Feature: 5 Annoying Things About The Tudor Black Bay 58
I’m not shy to admit it: I think the Tudor Black Bay 58 may well be the most perfect watch you can buy today. It has everything, style, heritage, value, reliability, and that makes finding fault with it very tricky. Although when a watch is this good, those faults, however small, can start to make themselves rather well known. Let’s take a look.
Synthetic sapphire is a marvel of modern technology, the ability to do what nature takes millions of years, millions of tonnes and millions of degrees to do in a lab in quantities Mother Earth could never dream of. It’s hard, virtually scratchproof; it’s clear, without the impurities that turns its basic form, corundum, into the reds and blues seen in rubies and sapphires; and it can be grown in hulking great big blocks from which any number of shapes can be hewn.
That makes it perfect for a watch crystal. In theory. Because, in practice, watches aren’t all about practicality. If they were, we’d all wear Apple Watches instead. A mechanical watch is bought with the heart more so than the head, and it’s here the sapphire crystal finds itself in a bit of a bind.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of a truly vintage watch—very much like the one this Black Bay 58 is based on—is the crystal. Before synthetic sapphire was possible, watchmakers used acrylic instead, often under the brand Plexiglass or Hesalite—but nonetheless, acrylic. Acrylic loses out to sapphire in almost every way: it scratches, it’s thicker, it’s not as transparent—yet it does something very well that sapphire just can’t quite match: it looks good.
The bulbous dome of an acrylic crystal and the way it looks so liquid smooth just isn’t possible with sapphire. You get more pronounced corners and—worst of all—milkiness at the extremes. It’s by no means a terrible thing, or even a bad—it’s just annoying.
The Crown and Bezel
Many a time I’ve been asked, “Which new Rolex is best if you like the vintage style?” and every time the answer has been, “The Tudor Black Bay 58.” Where Rolex ambled off into the future with big, shiny cases and ceramic bezels, Tudor took over where it left off, forging a new, alternate Rolex reality. It’s a smart move by Rolex, especially since those shiny new cases seem to cost so much.
And as a former owner of what is now the old-style Rolex Submariner, the Tudor Black Bay 58 makes me feel much the same way as its historical forebear. It really does feel like a flashback, same as the kind you get when you smell cut grass or suntan lotion. By comparison, to me at least, the new Submariner is a cold, hard, modern thing, devoid of the warmth and character of its ancestors.
It’s certainly a tough act to follow, and Tudor has mostly done a great job of it. Mostly. The bezel clicks are deliciously solid, the wind spine-tinglingly smooth—but both of those experiences are let down by something so minor it couldn’t be charged with a crime. I’m talking about the knurling.
Knurling—here, straight knurling—takes what would otherwise be a smooth, hard-to-grip edge and gives it some bite, something to hang on to. On the Rolex it’s that iconic scalloping on the bezel and those proud, prism-like teeth on the crown. On the Black Bay 58, you just get simple, straight cut slots that look a bit cheap and feel even cheaper. Shame.
Do you know why Tudor is called Tudor? Because founder Hans Wilsdorf was a massive Anglophile—a fan of all things English, in case you misheard. That’s why he moved to England to found Rolex, and had we not been quite so xenophobic about his German descent during the war, Rolex would continue to be among the brands we could call British and probably would have saved British watchmaking. Ah well.
Had Wilsdorf not had a fascination with England and indeed the Tudor period, he may well have gone with one of his other choices, namely Elvira, Falcon, Hofex and, ahem, Rolwatco. Thankfully, he didn’t and however bad you might think the name Tudor is for a watch, it’s leagues ahead of any of that old tripe. I guess the genie that whispered Rolex to Wilsdorf didn’t do encores.
If you’re at all familiar with Tudor history, as Wilsdorf was, you’ll know the Tudor Rose is the emblem of the house. Tudor watches originally had that logo inscribed inside a shield, eventually dropping the shield to leave just the rose. Pretty nice, and I’m not the only one to think so, because when the Heritage Black Bay was first conceived a few decades ago, it was the rose logo that accompanied it.
Now, though? The Black Bay 58 doesn’t get the rose logo, or even the rose in the shield—it’s just the plain, old boring shield. Boo…
The Dial Text
Now this next gripe is hardly the sole misdemeanour of Tudor, but it’s there nevertheless. Thinking back a while now, I remember a day when people didn’t insist on telling you their life story, didn’t overshare. Regardless of how cripplingly sad you were inside, you said, “Hi, how are you? I’m fine thanks” and got on with your day. Things aren’t like that anymore. People are encouraged to share and speak out and not keep everything bottled up inside.
I suppose that’s a good thing for people, but for inanimate objects? Not so much. I don’t need to know that your Land Rover is a Range Rover in Evoque spec with the 2.0 litre TD4 engine with E-Capability, 4x4 drivetrain in HSE trim with the Dynamic upgrade—yet, for some reason, your Land Rover insists on letting me know. There’s so much I can’t read it all before the lights change.
And it’s a shame to say, but watches aren’t immune to that either. A Rolex 116660 has this to say about itself: Original Gas Escape Valve, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date, Deepsea Sea-Dweller 12,800ft = 3,900m, Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified, Ring Lock System. Even Tolkien would say that was too dense.
I get it for some things. It’s good to have a handy reminder of your watch’s water-resistance. The other stuff is less superlative and more superfluous, and the Black Bay 58, despite the sparsity of the watches that inspired it, still gets quite the essay. Officially Certified? Officially annoying.
The Hour Hand
The last annoyance here is one that will split people right down the middle. There’s no middle ground here, no take-it-or-leave-it—this one makes Marmite seem more like mayo. With me yet? I’m talking snowflakes. That’s what people call the squared off bulge in the Black Bay 58’s hour hand.
It’s there to make the hand more visible since its shorter than its brethren, make it stand out to aid low-light viewing. Rolex has it’s Mercedes-style version—not sure how it got away with that—and Tudor used it for a bit too before eventually settling on the squared-off version we see today.
Now, what you might be thinking is that I find that snowflake hand annoying, and I know many people do—but no. I like it. It adds character without being over-styled, is instantly recognisable and does the job it’s supposed to fabulously well. So, what’s annoying about it then?
What’s annoying are the people who hate it. What’s to hate? It’s so simple and refined! These people, would they rather it was identical to the Rolex one? That would be terrible! The snowflake hand is great, end of. People who hate it are wrong. Don’t @ me.
Once again, even by trying to pick the Tudor Black Bay 58 apart, we’ve shown just how good a watch it is. A little sharpness in the bezel feel here and milkiness in the crystal there don’t detract from what a furious bargain it is. Maybe I should just get one already.
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