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Feature: £1,000 Baltic GMT vs £3,000 Tudor GMT

Ever heard the expression, in for a penny, in for a pound? Or, go all in? I expect you probably have, because the age-old disease If-I-Spend-A-Bit-More-I’ll-Get-Something-Even-Better-itis has been around since humans first started trading berries for bits of sharpened rock. Well, in the berry corner is the new, £1,000 Baltic Aquascaphe GMT, and in the bit of sharpened rock corner is the £3,000 Tudor Black Bay GMT. Is it time to put your berries where your mouth is? No wait, that doesn’t sound right…

I bet you didn’t know this, but I’m not only a writer of internet watch nerdism—I’m also a practitioner of the psychic arts. Don’t believe me? Okay, well I want you to do something. Now, this only works if you’ve liked and subscribed and tickled the bell etcetera, so it’s imperative you do that before we start. I’ll give you a moment. Done it? Then we’ll begin.

Now, I want you to shut your eyes. No peeking. That means you too! Our minds can’t connect if your brain energy is able to leak out of your eye holes. Right, okay, good. Well, I know you’re still not doing it, but this isn’t real anyway, so who cares. I’m locking in on your particular wavelength, I’m seeing into your mind—huh, you listen to some weird music, and there’s a dark corner over there I think I’m going to avoid—and a thought becomes clear to me.

Here we are, in a moment of consideration, where you’re weighing up the purchase of something new. Doesn’t have to be a watch, but it’s something you want, not something you need. You’ve got boxes to tick and the prize you’ve got your eye on does a good job of scratching out the most of them, and for the price, you think that’s fair. But wait—on the horizon is another, better option. More boxes ticked, yes, but it is quite a bit more expensive, and if we’re honest, ticks more boxes than perhaps you really care for.

But you try to justify it; it’s futureproofing, you’ll save money in the long run not upgrading, you’ll reap more happiness and that in itself is priceless. It is expensive though. The other option does so much for a lot less and, if anything, it’s an option you could feel more comfortable not only living with, but with the decision it took to get, too. Yes, it is the sensible way. But do you want sensible? Don’t you want passion as well? And round it goes.

The Tudor Black Bay range first launched in 2012

The Tudor Black Bay range first launched in 2012

You can open your eyes. If they were actually shut, thanks for playing along, but perhaps consider being a bit more cynical in future, because what I’ve been talking about is no feat of wireless human connectivity but more simply a case of being the sack of skin, flesh and bones that we have so taken upon ourselves to title human.

In cognitive science, there’s a law, if you like, called the Goldilocks principle. It’s used in psychology, it’s used in medicine, economics, business, marketing, mathematics, software development—even astro biology. Its analogous to the story it borrows its name from, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, in which a troubled, young delinquent breaks into her neighbours’ house and puts on the most incredible display of entitlement known to fiction.

As our antagonist—because that’s what she quite literally is—parades about the place, helping herself to whatever she pleases, she faces a dilemma. No, not that perhaps she should hand herself into the police—something far more arrogant. The family of bears is a family of three, and for every aspect of that family’s life, there are three options, be it food, seating or rest. Goldilocks, in her infinite conceit, learns that the extreme options are not to her preference, and that the compromise in the middle is, as they say, just right.

It’s a problem we battle on a daily basis, of course with considerations within the realms of legality, and more often with dilemmas that are far more complicated, taking into consideration the impact on others as well as yourself. But occasionally, and often when we spoil ourselves, the analogy becomes more apparent, as we decide, for us, what is, after all, just right.

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT will be available to customers November 27th 2020

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT will be available to customers November 27th 2020

Assuming that you can count to three, it will be quite plain that this is a comparison of just two watches, and there’s a reason for that. Firstly, I only have two hands, and secondly because of relativity. No, not the stuff that glues the universe together—more the stuff that glues your bank account together. In a triplet of GMTs, you could add something like a Steinhart to the lower end or a Rolex to the higher, but chances are these two—or at least their respective price brackets—are going to feature somewhere in that decision.

We’ll start with the Tudor because it is familiar, and beloved and, to be honest, a bargain. There aren’t many boxes it doesn’t tick. With its rugged, perfume ad good looks, modelled after the Rolexes of yore, it certainly carves a dashing figure. It has a big crown, it has no crown guards, it has an aluminium bezel and chunky hands and markers. The links on the bracelet are capped with riveted—or at least what looks like it—end pieces. It knows what our eyes want and delivers it in spades.

It’s got pedigree too, because as is common knowledge, Tudor is a Rolex brand, and thus it draws from the well of Rolex’s incredible back story—which, to be honest, isn’t that much older than Tudor’s own. There’s a movement inside, obviously, but here it’s one of Tudor’s—and that means Rolex’s—own making, pumping out big numbers like 70 hours’ power reserve and chronometer certification.

It is perfect. It’s half the price at least of the equivalent Rolex with basically no downsides bar the branding. If you’re playing footsie with the idea of spending more and getting a GMT-Master II, or spending less and getting the Baltic, this Tudor is your just right.

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT is powered by the Soprod calibre C125

The Baltic Aquascaphe GMT is powered by the Soprod calibre C125

But, relatively speaking, what if it’s not? What if it’s at the top of the tree? Let’s examine the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT and find out if it can also be just right. First and foremost, you won’t find the might of a legendary watchmaker backing the Aquascaphe GMT—more the hopes and dreams of young founder Etienne Malec. Instead of a member of the board you’ll find a diver, a sailor, a driver, the kind of person who thinks it’s a good idea to run a classic MG, who you’re more likely to catch at the peak of a mountain than the peak of a graph.

Baltic is, essentially a vanity project, but not like you’d expect. You restore an MGA because an air-cooled 911 is out of reach. Doesn’t stop the MG being an absolute riot. So when a Rolex GMT-Master 6542 is beyond your grasp—well, in the case of Etienne, he made his own, and he hopes to pay for it by making one for you, too.

So you get a perfectly serviceable Soprod calibre C125 in a 39mm steel case with a Bakelite-like sapphire two-tone bezel. The crystal, also sapphire, is heavily domed and is the cherry on the cake of the whole modern-vintage vibe. Machining is simple, straightforward, but to the advantage of the Baltic, because it represents the capability and quality of manufacturers of the period this style was born.

And it’s not just an outright GMT-Master replica, either, just like the Black Bay GMT isn’t. The recipe is clear, but there’s just enough variance and interest—especially in the choice of colour palettes—to let a personality of its own peer through. It feels considered. The text on the dial is minimal. The date is centred at six. The proportion of dial to bezel feels well-judged. It ticks not all, but a lot of boxes. There are no massive complaints and no ground-breaking benefits. It’s not too cheap or too expensive. It’s just—well, it’s just right.

Speaking from experience, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the cycle of consideration presented by the Goldilocks principle, to tangle your thoughts in knots deliberating over the merits of cost versus spend—and do you know what the worst thing is? Unless you’re going to buy everything and ride out the storm, you’ll never truly know what the right decision is for you. There’s a reason the Goldilocks principle makes itself known so often in our lives, and that, like both the Tudor and the Baltic, is because it really is just right.

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