If you’re among those that still think of Tudor as the poor man’s Rolex, you haven’t been paying attention. Originally envisioned by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf as a more accessible alternative, Tudors used standard movements as opposed to in-house Rolex calibers, lowering costs while appealing to a wider audience.
But in the ensuing years, Tudor has made big strides, coming into their own as a respected brand, and even producing some of their own movements as is the case with this mighty impressive Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 Watch (£3230). Meanwhile, Rolex has somewhat distanced itself from their toolwatch roots. Dazzling high-polish finishes and precious metals have replaced the strictly utilitarian look of much of their product line. Even the archetypal dive watch, the Submariner, is now a luxury play, available in several different gold varieties. That is if you can source one. The current Rolex business model makes it nigh impossible for mortals to find one of their highly coveted watches at retail. Prepare to pay an aftermarket dealer through the nose, or put your young child on a waitlist.
First Class Quality
As its corporate sibling Rolex climbs further into jewelry territory, Tudor has doubled down on their toolwatch roots, and for many of us, they’re making the watches we wish Rolex still made. Make no mistake, these are still luxury Swiss timepieces, but they’re a bit more attainable, and a good sight less blingy. And one of their biggest hits in recent years has been the just-right sized 39mm Black Bay Fifty-Eight dive watch, a reinterpretation of the ‘big crown’ Subs of the past. Available in stainless with black dial/bezel, or last year’s smash navy blue colorway, the BB58 is a modern-day classic. Which leads to an intriguing release from this year’s virtual Watches & Wonders convention.
In a move that no one saw coming, behold the silver-cased (yes, actual silver) Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925, with a taupe no-date dial with matching bezel insert, and in a first for the BB58, a sapphire display caseback. Yes, silver is one of the softest precious metals you’ll find, and it tarnishes if you look at it funny. So what’s it doing on a dive watch, considering that salt water is a very real threat? Well, Tudor has some experience with this issue, because one of their best-known modern watches, the Black Bay Bronze, also used what would seem to be a very tarnish-prone metal. They cracked that nut by creating a bronze alloy with a higher aluminum content, increasing its resistance to corrosion. It will develop a patina over time, but not the crusty green you might imagine. Think warm bronze, rather than Davy Jones’ locker.
Now, we have no idea what age and wear will do to this new alloy, but as it looks new, the fully brushed case of the BB58 925 has a stealthy charm that draws you in the more you look at it. Warmer than stainless, the silver recalls more of a brushed nickel look. It’s less cold than stainless, and the taupe dial and bezel can appear as more of a warm grey than brown. It has almost the same vibe as a sun-aged tropical dial, but without the random, uneven wear. Against the silver case, the overall effect reminds us of an old German camera, with a soft patina gently buffed from years of use.
Touch of Class
The sapphire caseback is slightly thicker than the more utilitarian closed back of the original BB58, but that affords you a clear view of the COSC-certified MT5400 manufacture movement. The big screw-down crown, sans guards, along with the coin-edge bezel are both a pleasure to use, and are holdovers from the original BB58.
Why mess with perfection? The BB58 925 is available on either leather or center-striped fabric straps at a retail price of £3230. If a vintage-inspired dive watch in a truly unique metal appeals to your sense of style, Tudor may have your number. Number 58, to be precise.