At Baselworld watch fair 2018, Tudor released a watch that was extremely well met, and which was an instant success. This was the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Fifty-Eight, reference 79030N.
Many people considered this watch to the best modern Tudor watch released to date, and this can also be seen on the waiting lists that have been put in place at many authorized Tudor dealers since the day of its launch due to the fact that the demand is much greater than the number of Fifty-Eight watches that the authorized dealers are allocated.
But what is it that makes the Fifty-Eight so special and so extremely popular?
In this article, we’re looking at the history and background of the Tudor Fifty-Eight, how the design of the watch came about, and the specifications of it.
Background to the Tudor Black Bay and the Fifty-Eight
At first glance, the Tudor Fifty-Eight may be seen as just another Black Bay or any other diver’s watch for that matter, but one of the reasons why the Fifty-Eight has been so well-met is that there’s more to it than that. In fact, there’s actually a great historical background of the Fifty-Eight which has been the inspiration and what has given shape to the watch, which contributes to making it a watch that is appreciated among collectors and watch-enthusiasts as well as people who are just looking for a nice watch who can appreciate the aesthetics of the watch.
Let’s start with the name Black Bay Fifty-Eight. First off, as the name reveals, the Fifty-Eight is part of Tudor’s Black Bay diver’s collection. The Tudor brand was relaunched in 2009, but the history of the Fifty-Eight and the roots of the watch stretches far longer back than Tudor’s relaunch.
As we all know, Tudor shares a common history with Rolex, and this has also had a huge impact in more recent years, mainly because of Tudor’s ”Heritage” models, which, as the name reveals, seeks inspiration from the brand’s heritage.
Why does this matter?
Well, to take it from the beginning, the Tudor brand was founded by Hans Wilsdorf, the same man who founded Rolex, in 1926. Wilsdorf founded Rolex as a cheaper alternative to Rolex watches. At this time, Tudor watches were made using the same components as Rolex watches used, but the main difference was that they didn’t feature in-house movement, but off-the-shelf movements, thus allowing the watches to be cheaper.
As a result, vintage Tudor watches have a design that is very similar, to Rolex models at the time. And since Rolex has continued to build on most of its models that they launched during the period that Tudor used Rolex components, many of Tudor’s vintage watches are quite similar to the modern watches that Rolex produces.
Upon the revival of the Tudor brand, Tudor released a vintage-inspired diver’s watch which was based on Tudor’s early diver’s watches – which naturally is very similar to Rolex’s early diver’s watches – which has always fascinated collectors, and which has skyrocketed in price over the years.
In 2012, Tudor released its Black Bay collection. Tudor initially released a Black Bay with a Burgundy bezel and which features clear vintage design features, having taken inspiration from the early divers – thereby its name. The case was adapted to modern standards at 41mm, but its design combined modern elements with vintage design features, resulting in a watch that was a huge success for the brand upon its relaunch. In the first Black Bay diver’s collection, there were three color options: black, blue, burgundy – all colors being inspired by previous vintage Tudor watches.
The following years, Tudor continued to build upon the immense success that the Black Bay line had, introducing a Chronograph version and a GMT version.
Despite the huge popularity of the Tudor Black Bay, there were a few things that many people disliked with the Black Bay. The main concern that people had was that the idea behind the Black Bay was that it was built on vintage Tudor Submariner watches, and thus a ”vintage-inspired” watch. Yet, the modern Heritage Black Bay had a case-size that was nothing like the size of the standards at that time. Now, on paper, the Black Bay is 41 millimeters, however, it certainly wears bigger if you compare it to vintage watches. What makes the watch bigger is the size and length of its lugs in particular. The way the Black Bay wears was, in the 1960s was essentially unheard of.
In that way, the Heritage Black Bay was seen by some people as rather contradictory. As a result, it made sense that Tudor would make the decision to make a smaller version of the Black Bay that would actually be in a size that would be in accordance with the size of the vintage watches from which it sought inspiration from.
The result is, of course, the much anticipated Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
Now, why is Rolex’s history and its relationship back in the days interesting when we’re talking about Tudor?
Well, because it allows us to understand where the Tudor Fifty-Eight is coming from and helps us understand that there’s a greater thought behind the design than simply making a ”good looking watch”.
