Review: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Ever looked at Tudor’s Black Bay and thought, ‘It’s great, but it’s just a bit too big’? Turns out you’re not the only one, because while the successful 41mm full-size Black Bay continues to live on, Tudor has actually done something about it.
The Tudor Black Bay is what’s colloquially known as a ‘no-brainer’. It’s made by Rolex, looks fantastic, has had an in-house movement since 2016 and starts at less than £2,500. With Rolex prices soaring into the stratosphere, that’s, well, a bargain.
This really splits potential buyers into two groups, one that will happily purchase a Black Bay and the other that would prefer it if the dial had a crown instead of a shield. For the latter, it’s understandable, perhaps wanting to avoid the awkward, ‘Nice Rolex’, conversation.
For the former, however, they don’t care. These are the people who would choose an Audi R8 over a Lamborghini Huracan. Never mind the pedigree of the badge—they know what’s underneath is, to all intents and purposes, the same, and they’d rather spend the difference elsewhere.
Ok, so the Tudor’s calibre MT5612 isn’t the same as Rolex’s 3135, but with a variable inertia screwed balance wheel, silicon balance, balance bridge and 70 hours of COSC-certified runtime, it’s putting up a good fight against its older sibling.
But there’s been a snag, one that’s derailed the plans of even the most devout Tudor fan: the Black Bay is 41mm in diameter—not too bad in itself—and just short of 15mm thick. While this isn’t an issue for all, it is for many, a watch that purports to offer a flavour of vintage sized very much on the modern side of things.
This was presumed to be a limitation of the movement, a dimension that could only ever get bigger—but Tudor has done something rather remarkable and proved that theory completely wrong, with this, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
Unlike Tudor’s typical naming convention, Fifty-Eight thankfully doesn’t correlate to the case size—imagine that—rather, the era of the model it takes inspiration from. You’ll see a red bezel triangle and gilt details, but they’re not really what we’re here for: it’s the diminutive size of the Fifty-Eight that piqued interest.
Considering the size watches in the fifties were, it’s no wonder that the 39mm diameter, 11.9mm thick Fifty-Eight seems to wear its styling with more ease than its bigger brother. The bracelet is skinnier, the case sides less slab-like, the bezel less dominating. It’s a different aesthetic, and there will probably be as many who prefer the larger size as the smaller—but at least there’s now the choice.
And it turns out that the calibre MT5612 is too big, but there’s still no off-the-shelf ticker in here—Tudor went to the express trouble of producing a new movement from the ground up, the MT5402, just to make this watch. It still has all the specification of the nearly 6mm larger MT5612, just in a smaller package. That’s a serious investment on Tudor’s part.
The funny thing is that it’s getting to the point where Tudor is making a watch that Rolex simply can’t compete with. With bigger, chunkier cases, decorated with slick, glossy ceramic and polished white gold markers, Rolex obviously makes a fine watch—but what it doesn’t do is make a watch like it used to, not like this. Smaller, less obtrusive, simple, clean.
Quite incredibly, the icing on the Fifty-Eight cake is the price, which starts at £2,340 on a strap and tops out at £2,560 on the must-have riveted bracelet. Even if you don’t really want one, writing down a list of the pros and cons makes it pretty hard not to come to the conclusion that you should probably have one anyway.
It was an under-the-radar release at 2018’s Baselworld from Tudor, especially alongside the GMT, but the Fifty-Eight has really made a mark. It also draws a line in the sand for the future of Tudor, a promise to keep watches sensibly sized and wearable by the average person. All that needs to happen now is for everyone to get onto social media and tell Tudor to make a GMT version …
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