The Tudor Black Bay GMT was one of the stars of the latest edition of Baselworld. It was put under the spotlight thanks to its intrinsic qualities and the concomitant presentation of the Rolex GMT-Master II "Pepsi" in steel with Jubilee bracelet, causing the publication of thousands of articles comparing the two watches. I couldn't escape this trend since I also wrote an article on the same theme (which was published on PuristSPro a few months ago) even if it was primarily devoted to the strategic directions of the two brands.
Several months after Baselworld, I wanted to see and handle this Tudor Black Bay GMT in a more peaceful context and I want to say, more out of the Rolex environment (what is difficult in Baselworld!). So of course, one of the main criticisms that were made at Baselworld against Tudor was to reuse some "Rolex" aesthetic codes and even to fall back into a kind of dependence vis-à-vis its big sister company, as if the brand was struggling to exist on its own.
I didn't agree with this analysis and I expressed it in my article. However, I had to validate my first feelings on the Tudor Black Bay GMT and appreciate its own qualities over a longer period than the moment of discovery, necessarily fast, at Baselworld. Thanks to Tudor France, I had the privilege of wearing the watch for a week. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to travel with the Black Bay GMT on the wrist but, and this is the virtue of a travel watch ... you can stay in your city while enjoying the benefits of a piece that displays several timezones ! A travel watch is not only for travelers, but also for all those who have regular contact with people who live abroad. In short, the Tudor Black Bay GMT can also be a very efficient office watch.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT has two great assets: the seriousness of its execution and its ergonomics. The seriousness of the execution is reflected in multiple details that highlight the quality of finishes and in its robust appearance.
The case appears at first sight as massive and chunky. Actually, its dimensions are generous: a diameter of 41mm for a thickness of 15mm. Fortunately, the perceived diameter is smaller because of the width of the bezel and the black dial. The thickness didn't seem to me as unacceptable. First, the alternation of polished and satin parts breaks the uniformity. Then, when the watch is equipped with the metal bracelet, its lines then seem more fluid. This is less the case with the nato which reveals more clearly the height of the case.
The rendering of the bezel featuring an anodised aluminum disk in burgundy / matt blue is very pleasant. The colors are not aggressive and offer a nice range of shades depending on the light conditions. When the light is strong, they gain liveliness without becoming too lightened. When the light is weak, the "pepsi" bezel (note that I use double quotes) tends to turn into a "coke" bezel since the blue converges toward the black. This change is appealing to me and in any case I really liked the choice of these two colors that I found refined and quite elegant.
The rendering of the dial is also convincing with a bright black background that highlights the excellent finish of the indexes and hands. The shape of the domed sapphire crystal also contributes to the perceived quality and gives a nice retro touch to the watch.
The steel bracelet is another highlight of the Tudor Black Bay GMT. The watch I tried was equipped with the nato strap (which had a very good perceived quality and this time with the right width ...). I had previously been able to assess the effectiveness of the metal bracelet which brings incomparable comfort and aesthetic coherence by softening the height of the case. The price difference between the version with metal bracelet (3,650 euros in France with taxes) and the two other versions (leather or nato straps sold at 3,350 euros) being minimal, in my opinion, there is no discussion possible: it is the version with riveted steel bracelet that is the most relevant.
The robustness is therefore perceived through the size of the case but also in the feel provided by the use of the crown which can be unscrewed and pulled cleanly and accurately. This is an important point because the setting of the watch requires 2 positions of the pulled crown in addition to the usual position for manual winding. Tudor also has an explanation available to justify the thickness of the case: the watch has a 200 meter waterproofness. From a strict point of view of use, such performance is not very much usefull but it reinforces the feeling of trust given by the watch.
The rugged character of the Tudor Black Bay GMT would be futile if the watch was not easy and convenient to use. On this point, it can even be considered as a reference.
First of all, the watch is readable. The indexes, luminescent hands stand out clearly from the background of the dial and even if the reflections are present on the glass, readability remains optimal. However, I would like to formulate one complaint: I would have liked the 24-hour hand with a different shape from that of the second hand or the hour hand. This cohabitation of 3 "snowflake" hands can generate a little confusion. I also consider it a bit too excessive from an aesthetic point of view.
Then, the performance of the MT5652 in-house movement is excellent: the winding efficiency is perfect (I never had to manually wind the movement even if I only wore the watch a few hours per day), the power reserve is comfortable (70 hours), the chronometer certification confirms its accuracy but I would like to put the focus on the management of the second time zone which is ideal.
The movement was designed for travelers and I could feel it. Once the reference time has been set (which is done by pulling the crown to the last position and using the 24-hour hand), then you only need to set the local time by pulling the crown to the intermediate position and to advance or set back the main hand of the hours per step of one hour. The system is easy like 1-2-3 and extremely practical (I remind you that the crown is handled with ease and comfort). The only small gymnastics imposed by the Black Bay GMT is to set the reference time first since it controls the minute hand.
Such a movement is not trivial. First, its architecture is integrated which is appreciable and practical in case of service by the watchmaker. Then, it handles the date changes in both ways without any difficulty by moving forward or backward the hour hand of the local time. Besides, the date of the local time can be exclusively set by moving this hand (there is no real quick date change system).
The Tudor Black Bay GMT also displays a third time zone for those who are not afraid of Bloomberg TV screens! The setting of the reference time and the local time is done when the bezel is in the neutral position (triangle at noon). If the third zone is 6 hours ahead of the reference time, simply position the 6 of the bezel at noon and the time of this additional time zone is read thanks to the 24-hour hand. Simply put again the bezel to the neutral position so that the 24-hour hand indicates the reference time again.
It's simple, it's efficient and it perfectly meets what I expect from from a travel watch. So obviously such a watch doesn't handle unusual timezones which also have quarters or half-hour of difference (like Iran or India) which is a pity. But let's be honest: such pieces require sub-dial displays with two hands. Even a worldtimer watch is confusing when two many timezones are displayed.
In one week, I was able to appreciate all the qualities of the Tudor Black Bay GMT. I had set the reference time on the New York time zone and the local time obviously on the Paris one. Unfortunately, I didn't have any trip to London to have at least the pleasure of setting back the local time hour hand ... but I noticed the effectiveness of the watch and its unfailing readability: I haven't missed any phone appointment with my American colleagues! The traditional French delay would become almost legendary.
Finally, from the comfort point of view, I definitely preferred the feeling with the steel bracelet than with the nato. This is the eternal problem of the weight distribution and with the steel bracelet, I found the watch better held. However, the test was done with the nato and the latter serves its purpose without any issue.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT is for me a very successful watch. We must stop with these endless comparisons with Rolex: entry-level Rolex, poor man's Rolex and other inappropriate messages. The Tudor Black Bay GMT exudes a real impression of quality that it is demonstrated in use and in the real life. The situation is finally very simple: which company offers for a price lower than 3,700 euros the performances and the practical dimension of the movement MT5652? Very few actors in the end ... so the advice I give is very simple: wear this watch for what it is and for its intrinsic qualities. The pleasure will only be bigger.
Big thanks to Tudor France.
+ the performance of the MT5652 movement
+ the quality of the execution
+ the rendering of the bezel disk
+ a practical watch easy to use
- three Snowflake hands on the dial, it's too much, at least for my taste
- the feeling of thickness when the watch is worn with the nato strap