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Review: Tudor Black Bay Chrono

I don’t like to gush. It’s unbecoming for a man of my age, but when it comes to what Tudor’s been up to recently, it’s painfully hard not to. The Black Bay 58, it’s just perfect, it really is. There’s not a thing wrong with it. It is the default recommendation for any question, sometimes even non-watch related ones. The looks, the quality and the price are, basically, unmatchable. For chronograph fans, however, the Black Bay’s bi-compax brother has not been quite such an easy trigger to pull. Tudor realised this and now it’s done something about it. Here’s how.

The Looks

Question. Why do we buy these kinds of watches? Wrong! Not to tell the time. Don’t be silly. That’s what iPhones are for. I once wore a watch for two days before I realised the time was wrong, and not because I didn’t look it—I looked at it a lot—but because I wasn’t looking at it for the time. We buy these kinds of watches because they are like little endorphin hits for the eyes. If anything, an attractive watch is even less productive at telling the time than an ugly one, because its good looks are often a distraction from the task at hand.

The old Black Bay Chrono was a pretty good-looking watch. There’s definite Daytona inspiration there—being Rolex’s younger sibling, of course there is—but ultimately the steel bezel and black-on-black bi-compax dial felt just a little … bland. Not bad—bland. Forgettable. It didn’t make me want to do bad things to my credit rating.

The newest version of the Tudor Black Bay Chrono was released in 2021 at Watches & Wonders

The newest version of the Tudor Black Bay Chrono was released in 2021 at Watches & Wonders

So here we are for round two, back fresh from a detox and makeover—and what do we have? A watch that looks almost identical, but something’s different. Good different. Better different. This would be on the front page of OK magazine questioning what exactly that recent visit to Harley Street was all about. There’s the new cream—not white, cream—dial, with big old eyes staring out in a contrasting black. The so-called Panda dial—presumably named because of its insistence in trying to go extinct—is just one of those vintage throwbacks that, when seen, now seem such an obvious choice. The dial never should have been without it.

The old steel-on-steel bezel is also out, replaced with a skinny black number that brings the 41mm case inwards visually, taking away some of that love handle vibe of the outgoing model. And that’s not the only weight loss the watch has seen, losing half a mil for a new thickness of a 14.4mm. Every little helps, and help it most certainly does.

The Quality

The beautiful thing about buying a Tudor is that it’s really a Rolex. You know the drill: founded by Rolex in 1926, Tudor was destined to be the brand’s more affordable alternative, squishing cheaper movements into Rolex cases to make what, at the time, was already a pretty affordable watch even more so. But you know Rolex, it doesn’t do things by halves, and so what we get in this modern-day Black Bay Chrono is just as up to the task as its crowned sibling.

Two-hundred metres’ water resistance, that’s—for what it’s worth—already double what the much more expensive Daytona is offering. You get a date too, useful. Screw-down pushers to keep it all sealed up tight, the riveted bracelet—pretend riveted, but I won’t tell if you don’t—and flashes of red on the dial and the tip of the chronograph second hand that are surprise bonus cherries on this delicious Belgian bun.

The new Tudor Black Bay Chrono features the Calibre MT5813 chronograph movement

The new Tudor Black Bay Chrono features the Calibre MT5813 chronograph movement

I say it’s really a Rolex; of course, like the Tudors of yore, this one is not blessed with an in-house calibre like the Black Bay 58 has. Well, it’s someone’s in-house movement. More specifically—surprise—Breitling’s. Yes, you do not need to adjust your listening—I said Breitling. The partnership isn’t really a secret and you may have even picked up on it on the Black Bay Chrono’s first lap of the pool, but nevertheless, it still resonates as one of those, “How on Earth did that happen?” moments.

Regardless, it did happen, and here is the Breitling B01 in bi-compax form inside a Tudor—and doing an admirable job I might say. You get 47 shiny jewels, 70 hours of non-stop power, a thoroughly modern 28,800 vph beat and of course the date and a chronograph. A solid movement for a solid watch and no mistake.

The Price

So far, two for two, as they say in American sports in which I am clearly well versed. But anyone can make a good watch with a big budget and a high price tag—although I can think of a few that even struggle with that—and so really the crunch point comes in the shape of the Black Bay Chrono’s price.

The knockout punch of the Black Bay 58 is its sub-£3,000 ticket, offering unmatched quality, brand, style and heritage, putting it, really, in a class of one. Can the revised Black Bay Chrono do the same? Let’s set a benchmark. Breitling, with the same calibre B01, fancies itself around £6,700 for the Premier Chronograph. Pretty steep, but still a marked difference from Rolex’s £10,500 Daytona.

Where does that leave the Tudor? £5,000? Six? Try £3,900, nearly three hundred less on a fabric strap. I wince to call a near-£4,000 watch cheap, but that does seem comically cheap. And it begs the question: unless I’ve missed something painfully obvious—and it’s very likely—why is Breitling happy to undermine its own product by such an embarrassingly cavernous margin?

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono M79360N-0002 retails at £3,900

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono M79360N-0002 retails at £3,900

I could speculate, but that would just be gossip. Perhaps you have some thoughts on it? I’d like to hear your theories. Whatever the case, the net result is that, once again, Tudor has undercut the market by a remarkable amount, and certainly turns the mind towards business-y terms like loss leader and market strategy. It’s clear the average person buying Rolex watches ten years ago is not the same as they are now, and that Tudor has a not-insubstantial pricing gap to fill under Rolex’s looming shadow. Well, they’ve certainly done that.

Really, the only outcome from this conversation is to wonder why someone wouldn’t purchase a Black Bay Chrono. It ticks more boxes than a rigged election, looks better than a post-lockdown Weatherspoons to a thirsty Brit and slaps the competition about like it owes them money. There must be a catch. This can’t be the whole story. Surely?

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