Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red

This isn’t so much of a review, more of a rambling tirade of my subconscious. You want a proper objective review, go read something about drywalls or outboard motors. There’s nothing objective about the completely unnecessary items that are watches. I’ve come to realise that reviewing them objectively is a bad thing. Like Soren Kierkegaard said “Once you label me, you negate me”. People essentially are made from the same bits, but we are very different.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red. An automatic watch. It is made of stainless steel with a domed sapphire crystal. It has gold hands and indices. Those indices have a very beige lume on them. It has a screw-down crown with a rose engraved on it. The stem tube is red like the bezel. The bezel is coin edged and clicks nicely. This version comes on a steel bracelet. The links are held together with screws. The bracelet is brushed. It looks like an oyster, but the middle links are wider. It has end pieces that are solid, but look like they’re folded. It has a nice clasp, but no Rolex style micro adjustment, you have to move the pin. It doesn’t have a date. The hour hand is called “snowflake” and is distinctive. It’s powered by a bought in and tweaked ETA movement. It’s very comfortable to wear.
Phew, now that’s over, let us concentrate on why I wanted to write this review and why I hope some of it touches you in some way (that I can’t get arrested for).
This watch is made by Rolex. Buying a Tudor is sort of like buying a Volkswagen. On the whole, it probably shares a chassis, engine, running gear and many other bits of the equivalent Audi. But it doesn’t have those 4 circles on the grille. It sort of says to the world “Life hasn’t worked out quite as well as I planned it”.

This watch doesn’t have a Rolex movement. It has an ETA movement. A movement you can find in watches costing less than a fifth of its price.

It doesn’t have a date function. Just like those cheap watches you find in newsagents in seaside towns or on most market stalls.

It comes with a different strap, if you wish to change it. It doesn’t come with a strap changing tool or drilled lugs.

Its face isn’t nice and glossy. Nor is it nice and matte. It looks at some angles like it’s a piece of shiny black paper.

The bezel is an aluminium insert. I know watches that cost $300 that have a ceramic insert. This doesn’t.

And to repeat what I said at the start. It’s a Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red . “What’s a Tudor?” asks a friend. “Oh, it’s made by Rolex, it’s just a cheaper brand they make”. “Oh, cheaper, couldn’t afford a real one eh?”
As you have probably guessed at this point, I think this watch is far from perfect. And every time I look at it, I couldn’t give a damn about its “perfect imperfections”. I adore it.

This watch sums up so much that is right, wrong, intelligent and stupid about this hobby.

I’ve owned a couple of Sub Dates for the past 15 years. It was the watch I always promised myself when I was young. The watch that said “Life HAS worked out as well as I planned”.

I’ve also owned a Tudor before. It was a “Tiger” prince chronograph. I wanted a Daytona. I couldn’t afford one. I could afford the Prince though, both made by Rolex. Good enough for me at that time. It was a lovely watch, but I sold it when I eventually got a Daytona.

So when I saw the BB (That’s how I’m going to refer to it from now on) I thought it looked good. No date. A watch at least has to have a date in my book. It seems incomplete and cheap without it. Just my (wrong) opinion. But it’s another Sub clone I thought. I walked on.

But every time I saw one. Every time someone posted a picture with one, I liked it more.

The Tudor Rose on the face and the crown, the coin edge bezel with its beautiful, loud, clicking, the red stem tube, the red bezel insert, the gold indices and hands, the snowflake hour hand, the way the words “self-winding” is curved on the face, the slabiness of the case sides, its heft compared to a Sub, its overwhelming 60s vibe. These little things start to grow on you.
But I had a Sub Date, why would I buy a Passat when I already had an A5? Why would I keep my Prince Chrono when I had a Daytona?

When I passed my local AD, they had a sale on. Yes, they were discounting Rolex products. They had the BB red on the bracelet, (not knocking the other models, but this is what I think of when the words Black Bay enter my head) the version I wanted, with 25% off. And they also had £760 off the Monte Carlo blue Chrono.
I went in the shop and looked at both. The Chrono looked great on my wrist, is rarer, is discontinued, will certainly rise in price and, all in all, I thought it was the better buy. Besides there’s a new Black Bay out, with an in-house movement that’s a certified chronometer. Get the Monte Carlo my head said.

I walked out of the shop with the BB. Makes no sense, but the heart wants what the heart wants. The heart however is no fool. However, I went back and got the Monte Carlo the next week as I couldn’t stop thinking about it…I do feel very privileged, but I earn it. My dad made pizza for a living, I have no silver spoon.

And here’s the thing, it’s taken me many years and thousands of wasted pounds to discover this, but unless it’s to do with finance and insurance ALWAYS buy what the heart wants, never the head. Nothing is perfect, but buying with the heart glosses over those imperfections, buying with the head amplifies them.

