Tudor’s latest addition to the Black Bay range aims to repopularise bi-metal steel and gold designs, aided by appearances on the wrist of one Mr David Beckham. But how will it go over with the watch fans?
By Chris Hall
I must begin by eating my words. I have said in print twice now that Tudor should stop making new versions of the Heritage Black Bay; that enough is enough and we are ready for something completely new (my heart is still set on a GMT or dual time from Tudor).
Clearly I was dead wrong. New versions of the Black Bay continue to appear – from limited edition versions for Bucherer to this, the Heritage Black Bay S&G (that’s the official name; it stands for steel and gold but Tudor’s the “cool” younger brother, so S&G it is). And with the development of the Heritage Black Bay Chrono and the introduction of the 36mm and 41mm pared-back versions, it is clearer than ever that Black Bays of some description now form the backbone of everything Tudor does.
Which is why it also makes sense for this watch to be on the wrist of newly signed brand ambassador David Beckham. This – like Tudor’s sponsorship of the All Blacks – is part of a big push at the genuine mainstream; having won the hearts of watch lovers Tudor now needs to aim squarely at taking business from the likes of TAG Heuer. This newest model is, thanks to the gold elements, that little bit more expensive than its siblings, but is the right kind of halo product to do the business on Becks’ wrist.
That’s the context. But here at QP we are of course dedicated to judging things on their merits, brand ambassadors or no, so how does this watch stack up?
Firstly I should say I’ve never really liked bi-metal watches. I’m not of an age to remember when they were popular the first time round, and although plenty of 1980’s tropes are coming back into fashion I’m greeting the rehabilitation of two-tone steel and yellow gold very cautiously. There’s a note of oligarch’s gin palace about it – the blue-dial Rolex Submariner springs to mind. Tudor itself readily admits that the full steel and gold bracelet isn’t likely to sell well in the UK, so I’m test driving the watch on a chunky faux-aged leather strap instead.
It’s a winsome combination. There’s nothing radical about it, but the fact that a lot of rival brands still aren’t catching up means it feels interesting in a way that, say a Breitling or Omega doesn’t. For some it will border on pastiche, for others it will be catnip. If you like Matchless leather jackets or Grenson boots, you’ll love it. My only quibble is to wonder how it’s going to age – are you going to need new leather after a year’s daily wear?
The added gold, if you drop the bracelet, manifests itself in the bezel and the crown. That’s not an enormous amount of gold, but I’d argue its a sweet spot. It means the price hike over the normal Black Bay isn’t too steep (£280 extra compared with a BB on leather strap) but is enough to deliver a real hit of warmth to the watch’s overall look. The dial has the gilt-edged lume plots and handset and warm, bronze-coloured minute track that you’d find on the Black Bay Black or Red, and the gold bezel just serves to amplify them.
Inside is the same base in-house calibre that Tudor introduced across the entire Heritage Black Bay family two years ago. One significant difference pops up for the Black Bay S&G, however – calibre MT5612 comes with a date function, the first on a time-only Black Bay (the Chrono has one too). The date window appears at three o’clock, and, well, it’s a date window. You’ll either hate it or be ambivalent about it. There’s no specific reason why Tudor chose this watch to bring a date to the Black Bay but I have no particular animus towards it. Date windows at 4 o’clock can ruin a dial but this is just fine in my book.
So, it’s another Black Bay. I’ve learnt my lesson – write this line of watches off at your peril – so I’ll just say this: sooner or later Tudor will probably jump the shark (Black Bay Carbon? Black Bay full pavé diamonds? Just kidding…) but if you thought this watch was a step too far, it’s not. In fact, I think it’s great.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay S&G costs £3,400 on a bracelet or £2,580 on a leather strap. Both options also come with a fabric strap. Tudorwatch.com