On July 1, 2020 Tudor released the worst kept secret of the year.[i] A blue dial dive watch is hardly original or newsworthy but when it’s done by a brand with a rich history of blue dive watches it’s more than the safe choice, it is as close as a company can get to legally printing money.
Although the watch has been surprisingly controversial, creating Tudor tribalism between the fans of the original Black Bay 58 with the black and gilt (hereinafter “BB58”) and the new Black Bay 58 Navy Blue (hereinafter “BB58”, just kidding but do you see where I am going?).[ii] I will call the new Black Bay 58 Navy Blue the “TURF” since it’s Tudor’s Smurf.
I think this tribalism is due solely to the naming of the new BB58 Navy Blue, what makes this watch a BB58? The BB58 name after all references Tudor’s first Submariner, which was only available in black (yes shock and awe, Tudor is a high-end Rolex homage manufacturer). In fact the blue Tudor Submariners were not introduced until the same year Omega put a watch on the moon. So, Tudor I ask; why is the TURF called a BB58? The watch does not have gilt accents. I personally was hoping for the new release to come with gilt/gold accents, a Baby Bluesy or Smurfette if you will, but alas I am left waiting and hoping to get my wish in next year’s release cycle. Further, the watch is not referencing a watch from 1958. The watch is really a reference to the Marine Nationale Submariners (“MN”) of the 1970’s. I understand why Tudor would not want to call the TURF the BB69 but why is this new release not called the BB77 as a direct reference to the blue MN Submariners? Tudor’s previous naming structure dictates this watch should be given a name that refers to the year the watch is most meant to reference after all.
I think this new release, although a guaranteed commercial success, suggests there is a lack of a coherent vision for the Tudor Black Bay line as evidenced by the naming structure of the line. The lack of a coherent naming structure would suggest to me that Tudor was hurting, understandably given the current state of the world and Swiss watch exports, and so Tudor rushed to produce a sure-fire success. This is troubling because the Black Bay line is the line that built the modern Tudor brand; the Black Bay line is Tudor’s Royal Oak.
When I see the current Black Bay line with all the variations and the seeming lack of unifying characteristics, other than the Black Bay name, snowflake hands, and lack of crown guards, I am left scratching my head wondering if Tudor has a clear vision for the line. Or is Tudor just introducing watches hoping they will be commercial hits but hedging their bets by placing the “Black Bay” moniker on the watch? For example, when I say “Rolex Submariner” what do you think of? I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of you picture the same black dive watch with circular hour markers and more than likely, picture a date under a cyclops.
Now, when I say picture a Tudor Black Bay, what do you think of?
I am willing to bet that everyone is picturing a different variation from the Black Bay line with maybe even some of you picturing the chronograph or the dressy bezeless number from the line. This lack of a clear icon or torchbearer for the Black Bay line and for Tudor is troubling.
Since Tudor has not asked me, I am going to offer my two cents for free on how I would revamp the Black Bay line.
First, the chronograph and the bezeless Tudor OP’s are no longer Black Bays and never should have been BBs in my not so humble opinion. Seriously, who thought putting a big snowflake hand capable of blocking a chronograph register should go on a chronograph?
Similarly, the snowflake hands are supposed to be Tudor’s “professional handset,” Tudor’s Mercedes hands. Does Rolex use the Mercedes hands on the Datejust or the OPs? No Rolex does not, so why does Tudor feel compelled to shower some Snowflakes on these watches? Tudor should be digging into their archives for some pencil style hands, like they used on that Tudor Black Bay from Only Watch, you know the one I mean, the one that looks like that Invicta 1953[iii].
For me the Black Bay Chronographs should get the bar-style hands as used on the Heritage chronograph and the BB chronographs should get folded into the Heritage chronograph line. The bezeless BBs should get a new pencil style handset and get their own line, which I would simply call their Prince line, thus putting a formerly known historical name to good use for Tudor.
Now, its time for the meat and potatoes of the BB line, the dressy dive watches in 39mm and 41mm. I am not going to discuss the GMT, as right now there are no issues and would suggest Tudor simply differentiate future iterations of this range by case diameter and/or bezel color-way.
If Tudor decides to set the world afire with a BB GMT in a 39mm case this watch should not be called the BB58 GMT, it should be the BB GMT 39mm. I also think the current BB Bronze line is fine as is.
The real issue for me in the Black Bay line is with the BB58 and the BB41, which Tudor just calls the Black Bay. Ideally, Tudor never would have created this issue having named the original BB58 the BB39 instead, referencing the new case size rather than year of inspiration. If Tudor had done this then there would be no issue now calling the new release the BB39 Navy Blue, there would be no Tudor tribalism either.
There would be a gilt ’58 inspired watch and a blue MN inspired watch with everyone united in their love of the new BB39 line. Having the line named the BB39 would have also allowed Tudor to release, in a few years, a red version meant to reference the all red ‘90s Tudor Submariner.
Sadly, we are not living in this ideal world; it’s 2020, the year of Murphy’s Law. While Tudor’s organization and identity of its main line is hardly a problem by 2020 standards it is still an issue Tudor needs to fix. I would start by renaming the new TURF the BB77. Next and perhaps most controversially, I would retire the original BB line in 41mm, except for the date version. I would reintroduce the current BB line in 41mm as date only variations. Thus, making a date variation of the watch available in a modern dive watch size and more importantly protecting the BB58 and the TURF from the horrors of a date window.
In my ideal Tudor world, perhaps in the perfect alternate universe of this 2020, the Black Bay line would consist only of the: BB58, TURF (renamed the BB77), BB Date, BB Bronze, BB GMT, and the P01. Actually, scratch that, in my perfect world the P01 never happened and 2019 saw Tudor give us the TURF instead. I think this restructured and pruned BB line would give some coherence and brand identity to Tudor’s prize rose. What do you think? Especially for those of you who are original BB58 loyalists, would a different name for the TURF make this new BB58 Navy Blue more amenable to you?