When Hans Wilsdorf first founded the Tudor watch company in 1926, he did so with the intent of offering a more affordable but still high-quality alternative to his other watch brand, Rolex. And for many decades, Tudor filled that niche perfectly, churning out Oyster cased-watches with off-the-shelf movements that were both robust and not terribly expensive. But following the brand’s relaunch in 2009, and especially over the past handful of years, Tudor has become something else. The brand has stepped far outside of Rolex’s shadow and come into its own, taking big swings and releasing unexpected and imaginative watches that don’t resemble anything in its sister company’s stable. And perhaps the watch that best exemplifies this Tudor of today is the new Black Bay Ceramic.
Released in May 2021, the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic displays a bold new direction for the brand. It marks the first appearance of a ceramic bezel on a Black Bay, but more than that, it’s also the first Tudor diver with a ceramic case. The visuals are certainly attention-grabbing, but the most significant feature of the watch is actually on the inside. The Black Bay Ceramic houses Tudor’s first METAS-certified Master Chronometer movement — which also happens to be the first METAS-certified Master Chronometer movement from any watchmaker not named Omega. As such, the watch may signal an exciting new direction for Tudor as a brand, so we brought a Black Bay Ceramic in for review so we could get a look at Tudor’s future firsthand.
At A Glance
Black Bay Ceramic Specs
As is the case with any watch, Tudor’s Black Bay Ceramic has a lot of features to cover. In the interest of sharing them in an easily digestible format, we’ve mapped out some of the more significant specs on the following at-a-glance chart.
Case Size: 41mm
Lug to Lug: 50mm
Case Thickness: 14.5mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Case Material: Ceramic
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic, Manufacture Calibre MT5602-1U Master Chronometer
Power Reserve: 70 Hours
Strap: Leather/Rubber Hybrid
A Tale Of Two Watches
Upon first seeing the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic, we were met with an interesting dichotomy of thoughts. At first blush, the watch has a tactical, almost militaristic feel. It would look right at home on the wrist of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando with its blacked-out, no-nonsense styling and classic dive watch layout. But upon slightly closer inspection, the watch transitions away from Special Ops missions in the Central American jungle and toward a McLaren parked in front of the trendiest restaurant in L.A. This is clearly a luxury watch, and a very modern luxury watch at that — one that, we expect, will appeal to a younger, fashion-savvy set. Somehow, the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic is able to walk this tightrope between ‘80s action star tool and 2020s haute fashion accessory and coming away looking, for lack of a better word, cool.
A Symphony In Ceramic
As a ceramic-cased watch, the Black Bay Ceramic certainly feels different than a stainless steel watch. It’s a bit lighter, for one, which is appreciated as the Black Bay is a bit of a hefty watch. It’s also smooth and soft to the touch, and it stays at a much more neutral temperature compared to steel, without getting hot or cold over the course of a day. The case mostly has a matte finish that gives it an under-the-radar appearance, though it is a bit of a magnet for fingerprints. Tudor also opted to include an impressive mirror-polished chamfer that runs from lug-tip to lug-tip. This was a smart choice, as it adds some visual interest and keeps the watch from looking too flat. The main draw of ceramic, of course, is its high scratch resistance. Naturally, we weren’t inclined to test its durability, but it certainly seems appropriately rugged.
The bezel and crown are both executed in black PVD-treated stainless steel, giving them each a slightly glossier finish than the bulk of the case. They have matching coin edges, and both are exceedingly easy to grip. The crown especially is a joy to operate, as it is large and offers a lot of tactical feedback when winding. It also boasts some impressive finishing work on its beautiful and intricate Tudor rose relief. It’s a screw-down crown, and threading it in is as smooth as it gets. The bezel action is also great, as one would expect from Tudor. The bezel is very thin but still has good purchase, and each of its 60 clicks is firm, sure, and audible with little to no play. The insert is ceramic, but it’s been finished differently than the rest of the case. Rather than a matte or polished finish, the bezel has a sunray satin finish that really comes alive in natural light, adding just a touch of flash to what is normally a rather understated timepiece. There is no lume on the bezel, not even on the pip, so this isn’t a watch you’d want to take diving (not that you would anyway). But it works perfectly fine for timing everyday occurrences even with the subtle engraved markings, though they can be rather difficult to read in low light.
If It Ain't Broke...