The name ”Fifty-Eight” is very simple because it refers to the year 1958. In this year, Tudor released its Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner ”Big Crown” reference 7924. And this is the watch that the Tudor Black Bay has taken its inspiration from, and pays tribute to, in order to celebrate Tudor’s past.
Of course, with Tudor having created a lineup of Submariner timepieces that, design-wise were very similar to each other in the 1950s and 1960s, one might say that Tudor ”pays tribute to the brand’s first divers’ watches with a model whose dimensions evoke that of the epoch.”
In fact, that’s Tudor’s own words about the watch. Also, since Tudor shared the same parts with Rolex back in the days, naturally, there are Rolex Submariner models that are very similar to the Tudor which has been the inspiration to the Fifty-Eight.
Let’s have a look at the Tudor Submariner 7924 – the watch that has been the inspiration for the Tudor Fifty-Eight. Then, let’s have a look at the Tudor Fifty-Eight and compare them.
The Submariner 7924 is referred to as ”Big Crown” by collectors for an obvious reason. It features an 8mm crown, which is something that Tudor’s Black Bay range is defined by an oversized crown without crown guards.
This particular reference is particular importance as it moved from the previous model’s 100-meter water-resistance to a 200-meter water-resistance.
The Submariner 7924 is 37 mm in diameter, slimmed lugs, and a domed tropic-type Plexiglass crystal.
It has a caliber 390 and features the iconic Rolex Mercedes hour hand.
A distinctive feature of the Tudor Submariner is its rivet bracelet. Rivet bracelets were common on bracelets at the time, and for the Tudor Fifty-Eight, the rivet bracelet is brought back to give the watch a more vintage feel. This, of course, makes sense since the Tudor watch which it sought inspiration from had that. The choice to use a rivet bracelet has been one of the most debated features about the Tudor Fifty-Eight.
Some people absolutely love the rivet bracelet and the connection it makes with the vintage Tudor Submariner. But on the flip side, for the vintage watch, the rivets actually had a purpose, but on the modern Black Bay Fifty-Eight, it is only there for aesthetical purposes, and based on the way people have reacted to it, it’s really an opinion-splitter. Either you hate it or you love it.
The original Tudor Submariner has a gilt dial, which means that the text on the dial is made in a gold text. The hands are finished in gold, and it has the Tudor rose on the dial. In more recent times, the Tudor rose logo has been swapped for the Tudor shield logo, and this is also the case for the Tudor Fifty-Eight.
Let’s briefly compare the Rolex Submariner 6538 with the modern Tudor Fifty-Eight:
When looking at both the vintage Tudor and the vintage Rolex Submariner, it’s clear where the Tudor Fifty-Eight got its inspiration from.
First off, the watch’s size has been decreased from the regular Black Bay watches in order to better resonate with the size of the watch that it took inspiration from, but also because the market had demanded a smaller watch from Tudor.
The shape of the case is very similar, but the newer case can be seen as slightly more refined, with bushed contrasted by polished, giving it a greater attention-to-detail.
The big crown is such an important and defining feature of the Tudor Black Bay collection, and so Tudor had no plans of abandoning the big crown for the Fifty-Eight watch. For this model, though, the crown tube has been shortened compared to the Standard Black Bay watches, both because many people had been requesting it, but also because it would results in something that would be closer to the original.
There might only be a 3-millimeter difference between the vintage Tudor Submariner and the Fifty-Eight, however, compared to the standard Black Bays, it wears extremely different.
Not only is the case smaller, but its thickness has also been reduced. In fact, the Tudor Fifty-Eight has gone from 15mm thick to 11.9mm which is a significant reduction in thickness that makes the watch hug the wrist better, and thus sit more comfortably. Furthermore, the size of the lugs has also been reduced, from 22mm lugs to 20mm, which results in a watch that wears much smaller.
Especially with the new in-house black, red, blue Black Bay watches which have become much thicker than its predecessors’ thanks to the new movement, the Fifty-Eight is actually quite a contrast, since it has gone away from the trend of making bigger watches.
The new Tudor Fifty-Eight has brushed flat surfaces and polished flanks. The crown has the iconic vintage Tudor rose as a nod to the brand’s past since they’ve now abandoned the rose on the dial. The Rose isn’t painted like it was on the first Black Bay models because there have been reports that the color which was added inside of the rose imprinting disappeared. As such, on the FIfty-Eight, the rose is sculptured.
Yet another difference from the standard Black Bay is the fact that the crown tube is finished in stainless steel as opposed to the color of which the watch is in.
