Occasionally I come across a watch that makes me stop in my tracks. Very rarely, however, am I left speechless. It was the latter scenario that occurred when I met up with the proud owner of one of the recently released Tudor Black Bays specially commissioned by the London Metropolitan Police Royalty and Specialist Protection Unit. The watch was incredible — no doubt. But it was also fascinating to talk to the man whose idea the project was; the man who project managed the whole process from beginning to end. Oh, he also has number 1/75!
Tudor and Rolex very rarely collaborate with third parties, especially when it entails customising their watches. Back in the 1960s and 70s it was quite common for companies to work with the brand to have their corporate logo printed on the dial. That started to phase out in the 1980s and it’s been a rare sight since. But then Tudor has always been the daring younger sibling…
The Royalty and Specialist Protection Unit comprises elite officers who are tasked with protecting the Royal Family, parliamentary and government officials, as well as visiting diplomats. The unit is also responsible for armed protection of Royal Residences in London, Windsor and Scotland. The unit relies on the ultimate discretion of its officers and a stealthy approach to undertaking all duties. What could be stealthier than a Tudor? Understated class — the unit and the watches.
The RaSP have an unofficial motto of being the “The Shield that protects the Crown”. This signifies not only the role of the unit but there is also some correlation with the fact that their insignia encompasses a crown and a Tudor rose logo…in the same way that Tudor watches are also intrinsically linked to the shield and the Tudor rose. Put that together with the Royal family’s descent from The House of Tudor and you can see it was meant to be.
The watch is a modified Black Bay Blue, featuring a unique dial without the usual text on the bottom half; instead there is the insignia of the RaSP Unit. Tudor worked closely with the RaSP to ensure that the watch was exactly what the unit desired it to be. Having worked with other watch brands in the past, it was a delight for them to work with Tudor on this special watch. An interesting note is that the watch is actually a ref. 79220, with the modified ETA movement. The dial, however, is from the Mk2 Black Bay ref. 79230 (with the in-house calibre) with a shield logo instead of the rose as seen on 79220. This was done to avoid a ‘rose overload’; a rose on the crown and a rose in the RaSP logo is balanced by the Tudor shield on the upper half of the dial. A small but very significant detail.
The quality of the printing of the unit’s insignia is flawless, as one would expect from Tudor. Under a loupe, the amount of detail is staggering and the depth and colour of the insignia looks almost like a rich oil painting! And then there is the caseback…
Each watch carries the unique ‘P number’ of the designated owner across the middle of the caseback, as well as the name of the unit around its circumference. This batch of special watches has been issued in 75 pieces, each one uniquely numbered xx/75. This is another rare move for the brand. We have seen uniquely numbered pieces from Tudor on the Pelagos Left Hand Drive and more recently the Harrods Edition Black Bay. Whilst unique, Tudor has never committed to a finite number of these watches. The last Pelagos LHD I saw recently was number 3137. The RaSP Black Bay is only available in 75 pieces, strictly to members of the unit. We all want one, but we can’t have one!