Review (& Opinion) – The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chronograph
Tudor have done it again… When introduced at Baselworld 2017, their latest addition to the Heritage Black Bay collection, a chronograph, immediately became a talking piece, bringing contentious or heated discussions around the table and passionate arguments – and not only on collectors’ forums or on social media but also internally here, at the Monochrome redaction. Yet, even if we all are watch-lovers, we also have the duty of being objective in our reviews. This is why we’ve waited to bring you this test of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono, just to make sure that passion-driven feelings have cooled-down.
Why so many discussions? Why such passionate comments about this watch? To understand a bit more why this Tudor Black Bay Chrono became a talking piece, we have to look back at the history of the collection itself. In 2012, Tudor introduced the Heritage Black Bay, a vintage-inspired dive watch bearing all the traditional codes of the brand (and of the Rolex family). It immediately became a watch that collectors praised and respected, a sort of modern icon, and one of the coolest contemporary dive watches you could find on the market – a feeling reinforced with new additions to the catalogue, the midnight blue and the black editions. This watch had many attributes: a clear DNA, some strong design elements, a mix between modern construction and iconic vintage elements (snowflake hands, recognizable markers, bevelled lugs, domed dial…) and a quality/price ratio that remains to date quite unbeatable – even more so with the in-house movement version.
A 2016 Tudor Black Bay (Dive Watch) with in-house movement
This year, at Baselworld 2017, Tudor launched the Heritage Black Bay Chrono ref. M79350. And because it is based on an iconic watch, changes and evolutions are always sensitive – even if, it has to be said, such comments come from hardcore watch-geeks, and mere watch-buyers certainly won’t even understand this whole point of this discussion. Several aspects of this new watch created controversies: the movement, the mix of diving and chronograph elements and the non-historical relevance of this watch. That being said, we’ll try here to be objective and to balance these arguments.
Overall Appearance of the Tudor Black Bay Chrono
There’s no doubt about the lineage of this watch. This Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono is unmistakably part of the Tudor family and of the Black Bay collection. In a glance, you can spot all the elements that made the brand and its best-selling collection so successful. Even with the addition of the chronograph function, this watch is a Black Bay. Shape, case, materials, details… Everything is here.
Initially, we’d been quite sceptical about this watch. However, it’s always the same at Baselworld: we see the watches for 5 minutes maximum, we concentrate on doing photos and we don’t have the time to really appreciate them for what they are. This Black Bay Chrono created mixed feelings on us, at first. However, we (Frank and I) know that a first impression is never objective and needs to be reinforced by a proper “review on the wrist”. We’ve seen watches that we loved at first, and then we forgot about them. On the other hand, some didn’t appeal to us at all, and a few months later became must-have pieces. Such feelings appeared with this BB Chrono.
The case of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono is built around the same base as all Black Bay watches. A stainless steel central container, with a 41mm diameter, a rather thick design (14.9mm in the case of this Chrono) which contributes to the overall look of the watch, lugs integrated to the case, and of course, the vintage elements: polished chamfers running on the side of the case and the lugs, oversized crown, polished sides and brushed flat surfaces… Even with the chronograph function, this watch is all about the DNA of the Black Bay family.
As with the rest of the BB watches, the 41mm case seems rather large at first, but tends to be extremely compact and well proportioned once on the wrist. In fact, compared to many dive watches – and even more when it comes to diving chronographs – the Black Bay Chrono ref. M79350 feels almost restrained and balanced. It is a masculine piece for sure, but not a beast. The height, just under 15mm (which is in fact only 0.1mm more than the diving Black Bays), is within the norm and the integrated lugs help the watch to hug the wrist. In fact, no real difference when wearing this watch or its diver siblings – at least in terms of comfort.
No doubt also in terms of resistance – and water resistance. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono might have a chronograph function, it remains a proper dive watch, with a 200m water resistance – thanks to screwed pushers. Even if I tend to dislike them on the Daytona, I have to agree that they make sense here, in this aquatic context. Overall, the case is perfectly constructed, feels solid as a rock and is made to last. In addition to that, the finishing is, as usual with Tudor, very pleasant (sharp lines between the polished and brushed surfaces) and greatly adjusted (no visible gaps, no badly aligned adjustments of the parts). In terms of quality, Tudor’s reputation is hard to beat – and not only in the sub-5K range.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono is offered in two versions: steel bracelet, with the usual riveted style, or leather strap with folding buckle. Of course, this is a matter of choice and of use of the watch. If you intend to use it as a recreational dive watch, the steel bracelet is a must-have (and as the rest of the watch, it is superbly crafted). However, if you use this watch as an urban piece, I would tend to say that the leather strap gives the Black Bay Chrono more appeal and a less massive style – because of the full-steel design, the watch becomes much bulkier on bracelet. Again, a matter of choice. Both will also have an additional denim-blue fabric strap in the box.
