wrist.
It wears larger than it is, but it feels comfortable especially with the slight taper.
The clasp on the bracelet is a gorgeous thing, and the BB36 feels like a no-nonsense tool watch with a classic look and can easy pair with dressier attire. I forget I’m wearing it but I always stare at it a little bit when I check the time. My only gripe, (which nearly all Black Bays share) is the lack of a date window. Come on Baselworld 2020!