The Tudor Black Bay was upon its release an instant success. In the Tudor brand’s relaunch, the Black Bay played an important role in the reestablishing of the brand and helped Tudor establish itself as a strong brand that proved itself to be strong enough to stand on its own legs, and not dependent on its bigger brother Rolex.
The Heritage Black Bay is today arguably the most important model of Tudor, and in this article, we’re looking closer at the collection that helped Tudor ”become great again”.
Background to the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 79220
It’s no secret that Tudor has a close relationship with Rolex.
After all, Tudor was founded by the man who founded Rolex – Hans Wilsdorf.
In 1926, Hans Wilsdorf founded Tudor as a compliment brand to Rolex. The goal was to make more affordable watches that were as reliable as Rolex watches. Wilsdorf said about Tudor “For some years now I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that could attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous, I decided to form a separate company, with the object of making and marketing this new watch. It is called the Tudor Watch Company.”
In order to understand the idea behind the Tudor Black Bay 79220 and the importance they’ve played, it’s crucial to understand Tudor’s relationship with Rolex.
At the time, Tudor watches were made with the same parts as Rolex. Tudor used Rolex parts, and this can be clearly seen on vintage Tudor watches, as they feature Rolex crowns, with Rolex’s crown logo on them, as well as the text Rolex engraved on the caseback – just like the Rolexes at the time did- and still do for that matter.
The difference between Rolex watches, and Tudor watches, however, was that Tudor used off-the-shelf ETA movements whereas Rolex used in-house movements, except for a few exceptions.
The fact that Tudor used ETA movements allowed the watches to be cheaper and thus more obtainable for a wider audience.
As such, this resulted in Tudor watches becoming viewed as ”poor man Rolexes” in many people’s eyes, and this is a label that Tudor has had a hard time getting rid of. This label makes sense because Tudor watches at the time were essentially Rolex watches, as they were made with Rolex parts, just a cheaper alternative.
In 2009, an extensive relaunch of the brand took place. Tudor released a number of watches with an emphasis on style, as opposed to strength and durability which was Tudor’s focus back in the days when they were made with Rolex parts.
This was the first step in separating Tudor from Rolex in modern times, and building the Tudor brand so it was strong enough to stand on its own legs and become a respectable brand known for producing stylish and high-quality watches that offer great bang for the buck, rather than being known as a cheaper alternative to a Rolex.
In the following years, Tudor continued to build on its heritage and the vintage models which had become well-respected and loved by watch collectors and enthusiasts.
In 2012, the big boom for Tudor came in their efforts for relaunching the brand. In that year, the focus was all about diver’s watches, with the new Tudor Heritage Black Bay being the center of attention.
Because in 2012, vintage Tudor watches have started increasing in price, and seeing an increased demand and interest due to the great history and heritage, but also its iconic design, Tudor made a clever move to built upon the success of its original diver’s watches, and created a modern diver’s watch, built on vintage traditions, design, and aesthetics.
The idea behind the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 79220
As the name reveals, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay is built on Tudor’s heritage. With the Black Bay, the heritage refers to Tudor’s first diver’s watches made in the 1950 and 60s. Due to the close relationship with Rolex at the time, the Black Bay has a personality and design that is very much Rolex.
But because, over the years, Rolex has continued to iterate, innovate, and evolve the design of its diver’s watches, Rolex, in modern times, makes no diver’s watch which is identical or even very similar to Tudor’s re-edition of its original diver’s watch. This is of course also something that allows Tudor to separate itself more from Rolex in modern times since the Tudor Black Bay isn’t really similar to any Rolex Submariner currently in production.
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 79220 certainly has a connection and similarities to the Rolex Submariner design-wise, with things like its finish of the casing being polished on the sides and having beveled edges, its brushed lugs, its applied index dots, and so on, but someone who knows watches will hardly mistake it for a Rolex.
In Tudor’s own words: ”Sixty years of TUDOR diving history distilled into one truly iconic watch.”
The Tudor Black Bay has sought inspiration from all of its vintage diver’s watches, combining some of the most iconic design features across various models, but the Black Bay has particularly taken inspiration from the non-crown guard diver’s watches made by Tudor, which are the 7922, 7923, and the 7924 ”Big Crown”.