The bezel of the Tudor Fifty-Eight is very similar to the original Tudor and has clearly had it as inspiration. The font of the numbers are essentially the same, and the red triangle at 12 o’clock exists on the Rolex Submariner but not the Tudor, which can give us a little hint that for the inspiration of the Tudor Black Bay, they’ve also looked at the bigger brother Rolex’s watch for inspiration, that was manufactured at the same time, just under a different name and with subtle differences.
The bezel is unidirectional, as you’d expect for a diver’s watch, has a Sub-like 60-minute diving scale, and gives a very satisfying sound.
For the vintage feel, the bezel is still in aluminum and not ceramic.
Unlike the vintage predecessors, the Tudor Fifty-Eight has a bezel which features pink gold-colored inscriptions.
To be able to slim down the case of the Black Bay, and turn it into a Tudor Fifty-Eight watch, Tudor had to develop a new in-house movement – the MT5402. When Tudor moved from ETA movements to in-house movements, the thickness of the watch was significantly increased due to the movement, and this is part of the reason why the interest and demand for the previous generation Black Bay watches is quite high. But with the in-house movement developed for the Fifty-Eight, Tudor proved that you could combine the best of both worlds.
The movement is COSC certified, has a 70-hour power reserve, non-magnetic balance spring, and a free-sprung balance wheel.
The movement itself is a mere 26mm in diameter, whereas, in contrast, the standard Black Bay uses a 31.8mm diameter caliber.
Just like most of the Tudor Black Bay collection, the Fifty-Eight is a no-date watch. Partly because of the fact that date functions weren’t really used in the 1960s, but mainly because it made no sense in the 1960s to have a date function on a diver’s watch.
As mentioned, the Tudor Fifty-Eight has a rivet bracelet that is faux. And like the watch, the bracelet has also been slimmed down, and you can actually notice a huge difference when comparing this bracelet with the standard Black Bay bracelet. The bracelet has moved down from its original 22mm to 20mm that tapers to an 18mm clasp. The tapering bracelet makes it sit extremely comfortable, and the reduced thickness of the links results in a bracelet that leaves very little to complain about.
The bracelet also has a huge effect on how the watch wears. The bracelet is perfectly integrated with the watch, and the bracelet allows for great proportions. The clasp of the bracelet is shaped in the form of a large Tudor shield, and the ”clasp lock” created yet another crown shape when closed.
The Tudor Fifty-Eight has a gilt-inspired dial just like the vintage Tudor Submariner which contributes to a more vintage look.
Furthermore, the indexes are applied and finished in gold just like the hands. The hour hand is one of the most iconic features to the Tudor Black Bay, but also its vintage diver’s watches that came later – known as the snowflake hand which is meant to improve the legibility for divers in poor conditions and dark places.
The indexes are actually made in the exact same shape and layout which the Tudor Submariner has, only that the Fifty-Eight does not have painted indexes.
The dial is matte and slightly domed, just like the other Tudor Black Bays, and the matte really contributes to making the dial more interesting to look at, as it looks different in different settings and lights.
The Tudor Fifty-Eight is a watch that combines the best of both worlds – vintage with modern technology.
The watch’s size decrease has been extremely well-received, and with the huge success of the Tudor FIfty-Eight, we have no reason to believe that Tudor will release more Fifty-Eight-sized watches in the future. Some people predict that Tudor will release the Fifty-Eight in the standard Black Bay colors. but only time will tell.
On paper, the size reduction may not seem like something significant, however, the watch wears much smaller than the standard version. If you have large wrists, this watch is probably not for you, but for the rest of the people who have slightly smaller wrists and prefer smaller watches, or simply cannot pull off the big size of the standard Black Bay, the Fifty-Eight is a great alternative. And it’s a watch that is, thanks to its size, a unisex timepiece.
The timepiece sits very comfortably on the wrist, in particular, thanks to the reduced thickness. The reduced size combined with the vintage-inspired look truly makes it a watch that looks and wears amazingly.
The watch should be seen as the Tudor Black Bay Heritage model that is closest to the actual heritage of Tudor – both in design as well as for its size.
The watch is available on a NATO-strap, leather strap, or bracelet, and these alternatives naturally slightly affect the price.
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight retails for €3360, and at this price point, it is considered to be a very praiseworthy watch due to its solid quality.