The dial should be familiar to fans of the Black Bay and Submariner, as its applied indices are arranged in the familiar no-date layout with the triangle at 12, bars at 3, 6, and 9, and circles everywhere else. The hands are the standard Tudor snowflake hands, and both the hands and indices have a gunmetal finish that transitions from looking black to silver depending on the light. All hands and indices are filled with plenty of lume too, and it’s the perfect formula for this particular watch. In light, it appears a creamy off-white that’s extremely easy to read against the backdrop of the black dial and case, and in low light it glows a very bright and vibrant green. This isn’t the typical blue-green Super-LumiNova glow, but rather an almost night vision-like true green that gives even more of a tactical feel to the watch.
The dial itself is slightly domed and has a matte black finish. Text is pleasantly sparse, with the shield logo and “Tudor Geneve” at twelve and “Black Bay Master Chronometer” taking up two lines above six o’clock. All text and the minute track are in a glossy gray that — like many elements of this watch — changes with the light, going from almost invisible to light bluish-gray depending on the environment. The crystal is a generously domed sapphire, and while we appreciate the vintage style, it is very reflective. There is very little if any anti-reflective coating applied to the crystal, and reading the watch at a glance may sometimes require a slight readjustment of the wrist. We’re guessing the AR was omitted because the blue- or green-tinged coating would clash too much with the watch’s blacked-out vibe, and if that’s the case, then we’ll happily swap out a little optical clarity for stylistic purity.
The Best Kind Of Hybrid
To be honest, we didn’t expect much from the strap at first glance, but we came away quite impressed with it. A hybrid strap, the outside is a suede-like leather that is extremely soft. The interior is a very flexible rubber that’s finished in an alternating snowflake hands pattern that serves as both a way to keep your wrist properly ventilated and as an attractive design that displays very strong attention to detail. The stitching on the strap is ecru-colored and matches the lume on the hands and indices perfectly, and further shows how much effort Tudor put into giving this watch a cohesive design. The strap is secured with a black PVD-treated stainless steel deployant clasp. As far as deployant clasps go, this is a good one once you get the hang of it, as it’s easy to use and solidly built. It’s a button-free design, and the foldover clasp doubles as the Tudor shield logo — yet another clever little detail.
As we alluded to earlier, the star of the show is the movement. The first non-Omega watch movement to be certified by Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Metrology, this in-house Calibre MT5602-1U has undergone a number of intense tests that take it above and beyond your typical COSC-certified chronometer. As the most technologically advanced movement Tudor’s ever made, it has been tested for precision at two temperatures, in six different positions, and at two different levels of power reserve. It’s also been certified to withstand magnetic fields up to 15,000 gauss and water pressure up to 200m. During our time with the watch, we noticed no real deviations in timekeeping, and while we obviously didn’t test the movement’s limits in extreme conditions, it’s comforting to know what it can withstand.
It’s also an attractive movement, as Tudor opted to show it off behind a sapphire caseback. It’s not the fanciest as far as decoration is concerned, but its matte black finish, angular bridge decoration, and partially skeletonized rotor really match the spirit and design of the watch, and we’re glad we got the chance to see it.
On The Wrist
The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic is not by any means a small watch. But, we are happy to report, it isn’t an exceedingly large one either. The watch is fairly tall at 14.5mm, including the domed crystal, but it wears its height well. Tudor has done a good job of breaking up the case, and the watch doesn’t feel top-heavy or like a slab on the wrist. Even on a smaller 6.25-inch wrist, the watch wears comfortably, and thanks to its subtle styling it doesn’t look oversized either. It’s surprisingly versatile for a 41mm watch with a 50mm lug-to-lug distance, and will suit a wide range of wrists.
The Future Looks Bright (Or Is It Dark?) For Tudor
The Black Bay Ceramic may just be one of the most important watches that Tudor has produced in some time. Not just for its dramatic styling that takes Tudor even further away from its conservative Rolex origins, but for what its movement represents for the brand’s future. The watch’s Master Chronometer movement shows a big investment from Tudor and further establishes them as a major player in the mid-level luxury market, as you can pretty much guarantee that this will not be the final METAS-certified watch that Tudor will make. And if the Black Bay Ceramic is the first representative of this new direction for Tudor, then we absolutely can’t wait to see what the brand has in store for us in the years to come.
The 15 Best Affordable Rolex Alternative Watches
As we mentioned in our intro, Tudor began its life as a more affordable alternative to Rolex watches. And while the brand has grown out of that, it still fills that gap on occasion — along with 14 other brands we’ve compiled in our list of the 15 best affordable Rolex alternatives. So have a look and give your wallet a break.
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