Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black Chronograph

We looked forward to seeing new iterations of Tudor‘s highly successful Heritage Black Bay line at Baselworld 2017 – but this is something that we didn’t expect. A new chronograph watch with an “outside group movement,” it is officially called the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono. In short, its surprising combination of typical chronograph and dive watch design elements powered by a new-for-the-brand chronograph movement leaves us with a lot to discuss.

We’ve covered the Tudor Heritage Black Bay several times in the past, and for all details you could possibly want on it, check out our comparison test of the Heritage Black Bay Black and the Rolex Submariner 114060 here. In a nutshell, the most notable contributors to the success of the Heritage Black Bay beyond its competitive price point are its great legibility, powerful in-house movement, and perhaps above all else, its elegant, clean, purposeful looks.
With the Heritage Black Bay Chronograph, Tudor has added a new and, again, sort of unexpected element by turning a full-on dive watch into a “diver chronograph” – a very sensitive, complicated combination that we have seen both work well and not work well in the past. A quick rundown of the mixed elements in this watch are as follows: the tachymeter scale, two sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock, central seconds hand and two screw-down pushers for the chronograph; a highly legible dial with large and bold indices and hands, the red “meters first” text and the so-called “big crown” for the diver.
Tudor made a risky move by merging all these traits to pretty much completely remove the Heritage Black Bay from its comfort zone of being a clean-looking, vintage-inspired dive watch and turn it into what we could best categorize as a diver and/or sporty chronograph. The boldness of the move comes in how watch enthusiasts (many of whom are Tudor fans and customers) often tend to prefer single-purpose designs and purpose-built products to feature-laden and multi-purpose ones as the former tend to age and look better and also work with a wider range of situations and attire.
Tudor thus far has pretty much excelled at nailing this “purpose built” ethos throughout its Heritage Black Bay, Pelagos (reviewed here), and even their Heritage Chrono (reviewed here) lines. Now, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono is the first to really go in a totally different direction and blend two into one… Which begs the question, can it win the hearts of both Black Bay and Heritage Chrono enthusiasts, find a new customer base, or suffer from what some do-it-all products do and fall to the floor between two chairs?
In steel and at 41mm wide, it is as wearable and comfortable as any Black Bay before, and the leather straps are especially good this time around, though we are still not fans of the woven straps. There also is a riveted bracelet that we saw debut last year when the Heritage Black Bay received its update from an ETA movement to Tudor’s in-house caliber. Wearability, therefore, is still great and the sizing remains timeless – if you want a larger Black Bay you’ll have to go with the bronze iteration. Water-resistance is rated at 200 meters (as is noted on the dial with a vintage-watch-enthusiast-enticing red lettering) thanks to the screw-down crown and pushers.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono debuts the brand’s new chronograph caliber MT5813, a column-wheel, vertical clutch and silicon balance spring-equipped, COSC chronometer-certified caliber. Serving as its base is the Breitling Caliber B01, Breitling’s flagship chronograph movement and, in fact, the Tudor Caliber MT5813 is manufactured by Breitling but updated with Tudor’s proprietary adjustable moment of inertia balance wheel, hairspring, and finishes.
Though the proprietary movement is manufactured by Breitling, the solid case-back of the Black Bay Chrono does say Calibre Manufacture twice on it. In return, Breitling will receive Tudor’s MT5612 calibre (a three-hand with date) and use it as their Breitling B20 (as in the new Superocean Heritage II). So yes, Tudor and Breitling are sharing resources in what the brands refer to as a “complimentary partnership” of offering services to one another – an intelligent move considering both the history and present state of the watch industry.
Power reserve is an impressive 70 hours and operating frequency is an expected 4Hz. Indications include hours and minutes via the typical Black Bay handset, two sub-dials with running seconds on the left and a 45-minute counter on the right and, new for the Black Bay, a white date at six. Legibility overall is good, with only the curved crystal’s occasional glare and the large snowflake hand covering most of a chronograph sub-dial hindering it. The interesting, subtle texture of the dial helped highlight the shiny hands more, though black dials will always be outperformed by brighter ones when it comes to legibility.
