As Leonard Cohen titled his parting shot: “You Want It Darker.” So pervasive is the lust for all-black watches that brands are almost coerced into releasing them. That is, if they don’t want aftermarket opportunists to satisfy the demand. Tudor has issued all-black timepieces before, namely the Fastrider Black Shields, but the company really nailed it with the Heritage Black Bay Dark.

Why would this model have an even greater impact than the Fastriders? Tudor is on such a high at the moment that anything they issue seems to be a hit – sort of a horological equivalent of the Beatles’ run of consecutive Number Ones – yet the Black Bays are the ones that most people adore. Sure, there are Pelagos fans like yours truly and there are those who only wear chronographs, for whom the Fastriders are natural choices, but the Black Bay is the model that lifted Tudor from “hot” to “scalding”.

Amusingly, “Black Bay Black” had already been used by Tudor to denote the version with black bezel, when it joined the blue and burgundy editions, while the Bronze has a niche all to itself. I suppose it was only a matter of time (groan…) before the Black Bay was entirely covered in the colour that forms its name, and a nod of respect to the in-house wit who delivered the perfect moniker: Black Bay Dark.

tudor pelagos or black bay
tudor pelagos vs heritage black bay

We’ve covered all-black timepieces before in both Revolution’s print and online editions, but it’s worth revisiting the question, “Why would one want a black watch?” when “natural” stainless steel or precious metals are the traditional defaults. What has made life easier for all watch brands in need of all-black models are the ascents of carbon fibre, titanium, ceramic and other materials, but diehards, myself among them, prefer the heft of steel on the wrist.

What these materials did to make life easier was to obviate the need for any sort of treatment of the case material as they are or can be made black all the way through.

An inescapable advantage is the prevention of the base material showing through if the watches suffer scratches, while years of wear-and-tear – despite careful ownership! – can expose streaks of steel beneath a coating.

It should be remembered that all-black watches aren’t merely fashion statements designed to appeal to one’s inner Goth. The genuinely practical application involves the killing of reflections, sunlight bouncing off a steel case serving nicely to warn the enemy of one’s presence, or the prey of the presence of a hunter. Non-reflective black cases eliminate this. That they also look ridiculously cool, with their own stealthy charm, is the unforeseen consequence that has fed the genre to reach its current, crazed state.

tudor pelagos vs black bay black

Black finishes replaced the earlier blued steel, the method used for years by gun makers for rifles used by both professional soldiers, police forces and hunters. It’s not that ancient a metamorphosis, as proper black-treated watches appeared initially only in the 1960s. The durability of black finishes is even more recent, certainly post-2000, though materials that are black all the way through emerged in the 1980s.

For brands that don’t want to use carbon fibre or ceramics or other materials that are solid-black through-and-through, the treatment methods have evolved from basic plating and anodising to those working on a molecular level, the most common being PVD, or “Physical Vapour Deposition”. Unfortunately, it isn’t that durable, so it was quickly superseded by DLC, a.k.a. “Diamond-Like Carbon”. Tudor, however, had something else in mind for the Black Bay Dark.

One of the hits of Baselworld 2016, it has caused as much pandemonium among collectors as the Black Bay Bronze did, and as the Pelagos Left-hander is doing for that model. So handsome is the watch, and so broad its fan base that even enthusiasts who are ambivalent about black cases have been tempted to reconsider.

Why would this black beauty be any more tempting than one of the hundreds on the market from rivals? Simply put, its finish is gorgeous, and instantly provides a sense of immunity to wear. This watch looks and feels tough, and raises two fingers to the sort of idiots who pay a fortune for defective dials: it will probably look like new in 10 years’ time.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark Watch
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark Watches

Tudor chose TiC (Titanium carbide) for the treatment, because, says Sven Olsen, the UK General Manager: “It has been found to be very hard – ten times harder than steel – but less brittle than DLC. This is important on Tudor divers’ watches as pressure can distort a case and cause issues with coatings coming free.”

Although I have sworn off buying any more watches, were I to recant, then the Black Bay Dark would be on my shortlist. And that’s despite my predilection for the Pelagos. With prices of CHF4,250 on steel/fabric and CHF3,950 on leather, the Black Bay Dark is much an investment as it is a horological bargain, even more so thanks to the fitting of the in-house MT5602 movement.

“Manufacture” and a black case and Tudor’s reputation for those prices? Are you crazy? There is NO mystery as to why Tudor is the most talked-about, admired and lusted-after brand in the sport watch sector below CHF5,000. And if you don’t believe me, just look up the way values have skyrocketed on the older models.

One last thought: It’s a good thing that the genius who came up with “Black Bay Dark” isn’t a Star Wars fan or we might have been stuck with “Black Bay Darth.”

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