Let’s move now to the dial… Here again, the Black Bay lineage is easy to spot. The same indexes (triangle at 12, dots for the hours), the same snowflake hands, the same inscriptions, with the red depth-rating, and of course the modern “shield” logo. However, because of the addition of the chronograph, Tudor had to adapt the display. No more minute track but a one-fourth of a second scale on the periphery (made accordingly with the frequency of the movement) and, of course, two sub-counters at 3 and 9 – one being a 45-minute chrono counter and the other the running seconds.
How do these elements integrate into the design? Actually, pretty well. Tudor has kept things clean and legible, without the need of contrasting sub-dials or flashy coloured accents. The integration of the mandatory chronograph elements is subtle and the modern chronograph movement (more on that later) allows for well-proportioned sub-counters. Yes, it feels slightly more modern than a normal Black Bay, maybe because the chronograph display feels more technical than the standard 3-hand style. Yet, the DNA of the collection is still clear and present.
However, we can’t skip here one of the main talking points about this Tudor Black Bay Chrono: the fixed tachymeter scale. What might have been quite disturbing at first with this watch was the mix of elements from both vintage dive watches and classical chronographs. The main argument we’ve seen here was about the lack of rotatable bezel. Even if I can understand the arguments of some here, I personally don’t feel a real issue here. On a standard 3-hand dive watch, the rotating bezel is printed with a 60-minute scale, in order to time decompression steps or the length of your diving session. What about now if you have a chronograph…? Will the rotating bezel be useful? I leave the answer up to you.
Also, it is not the first watch to mix a diving style with additional features. We’ve seen dozens of watches with an extra-GMT function (and the 24h bezel that goes along) or a chronograph. On a personal perspective, I liked the style of this bezel, with a rugged, utilitarian brushed steel construction. Some will like it, while some will say that it is not properly relevant with a “dive watch” concept… But these remain insiders discussions, from people who really know about watches and that look at past productions of the brand. Indeed, there’s no clear historical influence in this Black Bay Chrono, compared for instance to the Heritage Chrono Blue. Change is always difficult to accept, but Tudor has to move forward and has to create new types of watches.
And finally, there was the debate around the snowflake hour hand and how it affects the readability of the minute-counter. To me, this is a nonsense debate, as many other chronographs (not only divers) face this. For sure, 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.
So, what to think of this watch? Well, indeed, it is not perfect and Tudor has made some bold choices – and as always, some will like these choices, some won’t. Personally, I was sceptical, however, after wearing this watch for a longer period, I liked the style, the design, the sturdiness, and the tool-aspect. The arguments mentioned above never disturbed me and, for those who are still doubtful, there’s nothing to say that some evolutions won’t come later, maybe with a rotatable bezel… And in all honesty, I would love to know the proportion of people who will really use this watch somewhere else than on land or for a jump in a pool.
The Breitling x Tudor Movement
Let’s now move to the movement, because this was certainly one of the main topics when talking about the Black Bay Chrono. I can remember being at the presentation of this watch, the day before the opening of Baselworld 2017. Tudor’s team immediately mentioned that something big was waiting for us inside the watch… without saying more about it. Speculations immediately started: an in-house chronograph module added on the brand’s 3-hand calibre? No, we’ve been told it was an integrated architecture. A movement derived from the Rolex 4130? Possibly. A fully new movement?… We had to wait until the following day. And the explanation surprised us (in a good way) for two reasons: the transparency of Tudor concerning the provenance of the movement, and that provenance itself.
Prior to 2015, Tudor was only using out-sourced movements, slightly modified (minor updates), all coming from a single supplier: ETA. Yet, in 2015, the brand decided to gain its independence, not only from parent company Rolex, but also by integrating production facilities and development of its own movements – more flexibility, more added value for the final client… At Baselworld 2015, “the Shield” introduced its manufacture Calibre MT5612 on the Pelagos (3-hand and date) and of the Calibre MT5621 (3-hand, date and power reserve) on the North Flag, followed in 2016 by the Calibre MT5602 (3-hand, no-date) on the Black Bay.