The date window and tachymeter scale are two design elements that frequently cause controversy in modern watchmaking and this is especially true when you think about the Black Bay’s successful and well-loved clean/undisturbed lines. The date at six o’clock makes for a balanced and symmetrical look but the black on white text, and the square cut-out against the round indices makes it stand out more than would arguably be ideal.
The tachymeter bezel, along with the screw-down pushers enforce an unmistakably Daytona-esque look, especially with the loud Units Per Hour text and the varying printed track that is present from the 100 mark on both the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono and the Rolex Daytona. No way around it, the bezel to those not familiar with the ’70s chronographs from Tudor will look like it is straight from a Daytona (apart from its size, of course). Still, the lack of a crown guard and the red “meters first” text at 6 o’clock make for enough of a considerable difference – but that doesn’t mean they necessarily work well with the Black Bay’s newfound chronograph design elements.
We have discussed case size, wearability, strap options, styling elements, and movement peculiarities, so we really could wrap this article up. However, I do want to take this opportunity to discuss Tudor, branding, and the importance of core collections and versatility – so, please, brace yourselves (and let me know your thoughts on this in the comments).
Tudor is one of, if not the greatest, comeback/revival/out-of-the-blue success stories in recent watchmaking history that took the $2-5k market by storm and won the hearts of watch enthusiasts around the globe. As I discussed previously, this was largely thanks to its competitive pricing and its restrained, intelligent design that is distinct without trying too hard. Add to this its subtly communicated/implied link to Rolex, and last but not least, its cleverly expanded range of collections – namely the Heritage Black Bay, Pelagos, Heritage Chrono, and North Flag (arguably not the strongest offering in the range).
However, I am afraid that by adding this chronograph into the Heritage Black Bay line-up Tudor has taken another step towards becoming yet another among the myriads of “one-watch” brands. This is what I call it when a collection’s name is synonymous with the brand itself, and when you think about it there are, in truth, very few successfully versatile brands out there. We can’t predict what is in the pipeline in terms of other Tudor collections, but I can’t help but feel that Tudor has dropped the ball here by not updating the Heritage Chrono line. It’s a terrific watch that is thoroughly Tudor and one whose refresh would not have been more timely than now to bring it back into circulation and onto people’s minds, saving the “Tudor = Heritage Black Bay” equation from further developing.
The Heritage Chrono even has a 42mm case (over the 41 of this new release) so spatial limitations probably would not have been an issue, plus it has the same bi-register, date-at-six layout – though its sub-dial layout admittedly is the inverse with the chronograph minutes counter being on the left and running seconds on the right. Though, interestingly, the original 1970s version of it had the same sub-dial layout as this new Breitling/Tudor movement offers, so really, all was a given.
Both when I had it in my hand for about half an hour and when editing my Baselworld 2017 images of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono, I found myself going and back and forth in growing to like it, but this just goes to show how incredibly great the “Black Bay look” is – but apart from brief moments of things coming together for my mind’s eye, the Heritage Black Bay Chrono never turned into a true Tudor or Black Bay for me.
Everyone is entitled to their aesthetic preference, of course, but it really isn’t pure aesthetics that turned me off here but rather the fact that the Heritage Black Bay turned into something that I never expected (or wanted) it to become. In contrast, the Heritage Chrono, a fantastic, vintage-inspired yet timeless and uniquely Tudor watch is one you can’t even find on the Tudor site anymore without clicking to view “all models” and scrolling down half a mile till the three long-standing models are shown.
I was going to ask if they had any plans for the Heritage Chrono but what’s the point when Tudor has been extremely secretive about all their upcoming products until the moment they’re officially launched – let alone ask external sources for feedback on upcoming stuff even though maybe, just maybe, from time to time that would help. The Heritage Chrono turns 50 in 2020, so maybe we’ll see something with this new movement and old-new dial layout then… But 2017, I feel, still should have brought us an update to that collection.