“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Not unlike the sentiment put forth by King Henry IV, there is an immense amount of pressure that comes with being considered a shining example for the masses. The stakes are often high, and the ability to please in a manner writ large may well be considered all but impossible. For the newly announced Black Bay Fifty-Eight “Navy Blue,” this means living up to the expectations projected upon one of the most respected dynasties in watchmaking, the house of Rolex and Tudor. And, while each and every enthusiast that numbers among the unwashed masses (myself included) knows exactly what Tudor should make if he or she were king of the castle, few know the game as well as those currently in charge, and the new Blue follows a successful path that has been in place for decades.
In 2013, Tudor returned to the US market and brought along hot new watches like the Heritage Chronograph and what is arguably the Swiss sports watch of the 2010s, the Black Bay dive watch. So loved was this new-vintage diver that the GPHG awarded the Black Bay its Revival prize in 2013. Over the past seven years, the Black Bay has grown from a couple of ETA-powered 41mm dive watches to an entire range that spans numerous iterations of the original design, along with a series of branching designs that include sporty three-handers, chronographs, and a market-beating heavy-hitter in the Black Bay GMT.
Along the Black Bay path, we’ve seen a variety of colors used to great effect. The early models bore burgundy or dark-blue bezels, there were bronze, steel, green, blue, black, gradient dials, two-tones, and, of course, the red/blue bezel of the GMT. A pattern, it seems.
Then, in March of 2018, we saw the first true evolution of the original 41mm model – the new Black Bay Fifty-Eight. Sized at 39mm and considerably thinner on wrist, the Fifty-Eight was an instant hit. Waitlists and secondary markets sprung up to support the growing demand for a modern Tudor with a black dial and gilt accents that wore an awful lot like a vintage Submariner. Now, two years later, Tudor has announced this new “Navy Blue” model into the vacuum created by a world without Baselworld, forcing this new and historical colorway to stand alone.
While I know opinions have been mixed, after seeing it in person, I can’t think of a better or more fitting addition to the Fifty-Eight lineup. Furthermore, with any product that makes active reference to the past, a quick history lesson may help to provide some context. As the only thing changed between the previous Black Bay Fifty-Eight 79030N (black/gilt) and the new “Navy Blue” 79030B is the blue coloring for the bezel and dial, that seems as good a place to start as any, and the first tip comes from the name of the color, a shade of blue that is most certainly not navy, but is similar to that once worn by a Navy.
I’m not sure why I’m being coy about it: Many of you know all about MN Tudor Submariners, and I touched on the lineage in my intro post for this new model. That said, these are achingly cool tool dive watches that are almost always seen on NATO straps, so please allow me to indulge in the past.
The new 79030B’s coloring is directly in reference to the blue dial and blue bezel found on the so-called “Blue Snowflake” Tudor Submariners from the mid-70s. While you can get a lovely breakdown of several examples in our video with Grahame Fowler and his many Milsubs, you can also see nine specific examples in this video from Watchistry (the same watches profiled in their lovely book Marine Nationale).
While Tudor Subs and Snowflakes certainly exist outside the specific purview of the Marine Nationale (aka the French Navy), MN Subs are massively collectible military-issued dive watches, and while the earlier black dial versions are the rarest of the lot, it’s hard to argue with the beauty of the blue/blue variants.
Earlier Snowflake MNs include the reference 7016, which came in both black and blue versions, and dates from the late-’60s until the mid-’70s when Tudor updated the movement from the 7106’s ETA 2483 to the 94010’s ETA 2776. In examples like this MN75 94010 (seen above, dubbed as such for being issued to the MN in 1975), we see where the Fifty-Eight Navy Blue gets some of its inspiration. Measuring 39mm across with an Oyster case (with drilled lugs!), the blue dial and blue bezel are a lovely match for the now-classic Snowflake hands and the lovely square markers. To my eyes, within the world of Subs (MN or otherwise), these are some of the most darling evolutions of the form, and the blue allows a personality that is warmly distinct from other Subs, be they from Tudor or Rolex.
Looking at the new Blue, Tudor has incorporated the color – which I would describe as lighter and more grey than the bezel of the Black Bay “Midnight Blue” and somewhat less saturated than the blue used for the truly excellent Pelagos Blue – while opting to maintain the core Black Bay design language. So we have a coin-edge bezel, circular hour markers, no drilled lugs, and white lume that glows bright green.
Holding true to its gilt sibling, the case remains 39mm wide, 11.2mm thick (inclusive of the boxed sapphire crystal), and 47mm lug to lug. Water resistance is 200m with a very high-quality crown, and the lug width is a strap-change friendly 20mm. It’s literally the same watch beautifully covered by Stephen last year, but now in blue, and without the gilt accents.
To my eyes, this is the best of the pair, but I have to express a bias. I don’t personally care for gilt accents, and I have trouble getting excited about another black-dial dive watch from Tudor (or Rolex, for that matter). While I wasn’t initially thrilled by the released images, the watch is simply incredible in person. The blue is warm but not cartoonish, and the bezel is much more matte than that of the Black Bay Blue (the 41mm version, that is). Additionally, I think it’s extra fun to see a blue/blue colorway on a smaller steel dive watch from Tudor given that this specific vibe has long been reserved for those that could pony up for a white gold Sub.
Like the black/gilt BB58, the Navy Blue is simply perfect on wrist. It sits low and flat and feels great on anything from rubber to a NATO, leather, or the offered bracelet. My loaner was delivered on a lovely silver-striped blue fabric strap that looks good and feels great. That said, this watch screams for either a NATO or an MN-style sewn elastic parachute strap. Not to worry, I have both for just such occasions.
