Versions of Tudor’s Black Bay dive watch in bronze have been around for about three years now, and in that time we’ve seen the original version with a matte brown dial and brown bezel insert, a blue-dialed execution with matching blue bezel insert available exclusively through Switzerland-based retailer Bucherer and a one-off left-handed version with a dial and bezel in khaki green made for the Only Watch in 2017. Today we’re going hands-on with the latest Black Bay to come cased up in bronze. As you can see, it comes with a beautiful slate grey dial with matching bezel insert. It looks great, and it turned out to be something of a sleeper hit for Tudor at Basel.
Of the Black Bay Bronze models that we have so far seen, I think that this is probably the one that will have the strongest mainstream appeal. The brown and blue versions were great, don’t get me wrong, but I think they were limited in their appeal by virtue of their color palettes. The new slate grey dial we see here is downright fantastic, and Stephen offered very high praise for it when he first introduced this watch from Basel. To me, this slate grey execution looks like a black dial that has taken on just the right amount of patina with its nicely balanced sunburst gradient. There probably isn’t a better dial color to match the markers and numerals with their gold surrounds and the gilt printing, and while I think it looks excellent with the bronze case in a pristine state, I can easily imagine how this case will age into its dial over time, looking better and better.
As with previous bronze versions of the Black Bay, the one we have here comes in a 43mm case, which is definitely on the larger side of watches that I wear, but certainly not a dealbreaker. There is something about the material bronze that, for me, makes a larger case size somehow more desirable. It’s a material that I associate with tools and instruments, and there is something about a daintily sized bronze watch that feels kind of ridiculous. Would I be interested to see what this watch looked like in, say, the 39mm size of what is probably my favorite Tudor watch to date, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight? Sure. But would I want this bronze watch to be even a tiny bit smaller than that? Nope, not really.
There’s no see-through case back, but that shouldn’t cut off a discussion of what’s under the hood, which is the caliber MT5601, a very nice in-house automatic movement with 70 hours of power reserve and a silicon-equipped escapement. At this point, Tudor has reached a level of vertical integration with its movement making that bears mentioning. Sure, there are references in the collection that rely on ETA movements such as 2824, but Tudor has been adding manufacture movements in different sizes at an impressive clip.
While the case is bronze, the caseback is a bronze-colored PVD that blends in well with the rest of the case. It’s standard for watchmakers to use another material for the caseback when designing a bronze case, and sometimes this material is regular stainless steel, which, if I can be nitpicky, can create something of a visually jarring effect when you take your watch off your wrist to admire, say, the movement through a see-through caseback. This being a watch from Tudor, there is no see-through back to speak of, but it is nice to see that Tudor saw fit to create a caseback that works for the bronze case.
When it comes to the strap, you get a choice – and it’s a tough one – between a very high-quality slate grey fabric strap or a nubuck leather strap with bronze buckle. They both provide a more than fitting complement to the Black Bay Bronze while offering pretty different looks. Faced with the choice, it’s hard to say which way I would go, but if pressed, I’d probably lean toward the fabric, because the fabric straps that Tudor sources are some of the finest that I have ever seen on a watch. (We visited Tudor’s strap-making factory, just outside Lyon, France, last year; you can check out the video right here).
And then of course there is the value proposition, and here it’s a really impressive one. For $4,050 on either strap option, you’re getting a watch from Tudor in a bronze case, and it comes equipped with what isn’t merely an in-house movement, but a chronometer-rated in-house automatic movement with silicon components. In terms of design, I humbly submit my opinion that this is the best Black Bay Bronze yet. Tudor is offering a lot here, and they’re presenting it in a very appealing package that’s difficult to argue with.
Credit to: Jon Bues
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