This year Tudor surprises us with a Black Bay GMT " Opaline " AND with a watch which is courageous, the Black Bay 54 with a... 37 mm case, defying all those who think that 37 mm is too small, and trying to demonstrate the contrary.
Well, for those who think that 37 mm or 38 mm is not enough, I would like to say that a lot of collectors would almost sell their own mother to get a vintage Tudor Submariner such as the 7922, 7923 or 7924. And for those who think that Rolex didn't come with such a " small " Submariner, the 6200, 6204, 6205, 6538, 5510, 6536 and 5508 are here to prove the contrary. They all have the GRAIL Status.
The mighty 7922:
The Black Bay 54 is not a revolution, because Tudor sure knows how to revisit and to reinterpret their past since the launch of the Heritage Chronograph, years before the first Black Bay. It is a natural evolution, and drives the Black Bay in a more nostalgic vintage world. Better said, it adds some vintage character to the Black Bay Family, thanks to its case, its dial, hands and bezel.
1/ THE CASE
How can a case be considered as " Vintage "?
The size, my friends, the size and the proportions!
I already mentioned that the Rolex and Tudor Stars had a much smaller case than their contemporary siblings, that's a point. But the second point is more subjective. It gives some charm and sensuality the first Vintage Subs had.
Same for the proportions: The diameter / height ratio is more homogeneous. While on the first Black Bay 41 mm case, the thickness was 14 mm ( from memory and approximately ) the new 37 mm case is only 11, 24 mm high... Which is much better balanced and... Nicer.
The Black Bay Fifty Eight with its 39 mm case represented a step in the good direction, the " Fifty Four " goes farther. BRAVO!
2/ THE DIAL
Black dial, gilt wording and indices, this is the well known recipe for a watch whose purpose is to pay homage to the past. They are the fundamentals, with some exceptions, the most famous being the Black Bay 58 " Silver " with its taupe dial and silver indices / hands.
The " 54 " doesn't make an exception to this stylistic rule. The Snowflake hour hand is still here, as it is a Tudor Signature which the brand obviously wanted to keep, but the second hand left it for a more conventional " small lollipop " closer to the vintage. Good point, but I would have gone farther with a big lollipop, just for the fun.
The dial has a soleillé finish I never saw before in a Black Bay...
I would have opted for the small rose rather than the shield, for this watch, and for the semi circular " self winding " mention, both details the first Black Bay, the Red, had in 2012, rather than the all straight wording, in order to dive deeper into the Past.
3/ THE BEZEL
I am in love! The bezel is the Killer detail on this watch. It is faithful to the very first Tudor Submariners. Tudor decided to change the bezel around 1957, with 0 to 15 minutes graduations. So the " 54 " is clearly targeting the very first references.
Is it a first for the modern Black Bay? No! The 2015 Black Bay Only Watch had it. But I am very happy to see this bezel back.
It adds a lot of charm and purity to this watch.
4/ THE CROWN
I was going to forget it, but it is an interesting detail. With its smaller size, it is deliciously integrated into the case, a clear reminder of the Tudor 7922, 7923 and Rolex 6204 / 6205 / 6536 and 5508. Well played once again.And finally we have this superb small rose which was the original Tudor Logo!
5/ THE MOVEMENT
I will just mention here that we have the " in house " Cal MT 5400, which offers a much better power reserve ( 70 hours ) than the vintage movements from Rolex or the FHF 390 housed in the 7922 / 7924, or than the ETA in the first Black Bay from 2012 ( around 40 hours ).
It is sometimes good to leave some place to modernity.
6/ STRAP OR BRACELET?
I am usually not a bracelet guy, but here I would happily make an exception. First of all it is nicely designed, then it only costs a few more hundreds of Euros / USD, and the rubber strap is the only detail I really dislike on this watch.
The rubber strap is not at its place, here. It is too modern looking in this vintage environment. But it is not a major problem, as you will easily find a cool Nato or strap, in Cordura, for example. But I would go for the bracelet and then play with Natos in alternance with the bracelet.
Don't judge the Black Bay 54 before seeing it in reality, with an open mind and heart. It is a great " small " watch which is close, very close to perfection.
I would have changed some details I already pointed out on this one, such as the small rose logo instead of the shield, a bigger lollipop second hand, and I would have left the snowflake hour hand, here. I would also have gone for a semi circular last line on the bottom. AND... I would have offered a super and high quality NATO or conventional strap, instead of the rubber.
But as it is, no doubt that it will find its fans. I am already beguiled.
Looking forward to reading your comments and thoughts,