And I’m not going to go in-depth with the specs either. It’s 41mm wide, 51mm lug to lug, 22mm lug width, ETA 25 jewel automatic….oh bugger it. Look at the damn thing. This watch completely vilifies the phrase “The whole is more than the sum of the parts”.
But isn’t this review obsolete whilst there is a new version with the in house chronometer movement?

Let me put it this way. If you can, buy the ETA version.

This isn’t a reissue of a classic watch. Sure, it has taken cues from here there and everywhere. But it’s a completely new model. It is not a 100% remake of anything. The ETA version is the first Black Bay. The rose on the face, the curved writing, “Rotor” “Self Winding”. It’s the first. Ok the new one is the first with the in house movement, but not the first Black Bay. You see Daytona’s with the Zenith Movement being shunned? Everyone wants the air cooled Porsche.

Besides, putting “Chronometer – Officially Certified” on the face, to me, takes away a bit of its uniqueness, pushes it even closer to saying “I’m a Rolex, I’m a Rolex, honest guvnor, I’ve got an in house movement too now” when to me a lot of the appeal is that it ISN’T a Rolex Submariner. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Submariner, but this is a very different beast. Over the years the Sub has lost its sheen a bit. Its reputation and ubiquity has done that in my eyes. Maybe that’s why I have no issues in owning the BB as well. I also don’t like the new versions riveted strap, it looks a bit too “Diesel” for my liking.

Anyway on to the movement, it’s not a stock ETA, it’s been tweaked. It must have been. In the past 5 days, this has had a deviance of +0.2 seconds a day. My “officially certified chronometers” are shouting “bollocks”, but that’s what my timing app is showing. I’ll say it again, +0.2 second a day. And since it is a widely used movement, parts and servicing will be easy enough to do in the future.

And if you look they’re being discounted to make way for the new one.

But back to this watch summing up “so much that is right, wrong, intelligent and stupid about this hobby.”

It’s made me realise something painful. Something I didn’t want to accept.

Human nature is that we always want more. That’s why communism doesn’t work, but consumerism does. It’s in our genes to want more. We loved the speed on our bicycles, so we then bought scooters, then we needed motorbikes, then we upgraded to super-bikes. It’s how we are and some of us try to fight it.

What this Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red has made me realise is that, “emperor’s new clothes” or not, luxury watches just have a different magic. They feel different to buy and to wear. It’s intangible, but it’s definitely there. I love Seikos, heck I have enough of them. But here’s the thing. They offer great “bang per buck”, but a bang is quick, and after that they start to fade. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

I’ve never fallen out of love with my high end pieces. I like the fact they’re expensive, I like their provenance, I like the fact that they (mostly) hold their value, I like that people comment on them, I like the sage nods us enthusiasts give to each other when one is spotted on each other’s wrist and I’m not going to apologise for saying that, as again, I work hard. I earned these pieces.

Anyway, there is just something that some watches have that make you feel good about them. I can’t pinpoint it, but some have it and some don’t. That’s why some watches I love everything I’ve read about them and when they turn up, they get no wrist time. Some I’ve bought that were cheap, turned out to be epic.
And this is where the REAL fans win. You buy shrewd and these watches cost you nothing in the long run.

As much as it may also pain us, us enthusiasts are not the biggest market for watches. How can you explain Michael Kors otherwise? No, the public is. Google “Esquire Tudor Heritage Black Bay Red ”. Esquire has this watch as No.1 in their article on “10 Watches To Invest In Right Now”. This is what the rest of the world reads, not stuff like I’m writing here. Someone will always want this watch.
The other thing that this watch has made me realise is that 95% of my buying criteria is based on how a watch makes me feel. If when I look at it, I get a little “kick”, then as long as it is reliable and functional, I couldn’t care less about the rest. This truth will set you free. Try the watches you like on. You will know straight away. That “Corvetteguy78” (made up name) recommended a certain watch to you will in no way make you feel better after you’ve bought it, if it just doesn’t bond with you.
This watch makes me feel special. Like when you see a vintage Submariner and you think “How cool must it have been to buy, wear and love this watch back in the 60s, only for it to then be worth a fortune now?” This is my 60s icon. A watch that, in the future, watch addicts will look at and think the same. This model is the Genesis of the Black Bay. This is my “rose tinted specs” watch for when I’m old and look back on my life, it’s a pastiche of nearly everything I love about watches made into a single piece. And I just know I’m going to love the heck out of it on the journey there…because my heart says I will. Like that perfume that reminds you of good times, looking at the bottle triggers nothing, it’s all in the smell.

The BB isn’t a modern Passat to the Subs A5. The BB is like a Porsche Speedster, a VW underneath, but it transcends it into something that will always be desired. A5 for the week, Speedster for the weekend. They can live together as they in reality are quite different.

So in conclusion it’s beautiful, functional, retro yet modern, with provenance and cachet. All the “dress diver” you need with that “je ne sais quoi” so many watches swap for specifications.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay 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 Tudor 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.