Blue Lagoon: Test of the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue | Viewing time
You sleep expanded its popularity Black bay fifty-eight series of diving watches. The latest addition is a blue version with a manufacturing caliber and a medium-sized 39 mm case which won the “Challenge” watch prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020 (GPHG). How does the Tudor winner behave in our test?
The Tudor label has been all the rage in recent years and can count on a steadily growing fan base. Rolex’s second brand stagnated for many years, but since 2009 Tudor has started to accelerate again. The history of Tudor, rich in characteristic design, is highlighted in the brand’s new retro models. The Heritage Black Bay, reminiscent of Tudor’s first dive watches, was released in 2012. Its debut was followed by the premiere of the smaller Black Bay Fifty-Eight in 2018. The blue version, which we’re testing here, has was unveiled in 2020.
The name “Fifty-Eight” refers to 1958, the year Tudor introduced its first diver’s watch, reference 7924, known as the “Big Crown”. The diameter of the new watch of 39 mm corresponds to the dimensions of the case of the historic model. In other respects too, this new version looks at first glance like a vintage watch, an antique model. It even looks a bit delicate, thanks to the rotating bezel and smaller dial.
The vintage feel is further emphasized by the domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, which is heavily curved along its edge like the acrylic crystals on models from previous decades. The dial, too, is slightly convex like the dials of classic old watches. The narrow straps of the bracelet and the typography of the rotating bezel also allude to Tudor history. The designers even chose to omit the date display, complementing the historic impression.
Old Tudor diving watches with so-called “snowflake” hands have become famous and are highly sought after at auctions. The moniker derives from the squares at the ends of the hour hand and second hand: each is rotated 45 degrees and looks a bit like a stylized snowflake. This detail first appeared on the tips of the hands in the late 1960s and has been preserved thereafter.
In 1956, divers in the French Navy turned to Tudor to find the perfect diver’s watch for their needs. Tudor then became the official supplier to French military frogmen. Combat divers opted for blue rather than black dials in the mid-1970s. Our test watch with blue dial and blue aluminum diving time scale is reminiscent of these timepieces. The aluminum ladder is not as scratch resistant as its ceramic counterparts, but its matte surface blends better with the vintage style of this model.
Overall, Tudor has managed to create a very beautiful and harmonious retro watch that looks even more timeless thanks to its blue color and the fact that it forgoes the golden hands and hour markers that are usually installed on the dials of other Fifty-Eights. models. Fortunately, functionality has not been overlooked: large luminous indexes and a lot of luminous material on the hands guarantee exceptional readability day and night. The easy-to-grip crown disengages from the winding mechanism when screwed down, thus protecting the latter. Setting the time is easy thanks to the stop-second function and the absence of date display, which eliminates the first position extracted from the crown.
The unidirectional rotating bezel engages in one-minute increments. It too is easy to grip and turn thanks to its finely serrated edge. The bezels of early models had a bit of slack and looked tiny when snapped, but Tudor made some significant improvements: the bezel on this watch snaps almost as authoritatively as its counterparts in watches made by the big sister of Tudor, Rolex. A luminous triangular index allows the wearer to read the dive time even in dark conditions or in cloudy water. This Black Bay is also perfectly suited to diving thanks to its waterproof case to 200 meters and its waterproof textile strap.
The watch’s blue fabric strap is lightweight and durable, and features a gray stripe along its midline. It is sewn according to a traditional method which relies on historical machines. The beautiful pin buckle is designed to resemble the shield shape of the Tudor coat of arms logo. Like the case, the clasp juxtaposes polished and satin-finished surfaces.
The textile strap is breathable, which contributes to its comfort on the wrist. Flat textile straps often seem out of place on tall case watches, but that’s not a problem here: the strap fits the Black Bay well and enhances its overall vintage look.
The strap goes through the back of the case and therefore covers it widely, but that’s not a problem here because unfortunately this Tudor watch does not have a glass back, so manufacturing Caliber MT5402 will not be seen by the buyer and can only be admired by the watchmaker who unscrews the fully threaded steel caseback and opens the case for maintenance or repair. The movement is particularly impressive because it maintains the traditional Tudor virtues of precision and robustness. The brand responds to the first claim by having each movement tested by the official Swiss chronometer control authority, the COSC. This exam certifies, among other criteria, that the difference in average daily pace remains within a narrow range between –4 and +6 seconds.
