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Watches, for some of us, become mementos of something we’ve done or somewhere we’ve been. Today it seems painfully appropriate that I am writing about this particular watch; It’s April 15th, 2019 and my afternoon was interrupted by the news that the magnificent Parisian cathedral of Notre Dame had caught fire and was burning.
The reason this is applicable here is that I purchased this watch while I was on vacation with my wife in Paris just a few months ago. Something that I have learned is: you can’t force something to have significance, but the time you spend, the places you go, and the people you’re with can all help imbue something with memory and importance to you. This Tudor Black Bay Chronograph will always remind me of those flying buttresses, and that giant rose window.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me introduce you to the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph, released at Baselworld 2017, this watched marked a big step for the Black Bay line that until now was comprised of just time-only watches. The Black Bay Chrono also marked an exciting partnership between Breitling and Tudor wherein the two brands exchanged some movement technologies with each other. I’ve always found this partnership to be one of the more interesting things about this particular watch—and it’s what attracted me to it. (that and my voracious appetite for chronographs)
Before we get too far into the review let’s go over some specs:
- Case Width: 41.4mm
- Case Thickness: 15.3mm
- Lug to Lug: 50.1mm
- Depth Rating: 200m (660 ft)
- Weight: 6.4oz on Bracelet
- Movement: MT5813 based on the Breitling B01
- Lug Width: 22mm
(All measurements are my personal measurements and may differ from the manufacturer’s specifications.)
I’ve always found Black Bays to wear and fit very well. My wrist is roughly 7” depending on how warm it is and if I’ve recently consumed MSG…but that’s always been a pretty versatile wrist size and I’m comfortable with watches that range from 38-44mm’s. That being said, the Black Bay Chrono is a comfortable-if-chunky watch on the wrist.
I would say the chunkiness is mainly due to its thickness. The in-house movement increased the thickness of the Black Bays slightly, but I would assume that the chronograph complication only exacerbated that. It’ll be up to you to decide if it’s too much for your arm, it isn’t for me.
As I stated in the intro Tudor was involved in a movement exchange program with Breitling. In this exchange, Tudor received the B01 movement for use in this watch. Breitling, on the other hand, took the MT5612 movement and renamed it the B20 after modifying it for use in the SuperOcean Heritage II.
It’s my understanding that the movements are modified by Tudor to include a tungsten winding rotor, variable inertia balance wheel, and a silicon balance spring. Lastly, Tudor changes the minute register to 45mins instead of Breitling’s 30 minute counter. This last modification is due to a historical reference, Tudor’s chronos have used 45mins since the Reference 7031 “Monte Carlo,” Chronograph.
My experience with this movement has been nothing but exceptional. All of Tudor’s in-house calibers come COSC certified these days, meaning that you can expect excellent performance. While I have not timed my watch to the second (I don’t own a timegrapher) I can say that it been right on the money every-time I’ve checked it. The chronograph pushers have a great action, as one would expect from a column wheel chrono like this. One other thing to note, the silicon balance spring means that this movement should resist a good deal of magnetism—this is a valuable quality to have in today’s magnetic-field-rich-climate.
Case and Crown
By this point in my watch-collecting practice I have owned four or five Black Bays, and one thing I love about them across the board is the case. Tudor, being the little brother of Rolex, benefits from their bigger brother’s case finishing capabilities. The watch is brushed on the tops of the case and polished on the slab-like sides. Tudor has also included some really lovely polished details along the bevel on each side of the case as well as the edge of the bezel where it meets the case. The effect these small details create is a subtle sparkle on the wrist as the watch moves through the light.
The Chronograph has the standard large Black Bay crown with Tudor’s rose printed on it, as well as two screw down pushers. My experience in the past with screw down chrono pushers has not always been the best, but Tudor’s nailed it with very smooth screw down action, which is easily used on wrist. One thing Tudor has stubbornly retained is the anodized aluminum collar around the crown tube, I would personally prefer a crown sitting flusher to the case, but it’s a minor gripe.
Dial and Crystal
The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph, like other Black Bays, has a boxed sapphire crystal. This is a pretty firm nod to the “heritage-yness” that Tudor is drawing from for these watches; It also looks great. The dial itself is a textured matte black that in the bright sun can almost look grey or charcoal. The hands and hour indices are a bright silver color with white lume filling the centers. I much prefer this over gilt dials used in other variations.
In terms of readability, Tudor has always excelled. The “snowflake” hour hand was designed for precisely that. It allows you too quickly too differentiate between the two hands and orient yourself on the dial at a quick glance. The choice of colors and materials also creates a helpful contrast. The Chronograph hand is a simple thin silver hand tipped with an arrow, I personally love the way it catches the light.
Not to pander to the internet forumites, but one issue that I have seen regarding the hands used on this watch is simply that the snowflake can obscure the sub-dials. That’s valid, and I suppose true; however, it’s never been something that bothered me.
The lume Tudor uses on the Black Bays is very effective, glows bright when you walk into a movie theatre and is easily seen for several hours. It’s green lume, so Tudor isn’t using Rolex’s proprietary Lumibrite.
Lastly the date window sits at six o’clock. It’s a rather stark contrast a from the textured black dial to the white back date wheel, but I generally prefer to have a date than not.
The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph comes on the standard steel bracelet available to most of the Black Bay collection. You can also purchase the watch on a leather or nylon strap, but honestly, I wouldn’t suggest that. Tudor, like its parent Rolex, has a reputation for making excellent bracelets and this is no exception.
The bracelet is an exceptionally well-executed steel bracelet with a fold-over clasp. It has been stylized to some extent with faux rivets on the links to emulate old-timey bracelets that were actually riveted together. These links, on the other hand, are screw together making adjustments simple and quickly done by the end user. The clasp features three micro adjustments to really dial in the fit.
I think in a perfect world there are several great strap options for the Black Bay Chrono. The first being, obviously the OEM bracelet, the second would be an Everest Rubber Strap, and the third would be either the OEM NATO strap or Crown and Buckle’s adjustable Chevron Strap.
Tudor Black Bay Chrono Review – Final Thoughts
Well, what can I say? I bought it…This is one of the few watches that I walked into an Authorized Dealer and left with it new. I think these are healthy options for those that like the Tudor Aesthetic or are interested in the movement exchange from Breitling. It’s a little weird to talk about a $5,100 sticker price to be a good value but considering AD discounts (and in my case VAT refunds) they can pan out nicely. You get a lot for the money.
I think these are also solid options for those that are looking for a chronograph but don’t really want to go down the Speedmaster route—the Black Bay Chronograph has a lot of ties to some nice watch heritage but is also not super expected. I think it would be rare for you to run into someone else with one.