Still, in terms of chronographs, the situation was still based on out-sourced movements, most of them being 2892 (modular architecture) or 7753 (Valjoux-based), for its Heritage, Black Shield, Fast Rider and Grantour chronographs. Back to the first day of Baselworld 2017, on Tudor’s booth: here it is, the new Manufacture MT5813, which equips the Black Bay Chrono. And stupefaction, it is based on the Breitling B01, with only a few technical and decoration updates. This was the result of a two-way industrial collaboration, Breiling using the 3-hand movement by Tudor for its watches, Tudor using the chronograph movement. However, this presentation was 6 months ago and the stupefaction is now gone, leaving instead a very positive feeling.
First of all, the Tudor MT5813 – Breitling B01 is a technically advanced movement. Modern, with integrated architecture (the chronograph function is part of the movement and not later added to an existing movement), it features a column-wheel and a vertical clutch (technically-speaking, the best possible combination for a chronograph) and comes with interesting specifications: 4Hz frequency, variable inertia balance, micro-adjustment by screw, non-magnetic silicon balance spring, COSC certified and a comfortable 70h power reserve. Honestly, there’s nothing to complain about here, especially knowing the price of this Black Bay Chrono (below 5K Euro).
Such honesty and openness by a brand is to be applauded. But that’s not the only reason why this industrial alliance is beneficial. As said, the movement is good, but it also reduces development costs, meaning that this Tudor can be offered at a very decent price – the Heritage Chrono Blue with ETA movement is 4,150 Euro while the Black Bay Chrono is 4,740 Euro (both on steel bracelet). In such a price range, few are the watches that feature a movement with such specifications and technical solutions. For more on the subject, take a look at our in-depth article about this collaboration.
This Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono is a perfect example of how bad comments can take over… Yes, this watch isn’t perfect and could be changed on some minor aspects. However, if I was not fully conceived at first, I definitely enjoyed wearing this watch for a longer period. The style, which mixes technical and vintage elements, is great, the DNA of the Black Bay collection is subtly transformed and, in terms of quality, it is simply impressive. The Black Bay Chrono transpires precision and solidity. There’s not a single part that has been overlooked. Not to mention the movement and its technical features, which are almost unique in this price range.
The Black Bay Chrono was maybe not the watch fully expected by a few hardcore collectors, however, the brand can’t live only on this small circle of vintage enthusiasts. The style and design remain personal subjects, but it will certainly satisfy more than a few clients – including me. And now that the first model is out, I’m looking forward to its variations (because there will be some). More details on tudorwatch.com.
Technical Specifications – Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono M79350
- Case: 41mm diameter x 14.9mm height – stainless steel, polished and brushed – domed sapphire crystal on the front, plain steel caseback – screwed crown and pushers – 200m water resistant
- Movement: Tudor MT5813 (based on Breitling B01) – COSC Certified – automatic integrated chronograph with vertical clutch and column-wheel – 4hz frequency – 70h power reserve – hours, minutes, small second, date, chronograph with 45-min counter
- Strap/bracelet: steel riveted bracelet with folding clasp OR leather strap with folding clasp – both versions also feature an additional denim fabric strap
- Reference: M79350-0001 (steel bracelet) – M79350-0002 (leather strap)
- Availability: in stores now
- Price: 4,400 Euro / $4,725 (leather) – 4,740 Euro / $5,050 (steel bracelet)
I looked at two today and the units per hour ring was misaligned, with the 60 not over the 12 hour marker!
Thanks for the review. I’ll be doing my own soon after a little bit more time on the wrist. I think I will have some different commentary; however, many of your opinions are spot on. Thanks again – Adam | AdamVintage
Great review. I am getting this watch. I tried it and it definetely feels like a Rolex (own a Sub and a Datejust). You nailed it with the issue of the Snowflake vs the dials. Other brands have exactly the same issue. Chronograph hands are always a compromise, I do not understand the fuss. Also I don’t get the confusion with the non-diving bezel. For me, it is a chronograph with serious waterproof capabilities and a retro styling. The bezel is not such an important thing if you really want to go diving. Just activate the pusher above water and you’re set… on the other hand and as a certified Divemaster, everyone uses diving computers in hour days (I use a Suunto D9), who wants to dive with a 5.000$ luxury watch?
I have had this watch ever since they became available. It is sturdy, accurate and has that certain mix of modern and “steampunk” aesthetics with the leather strap which speaks, sings loudly to me. Of course in time the strap gets spotty from sweat among other things, but I simply treated it with boot wax. Now the combo looks even better. It is a man watch but does that without unnecessary noise.