We’re entering the last stretch of an eventful decade for Tudor. Starting in 2010 with the introduction of the Heritage Chronograph and going right up to the Heritage Black Bay Bronze of 2016, Tudor has been coming out with year after year of watches that are memorable, market-friendly and — most importantly — desirable.
The Heritage collection has been at the core of this extraordinary revival, combining an on-point pricing strategy with savvy design cues from the archives. But it’s not just the Heritage watches that have been hard at work cementing the modern reputation of Tudor. Watches such as the 2015 North Flag, featuring the first in-house movement for Tudor, mark significant milestones for the brand. The youth-oriented Fastrider collection keeps a continual channel open to new generations of customers. The Pelagos is, to this day, still the best value proposition you can find in the mechanical dive watch category.
The last seven years have shown that Tudor deserves a place even among plenty of older brands with far weightier patrimonies. The 2017 collection of Tudor is deliberately anchored in a more contemporary aesthetic, even though the watches are nominally of the Heritage family. It’s for good reason — with these pieces, Tudor is no longer drawing on its past. With these pieces, Tudor is carving out its place as a future classic
Tudor Heritage Black Bay S&G and Black Bay Steel
Ever since the launch of the in-house caliber MT 5621 in the 2015 North Flag, Tudor has been steadily propagating the manufacture movement throughout its entire catalog. Alongside the North Flag, the Pelagos was the first watch to receive this movement, followed by the Heritage Black Bay Bronze last year. Minor variations differentiate the calibers inhabiting these watches, such as the power-reserve indication at nine o’clock on the North Flag, or the lack of a date function on the Heritage Black Bay Bronze.
This year, the Black Bay welcomes a date function for the first time. It’s a feature that many have requested and can now find on the dial at three o’clock for the Black Bay in both its S&G (for steel and gold) and Steel versions.
As of last year, Tudor has been phasing out the dial-side Tudor Rose logo, reinstating the Tudor Shield across the board for greater brand consistency. The Tudor Rose was the only overt feature that indicated that a watch was part of the Heritage collection, and now it is retained as an engraving on the watch crown. This change, coupled with the addition of a date window, may seem like a small tweak. However, the overall modernizing effect on the design of the watch is so subtle yet distinct that it can only be fully appreciated in a side-by-side comparison.
Something else that we don’t see a lot in the Tudor collection (apart from supporting timepieces such as the Style or the older Clair de Rose models) is gold. The key collections each year tend to center on the sports models or tool watches, which feature lots of hard-wearing, rugged steel. Titanium, ceramic and bronze may make occasional appearances, but it’s been a long time since a gold watch took the spotlight at Tudor.
The Black Bay S&G breaks this gold drought in a version resplendent on a two-tone bracelet. The bezel and crown are in yellow gold, as is the first center link. Subsequent center links are yellow-gold shells with steel cores that, unlike gold-plated steel, have a thick-enough gold exterior to withstand multiple polishing (or scratches, if it comes to that) without exposing the underlying steel.
This allows the Black Bay S&G to possess all the aesthetic advantages of solid-gold bracelet links whilst still maintaining a retail price below CHF5,000. Despite the norm of selectively polishing gold components to showcase their rich hue, the gold of the Black Bay S&G is finished with restraint. They are satin-brushed, emphasizing texture and discretion whilst muting the flashier aspects of the material.
With this model, the Black Bay has donned its dinner jacket, becoming a watch that can be worn even on formal evenings.
A more sophisticated bracelet construction also makes its debut here, with end links capped by a stepped, riveted segment. This construction is found throughout the rest of the Black Bay collection, providing enhanced visual stimulus to the overall look of the watch and reflecting the maturation of this model.
The Black Bay Steel is the most resolutely utilitarian out of the time-only Black Bay models. The anodized aluminium disc that forms the bezel insert in most cases has been replaced with a brushed steel disc. With this leaching of color from one of the few places on the Black Bay that allowed such variation, the focus comes back to the pure lines and geometries that make up the design of Tudor’s most successful model this millennium.