When looking at these watches, it’s easy to see a connection.
In terms of design, the most defining features are the big crown, the snowflake hour hand, and its case. All of these features can be found across various Tudors vintage watches.
The Tudor Black bay has taken the most defining and loved features that can be found across Tudor’s vintage diver’s watches, and implemented them into one watch – the Tudor Heritage Black Bay. For the watch, Tudor has taken things such as the dial and bezel from the first series of Submariners from the 1950’s, and taken the snowflake hands from the second generation Submariners produced in the 1970s.
In that way, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 79220 is a watch where modern meets vintage, creating a highly popular timepiece.
Another popular feature of the first generation Black Bay watches is the Tudor rose on the dial. In modern times, Tudor has moved to its shield logo, which now has been implemented on the newer generation Black Bay ref 79230.
One of the most defining features about the Tudor Black Bay 79220 is its big crown. The 79220 has colored crown tube which is colored in the same color as the bezel of the watch – which means either black, blue, or red.
The crown also has the iconic Tudor rose embossed, which is filled with black paint. There have been reports that the black color has started loosening over the years, and this is why, for models like the Fifty-Eight doesn’t have a painted rose logo, but have instead the shape of the rose being in metal, thus preventing this problem.
In order to ensure the watch’s water-resistance, the crown is a screw-down crown which connects to the crown tube.
The bezel of the Black Bay 79220
The bezel of the Tudor Black Bay 79220 is clearly very inspired by the vintage Tudor divers. The font of the numbers is very similar to the 1958 Tudor Big crown Submariner 7924 and features a triangle with a lime dot at 12 o’clock to help position and read the bezel more easily.
The Black Bay 79220 is available in three colors, and one of the things that differ in colors between them is the bezel. This means that the bezel is available in red, black, or blue, for the Black Bay 79220 range.
The edge of the rotating bezel has an elegant fine dented edge, which has a less sharp edge than, say a Rolex Submariner, but the bezel still allows for a great grip – even when wearing diver’s gloves.
Movement of the Black Bay 79220
By now, the Black Bay 79220 is discontinued and has been replaced with the updated 79230. The first generation Black Bay can be seen as Tudor’s flagship watch upon the brand’s relaunch, and since Tudor has used ETA movements during its early days, it made sense from a historical standpoint to use ETA movements for its new generation of watches.
Also, some people, of course, complained about the movement not being in-house, but ETA movements have proven to be very reliable, durable, and long-lasting. As such, even if the movements in the Black Bay 79220 watches weren’t in-house, they were still great movements. Additionally, they’re also easy and quite cheap to maintain.
With Tudor’s new Black Bay 79230 range, Tudor introduced in-house movements, and they did so in order to include another value proposition in their watches. And while the in-house movement goes to show that Tudor is a strong brand which is strong enough to stand on its own legs, the ETA Black Bay will always be remembered as the most iconic of the Black Bay models as it played a significant role in Tudor’s successful relaunch.
Additionally, the in-house Black Bay is thicker due to the new movement, and this is something that harms how well the watch sits on the wrist, and thus naturally makes the previous generation more popular.
The ETA movement in the Tudor Black Bay is the ETA 2824 caliber. The movement has a power reserve of approximately 42 hours. This movement is known to be highly reliable, and Tudor has also modified it to better suit the watch’s needs. When the first Black Bay was released, and it was announced that it had an ETA movement, some people were disappointing, since, in the world of watches, it’s much more prestigious to have an in-house movement than an off-the-shelf one.
Part of this is that investing time and resources into developing and creating an own movement shows that the brand is a watch brand that is serious and a brand to rely on.
It’s also worth that comparing the Black Bay with Rolex’s Submariner and its in-house movement isn’t really fair since the Tudor Heritage Black Bay is less than one/third of an equivalent Rolex.
Variations and sizing
As mentioned, the Tudor Black Bay 79220 comes in three colors. Blue, Red, and Black.
The Black 79220N was only produced for six months until it was discontinued and replaced by the newer generation Black Bay with an in-house movement.
This also means that there are far fewer examples of the first generation Black Bay black than there are of the red and blue.
The three colors of the Black Bays have all been inspired by Tudor’s vintage watches.
