In their latest escapade, Tudor revisited their Submariner from 1954 and came back with the Tudor Black Bay 54. This model takes its vintage cues very seriously, which is its biggest selling point. I’ve owned this watch for three months now, and it’s gotten some serious wrist time. I’m sharing my thoughts on Tudor’s newest diving watch and reviewing its design, dimensions, specs, and quirks.
Why buy the Tudor Black Bay 54?
Before I get into my review, I want to start by explaining why I bought a Black Bay 54 when I already have a Black Bay 58 in my collection. Honestly, there’s a small, but not unimportant nuance to the popular Tudor that has always bothered me. To my relief, the Tudor Black Bay 54 goes against the grain of many other vintage-style diving watches and got this detail right. But I’ll get into that later. Let’s start with the design and dimensions.
If you’re on the fence, my colleague Pascal wrote an article comparing the Black Bay 54 and Black Bay 58 that’s worth checking out.
The Tudor Black Bay’s Design & Dimensions
The watch community has really leaned into the hype surrounding vintage timepieces in recent years, but the Tudor Black Bay 54 takes things one step further: Not only is it closely modeled on the design of the Tudor Submariner from 1954, it also inherited its size. The Black Bay 54 has a 37-mm diameter, is 11.24 mm thick, and clocks in at 46 mm lug-to-lug. The lug width is 20 mm, so the same as the Black Bay 58 in that regard. Yes, on paper, the Tudor Black Bay 54 is downright tiny by today’s standards, but that all changes on the wrist. The watch wears larger than these measurements would have you believe, and suits wrist sizes up to about 17.5 cm. The design isn’t identical to the Tudor Submariner from 1954, rather more of a love letter to the brand’s first diver. The snowflake hand didn’t feature back then, nor did the shield logo at 12 o’clock. And while the dial does host the gilt indices and hands, it has a silky sunburst finish that catches the light beautifully. The case is instantly recognizable as a scaled-down Black Bay case, radiating irresistible charm with its chamfers and curved contours. Another playful detail that makes it clear that this is a vintage-inspired watch is the engraved rose on the crown. That’s probably also why the bezel doesn’t have the 15-minute scale found on diving watches nowadays – Tudor deliberately decided against it. It’s obvious that Tudor wanted the Black Bay 54 to tick all the boxes of a vintage watch – no matter the cost.
Moving on now to technology, the Tudor Black Bay 54 delivers everything you’d expect from a modern diver, or at least almost. For aesthetic reasons, Tudor decided against a ceramic bezel, opting instead for the trusty aluminum standard in the Black Bay series. Since I’ve had a few Black Bay models in my collection, I can say with confidence that you really shouldn’t worry about wearing the watch out and about, the aluminum bezel is extremely robust. Plus, the watch is protected by a sapphire crystal and is water-resistant to 200 m (656 ft). It doesn’t use the METAS-certified movement powering the new Black Bay in 41 mm; instead we have the automatic, in-house caliber MT5400, as seen in other Tudor watches like the Pelagos 39 and the Black Bay 58 in silver and in gold. This movement is almost the exact same as the MT5402 found in the Tudor Black Bay 58. The MT5400 is COSC-certified and has a power reserve of a good 70 hours. Another noteworthy feature is the new T-Fit clasp, which is great for adjusting the bracelet by a few centimeters without needing to take out the toolbox.
Quality and Haptics
The new diver’s biggest asset is the high quality Tudor offers. Especially with a list price of $3,625 for the version on the rubber strap and $3,850 when paired with a steel bracelet. There’s no beating those prices in the luxury watch sphere, even considering that market prices are a few hundred dollars more expensive. The sunburst dial has a fantastic finish that adds a touch of luxury to the watch, as do the case surfaces, alternating between matt and polished. The rubber strap is comfortable and extremely well-made, as is the steel bracelet, which once again features rivets on the edges. One drawback is that the quick adjustment for the T-Fit buckle is a bit inaccurate. It’s nowhere near as easy to operate as the quick adjustment system on the Rolex Submariner, and seems like something that wasn’t thought all the way through. On the other hand, the unidirectional rotating bezel is phenomenal, which doesn’t surprise me. Turning it is a real experience, the gritty sound is enough to give me goosebumps. One characteristic detail of the Black Bay bezel is extremely satisfying: the last of the 60 clicks is louder than the others, as if the bezel itself is telling you that the triangle is now home in its correct place. A completely unimportant little quirk, but something that entertains me all the same.
Why the Tudor Black Bay 54 Is a Winner
The Tudor Black Bay 54 isn’t perfect. The quick adjustment system might be practical, but it takes some fiddling to get right. The modern T-Fit clap looks great, but it sticks out a bit against the vintage backdrop. This is more noticeable on the steel bracelet on account of its vintage-inspired, trimmed rivets. Overall, I’m willing to overlook these minor shortcomings, as the Tudor Black Bay 54 is one of the best releases this year. They completely pulled off the design, the technology meets modern requirements, quality is fantastic, and the price is more than fair. But can’t we say the same for every Black Bay? Sure, but the Tudor Black Bay 54 scores the most points visually in my opinion, and it all comes down to the beautiful dial. It’s always bothered me that the majority of vintage-inspired divers offer the same coarse, matte black, gray-looking dials, so the silky sunburst dial is a real treat. The Tudor Black Bay 54 is a vintage masterpiece that goes with any outfit and slips effortlessly into any setting. A lot of thought went into its dimensions, so the small Tudor even looks great on larger wrists. Anyone who is even slightly interested in vintage diving watches should take a closer look at this successful Tudor release.