The strongly delineated dial and bezel markers, the distinctive “snowflake” hands, the big crown, the generous proportions of bezel and chiseled lugs — these are features that can be discerned in every Black Bay (and to a lesser extent in the pared-down Black Bay 41 and Black Bay 36). It is in the monochromatic Black Bay Steel, however, that these attributes are as stark and beautiful as a perfectly balanced equation.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono
Aside from the simple calendar, there are two complications in the Tudor catalog at the moment. There is the alarm, which we saw in 2011’s Heritage Advisor, based on a historical model, and which has stayed within that one reference for the last six years. There is also the chronograph, which features in every Fastrider watch and also the Heritage Chrono (2010 and 2013).
These chronograph watches were inhabited by movements from trusted suppliers, movements known for their versatility, strength and reliability, if not exactly for their refinement. For the 2017 Heritage Black Bay Chrono, however, Tudor has decided to take a different path; a path it hadn’t taken before.
The main problem with doing a great job every year is that you’re more or less expected to do even better next time. It’s not easy, but that’s how it is. So, what do you do after you’ve introduced your first in-house automatic time-only movement? You introduce your first in-house automatic chronograph movement, of course.
The Tudor MT 5813 chronograph movement wasn’t built in a day, nor did it come out of a vacuum. It was the result of years of development, with input and advice from one of the three largest manufacturers of certified chronometers in the industry, constructed along the lines of an existing tried-and-tested chronograph movement that has been on the market since 2009.
As with the Tudor MT 5621, the MT 5813 is a certified chronometer, meaning that it has achieved or surpassed the stringent standards set by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), and can be expected to keep time within a small margin of error, in various conditions.
Like the MT 5621, the MT 5813 beats at 4Hz (28,800vph) with an amagnetic silicon hairspring and a performance-focused balance with variable inertia screws for fine adjustment. Like the MT 5621, with its balance afforded maximum stability by its bridge, the MT 5813 is built for strength and robustness — seen in features such as the escape wheel, which is sprung for shock-resistance.
Chronograph solutions that are present in the MT 5813 navigate a sure path between tradition and pragmatism. Take the column wheel, for example, seen diametrically opposite the balance in the MT 5813. The column wheel is a traditional component that is known to give a better and more consistent feel when the chronograph is actuated, but for production efficiency is generally abandoned in favour of the coulisse-lever.
This is particularly true when it comes to chronographs constructed along industrial lines, chronographs intended for high-volume manufacture, chronographs destined to take a bashing in real-world use. With careful and meticulous adjustment, a cam-switching chronograph can be as pleasant to use as a column-wheel chronograph, of course, but why take that chance when you can choose to go with the component that has a better performance record? Tudor has chosen to prioritize its customers’ experience of its in-house chronograph, and it shows.
Whereas the column wheel affects the tangible experience of using a chronograph, the chronograph engagement affects the performance of the watch. A traditional lateral clutch can occasionally impart a characteristic stutter to the chronograph seconds hand when the chronograph is started. This is because the mechanism involves meshing the teeth of a continuously turning gear with another gear. Depending on how the teeth of these two gears meet at the moment of engagement, the chronograph seconds hand can start in an imprecise way.
In this instance, Tudor have gone with a modern solution — the vertical friction clutch, which allows the chronograph seconds hand to start smoothly every single time. The additional height that is conferred by the vertical clutch as compared to the lateral clutch is easily accommodated by a sporty watch such as the Black Bay Chrono.
The Heritage Black Bay Chrono is launched in an all-steel version with a black dial, a classic combination for sports chronographs, and starting at CHF4,500 for the version on leather strap. Hours and minutes are read centrally with a small seconds counter at nine o’clock. Chronograph seconds are read centrally, with chronograph minutes read off the counter at three o’clock. An instantaneous date indication is located at the bottom of the dial. According to convention for modern sports chronographs, the bezel bears a tachymeter scale and the chronograph pushers have screw-down segments for water-resistance.
Both the new time-only Heritage Black Bay and the Heritage Black Bay Chrono models represent a new era for Tudor, and it’s evident in the way that they’re presented, in the way the brand communicates. Previously, there were strong stories, compelling stories to be told in support of new timepieces. But now that everyone knows the stories — Black Bay stories, Pelagos stories, Ranger stories, Fastrider stories, North Flag stories — now it’s time to let the watches speak for themselves.