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.