The burgundy color on the 90’s prototype resulted in the bezel tone of the Black Bay and Black Bay GMT:
The Black color is a given, as it is the most common color for both Rolex and Tudor Submariner watches. The blue, on the other hand, has been taken from the late-model Reference 79090 Blue Submariner, the 79190 Submariner, as well as maybe the most iconic of them all, the Tudor Snowflake reference 7016 which was released in the 1960s. The blue color is meant to suggest the look of some vintage military Tudor divers that featured black dials and blue bezels.
In terms of how the watch sits on the wrist, the Black Bay 79220 has received a great response. The only ”complaint” that the watch about its size is that with its 41mm, it’s far from the size that the original Submariner watches that the Black Bay has taken its inspiration from were.
As such, the Black Bay being a vintage-inspired watch, had modern proportions and sizes, and this was something that people complained about.
This complaint, would, however, come to be responded with the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight which they launched in 2018.
Despite this complaint, the 41mm size and its proportions sit well on a men’s size wrist. After all, it is a sports watch, and with a sports watch, it should feel rugged and durable. As an everyday sports watch, many people would consider the Black Bay’s size as perfect.
The lack of crown guards on the Black Bay makes the watch appear as smaller, compared to other watches with crown-guards.
It is 50 mm lug to lug, and with its 12.7 mm thickness, it sits quite comfortably and slimmed on the wrist. It’s not the most slimmed watch, but it’s what you’d expect from a diver’s watch. The Tudor Black Bay has 22 mm lugs.
The crystal of the watch is domed, just like the crystal on the vintage Tudor watches. But for obvious reasons, it is a sapphire crystal and not plexiglass.
The dial of the Black Bay is matte which allows it to catch the light beautifully, and make it more interesting. Furthermore, the dial isn’t completely flat and slightly domed, making it more interesting- The indices are applied and features lumina that glow in a green color very strongly, that allows for great legibility, even in poor conditions.
The dial also has a minute track, and a triangle at 12 o’clock, rectangular indexes at 3, 6, 9, and lastly round circular indices on the rest of the 5-minute spaces.
The dial has the text “rotor self-winding”, where the text ”Self-winding” is bent upwards. This is also the reason why the dial of the Tudor Black Bay 79220 is sometimes referred to as the ”Smiley dial”.
Just like first Tudor Submariner watches, the Black Bay doesn’t feature a date function, thus allowing the dial to be symmetrical.
As you know, the Tudor Black watches reference 79220 are now discontinued. When they were launched in 2012 and sold at the retailers, they retailed for roughly €2.500. The Black Bay has actually held its value quite well, and the price of them has slowly increased since the model was discontinued. And despite the new generation, and despite the 79220 being a discontinued model, it is actually highly popular and in-demand.
Bracelets and straps
During the production of the Tudor Black Bay 79220 watches, they were available with two different bracelet options. Either you could purchase them on a vintage aged leather strap with a foldable Tudor buckle and safety clasp. Depending on which model you chose, the leather strap comes in different colors. The red was offered in a brown strap, the blue was offered with a blue strap, and the black was offered on a black strap.
Additionally, all of the watches came with a complimentary Tudor strap. For the new generation Black Bay, you no longer get an additional Tudor fabric strap, and this is something that people have complained about and calling Tudor ”cheap”.
Unlike the new generation of Black Bays, the 79220s watches were not available to buy only on a fabric strap – since, after all, they all came with a complimentary one.
In 2013, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay won the “Revival Prize” at GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève) which is further proof of the watch models’ great success.
Conclusion about the Tudor Black Bay
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay 79220 has played a crucial role in the Tudor brand’s relaunch.
At its launch, the Tudor Black Bay was an instant success, built on Tudor’s heritage and roots, and featuring some of the most iconic and love traits in Tudor’s vintage diver’s watches.
The 79220 watches were the first watches in the Black Bay range, and since their release in 2012, Tudor has released a number of new watches based on the Black Bay model, such as the Tudor Black bay GMT and the Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
The Black Bay is a distinctively vintage-inspired dive watch, and this has contributed to their great success, inspired by the 1950s and 1960s divers from Tudor as well as its bigger brother Rolex.