Our electronic chronometer confirmed this precision. The gaps in the various positions remained in a tight group. The average deviation was a minor loss of -1.3 seconds per day. The watch kept near perfect time on the wrist, where we measured minimal gain of just +0.5 seconds per day.
Caliber MT5402 (MT stands for “Tudor Movement”) relies on various technical characteristics to respond to the second part of the brand’s philosophy: robustness. First, the movement is quite high (4.99mm), so any small variation in tolerance in the production process is unlikely to cause malfunctions. Second, the pendulum is not held on one side by a rooster but is installed in a stable and completely horizontal position under a bridge. And third, the hairspring is made of silicon, thus minimizing the likelihood of speed deviations caused by the shifting or deformation of this tiny spring after the movement has been impacted.
Other high quality features of the manufacturing movement are its long power reserve of 70 hours and its freely oscillating balance with four regulation screws. These screws make it possible not to finely adjust the rate by modifying the active length of the hairspring, as is the case with ETA gauges.
The fact that Tudor does not invest much effort or expense in the fine decoration of the movement matches the brand’s philosophy to offer reliable watch technology at an affordable price. Nevertheless, the rotor is nicely openworked and adorned with both a sunburst pattern and the brand name engraved.
The Black Bay inspires with its design in much the same way as historic Tudor diving watches. And like its ancestors, functionality has the same priority. Other than the missing date display and the scratch-sensitive aluminum bezel, you don’t have to make any compromises here. This newcomer has scratch resistant sapphire crystal, lots of luminous material, high water resistance, good wearing comfort and easy operation. The price is right too. So Tudor did everything right. But this success is also reflected in the long waiting lists for this model. In this way, too, Tudor follows in the footsteps of its big sister, Rolex.
Maker: Tudor, Rue François Dussaud 3–5, 1211 Geneva 26, Switzerland
Reference number: M79030B-0003
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Movement: Manufacturing Caliber MT5402, automatic, COSC certified, 28,800 vph, 27 jewels, stop-second function, silicon hairspring, fine adjustment by four adjustment screws around the perimeter of the free-swinging balance, Incabloc damping, 70-hour power reserve , diameter = 26 mm, height = 4.99 mm
Case: Stainless steel case with domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides, screw-down crown, screwed back fully threaded in stainless steel, water-resistant to 200 meters
Bracelet and clasp: Textile strap with stainless steel pin buckle
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours):
Crown up to -1
Crown down -3
Left crown -1
Right crown -2
Biggest gap 4
Average deviation -1.3
Flat positions 291 °
Suspension positions 260 °
Dimensions: Diameter = 39 mm, height = 12 mm, weight = 77 grams
Variants: With blue “soft touch” strap (Ref. M79030B-0002; $ 3,375); with steel bracelet (Ref. M79030B-0001, $ 3,700)
Price: $ 3,375
Bracelet and clasp (max. 10 points): The textile strap is robust and
breathable. The pin buckle is practical. 8
Operation (5): The screw-down crown is easy to use and a stop-second function makes it easy to set the time to the nearest second. The easy-to-grip bezel is easy to rotate. 5
Case (10): The well-designed case has good water resistance. Also good: the crown disconnects from the winding mechanism when the latter is screwed down. 8
Design (15): The highly successful retro design has characteristic Tudor elements from several decades. 14
Readability (5): Abundant luminous material on the hands and indexes, combined with a high contrast between the hands and the dial, make this watch easy to read day and night. 5
Wearing comfort (10): The watch is comfortable on the wrist and not too heavy. 9
Movement (20): The manufacturing caliber is designed for strength and
offers a long power reserve. The decorations are subtle. 15
Evaluate the results (10): The largest rate spread among the various positions is small. The average rate spread is moderate, but strayed into the negative column. 8
Overall value (15): The price is appropriate. Demand exceeds supply, which leads to good retention of value. 12
Total: 84 POINTS
This article originally appeared in the January-February 2021 issue of WatchTime.