The bezel remains one of the best in the business with no slop, and a lovely 60-click action that never sounds cheap or tinny. Those of you who frequently wear a wide price range of dive watches know that the bezel and the crown are where you can feel your money being spent. In this case, there’s no question that you’re operating a very well made watch.
As we’ve come to expect from most Black Bay models, the Fifty-Eight Navy Blue is powered by a Tudor manufacture movement, the MT5402. COSC-certified and ticking at 4 Hz, this in-house automatic offers 70 hours of power reserve and is currently only used in the Fifty-Eight line, and it only exists in a no-date format.
After a couple of days wearing the Fifty-Eight Navy Blue on a variety of straps and in locales that included everything from my couch to the cool waters of an unnamed lake in Ontario for a bit of snorkeling, this new model manages to feel both special and toolish at the same time. It is almost as though Tudor has been able to take the hard-wearing dive-ready charm of the Snowflake, and add just a pinch of the appeal of the white gold Submariner I previously mentioned.
Everything Stephen said about the black/gilt model stands, and I’ve spent a few days with that watch on my wrist – it is a lovely thing – but make no mistake, the blue swings way harder than just a new color. On the surface, this is arguably a boring and absolutely predictable expansion of the Fifty-Eight line. Blue dial sport watches are popular, Tudor has plenty of great examples in their past, so what did you expect? A Black Bay Rainbow?
As an aside, last year they gave us something weird and fun and special in the P01, and people (some of you, certainly) went full-on with the gnashing of teeth. This year they offer a strong consumer-grade wide-market watch in the 79030B, and some still manage to complain. Is it all the same people? I wonder … before I fall deeply asleep.
Let’s not forget that the Black Bay is the brand’s core, especially when it comes to the very desirable and often hard-to-buy Fifty-Eight. And where the 79030N is french fries, the 79030B is onion rings. Any menu should have both. And I’ll tell you what, I’d go for the rings.
Either way, fries or rings, you’re looking at $ 3,375 for either the fabric or the new “soft touch” synthetic strap, or $ 3,700 on the steel bracelet. At this price, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight remains a stellar value for those wanting a Submariner-like experience that is directly styled by Tudor’s past, but the Fifty-Eight is not without competition.
We are in the throes of Hot Dive Watch Summer, and the new Fifty-Eight joins a growing rank of really incredible enthusiast-focused product within the form of dive watches around ~40mm. Among those ranks, the Tudor is arguably the top dog in terms of the price point, and should you have a smaller budget, the new 40.5mm Seiko SBP Prospex models are all-stars for less than $ 1,500. That said, the Seiko is not competition for the Tudor, especially within the perspective of the wider consumer market.
I love thinking about the competition for a given watch, and with the Tudor Fifty-Eight, there is internal and external competition. For internal, there are many other Black Bays, including the excellent Pelagos (which can also be had in blue), and I’d wager there is direct competition from Rolex, in that buyers who wouldn’t describe themselves as price-sensitive might get their name on a list for both a modern Rolex Submariner and the Fifty-Eight and just buy whichever they can get first. The wrist clout of both options should not be dismissed when assessing how a given buyer might cross-shop a watch in a manner that prioritizes the “get factor” in a way that is inflated beyond a level market assessment of price-to-value.
Bellyache if you will, but lots of ADs filled orders for the new Tudor before mine could be delivered directly from the brand. If you want what is generally considered to be an “un-gettable” watch, you need to play the game or sit (quietly) and wait. Get to know your ADs, folks.
Taking a somewhat wider look, the Tudor has to square off with a spread that includes the in-house powered 42mm Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 at $ 4,380 (or maybe the $ 3,950 Superocean Automatic 42), the 42mm IWC Aquatimer ($ 5,400), the earlier (date at 3) 41mm Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Co-Axial ($ 4,400), or the ETA-powered Bremont S300 ($ 4,095). This is where we see that the Tudor sits at something of a hole in the market. Being priced above high-quality ETA-powered options like those from Sinn, Oris, and Doxa ensures the Tudor feels like a step up from what is generally considered “entry-level” from the Swiss market. And yet, being priced below several brands that actively avoid the Rolex domination of the $ 7,000-$ 15,000 range makes much of the Black Bay line feel like a steal, especially if what you want is specifically an everyday dive watch from a legacy brand.
And that’s what you’re getting. The smaller case and profile of the Fifty-Eight means it wears well on more wrists, accepts a wider range of straps, and could easily be a dive watch that does the 9-to-5 just as capably as it manages a 40-minute profile on a Caribbean wreck.
To speak on a more personal note about the relative power of a new color, I personally have not considered the black/gilt version as its coloring was not to my liking. For me, the Navy Blue not only puts the Fifty-Eight firmly on my radar, but it has also managed to put the Black Bay way up on my want list – a list that previously only had room for the Pelagos Blue and the Heritage Chrono Blue.
In many ways, all of the things that might make this a boring release from Tudor for a year like 2020 also make it a truly excellent second entry to the Fifty-Eight family, and a watch that I would very much like to own.
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight “Navy Blue” is a dive watch that measures 39 x 11.2 x 47mm and offers 200m water resistance. It is powered by a COSC-certified Tudor manufacture MT5402 and is a blue dial/blue bezel version of the 2018 black/gilt Black Bay Fifty-Eight. The Fifty-Eight “Navy Blue” retails from $ 3,375 and more information can be found on Tudor’s website.