Tudor vs Bremont Divers
In 2017, Bremont introduced its new diver, the Supermarine S301. At 40mm and adorned with tidy little details, it presents a budget entry to the premium dive watch market at a little under £3,000. It’s a fine watch, if that’s what you want, well-built and well-spec’d. But what’s that got to do with the Tudor Black Bay 58?
People have their opinions when it comes to Bremont, often strong. The Henley On Thames-based brand emerged in 2002 with a Disney-level romance tale of vintage aircraft, emergency landings and kindly French farmers called Monsieur Bremont, and has, since then, fast-tracked its way to marketing success.
Whichever side you’re on, you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty impressive genesis. It’s tough to become a big name in business generally, let alone in the antiquated watch industry where it takes a century just to get used to the idea of rose gold over yellow. For me to be able to mention Bremont and for you to have any idea what I’m talking about shows that this brand, deservedly or not, has made it.
And you don’t make it just with luck. You don’t make it just with marketing spend. Somewhere down the line, the thing you make, or do, needs to be at the very least, decent. Here’s a very specific and barely related analogy for you: remember when Heinz tried its luck with green ketchup? It was supposed to be fun and wacky and new—and green was just the beginning. There was also orange, purple, teal, blue and pink.
Being one of the largest food brands in the world, the push for this new product was huge. They had the spending power, the marketing minds, and they managed to brute force millions of kids into bugging their parents enough to actually go out and buy some—and they bought a lot. Seemed like a success, at least at first. Then, all the kids got home and realised that having green ketchup is actually pretty unappetising.
The point is that Bremont can’t be green ketchup or it wouldn’t still be here. Even more to the point is that the Supermarine S301 is a watch that’s hard to fault, especially for the money. It’s not hideously oversized, like so many watches in its class are, it’s nicely sculpted with the brand’s hallmark Trip-Tick three-piece case with separate central barrel, and it’s held together to a quality that’s more than surprisingly pleasant.
If the S301 were a dog, were it smashed together with old bits of tin can and a spare button, Bremont would not still be here almost two decades later. In fact, let’s go a step further: there’s a lot to like about the S301. The laser-engraved matte ceramic bezel is pretty unique, and the details on the crown, like the bronze ring and filled logo, have the same vibe as the badge on an Aston Martin.
Not to mention the 300m of water resistance, domed, anti-reflective sapphire and chronometer-rated Swiss movement, based on the reliable workhorse, the ETA 2892. For £2,995, it’s similarly priced to Bell & Ross’ Sellita SW300-powered BR 03-92 Diver, it’s less than a Breitling Superocean with the ETA 2892’s poorer cousin, the 2824, and is way less than the similarly 2892-powered IWC Aquatimer. All that’s left to do is like the way the S301 looks and you’re well on your way to owning one.
But it’s the Tudor Black Bay 58 we’re here for, right? And I’ve just spent the last few minutes telling you about a completely different watch. I haven’t lost the plot, however; this is all part of a lengthy, elaborate and hopefully enlightening look at why the Black Bay 58 is just so good. Let me explain.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “that’s the poor man’s something something”. The Boxster to the 911, cod to lobster and of course, Tudor to Rolex. Well, maybe you don’t hear the latter so much anymore, because, like Bremont, Tudor has been pretty trigger-happy with the old marketing spend of late. Not ten years ago, Tudor was a bit like Grand Seiko, and by that I mean that it sat in the same valley of justification where it wasn’t simply enough to say that you owned one, it was somehow necessary to give your unsuspecting enquirer the full history of the brand right down to the last detail.
For Tudor at least, that’s not really the case anymore. You don’t have to say, “Oh it’s a Tudor. Tudor’s owned by Rolex, was founded in 1926 by Hans Wilsdorf, who also founded Rolex, to make watches that were blah blah blah …” Now you can just say, “It’s a Tudor.” Hey, in some cases, your horological assailant might even compliment you by brand without you even having to mention it.
It’s one heck of a turnaround, but I suppose that’s what you get when your bigger brother is the largest kid in the playground. It took Bremont since 2002 to get a foothold in the market; Tudor managed to do the same since 2010. Okay, so the brand had a bit of a head start, what with the whole being founded in 1926 thing, but given how bad—no, not bad, non-existent —the brand’s reputation was before that, it may as well have been starting from scratch. This was when a vintage Tudor Submariner cost you the same price as this Black Bay 58.
That’s £2,520, specifically. If your memory’s in decent nick and you’re a dab hand at mental arithmetic, you’ll know that’s £475 less than our friend the Bremont S301. And let me tell you—the Tudor’s price is aggressively competitive, because although it doesn’t seem a desperate amount cheaper than the Bremont, the punch it’s packing carries a lot more weight. Remember, the Bremont is a reasonably priced, decently spec’d watch; the Tudor, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast.
We’ve already touched upon the Rolex connection, but it bears repeating. Gone are the days of explaining that your Black Bay 58 is the runt of the litter. It’s a thoroughbred now, just like those vintage Tudor Submariners, now capable of fetching close to £10,000. The brand has backfilled the space left behind by the overachiever of the family. Since Rolex is quite simply unattainable whether you have the money or not, Tudor’s the first place to turn.
Then there’s the watch itself. You’d think it would be equal or lower quality than the Bremont, but it’s not. It’s really, really not. Gilt hands and markers, classic anodised aluminium bezel, domed sapphire crystal and the 39mm, slim profile the original Black Bay was so desperately lacking, and it’s now punching so far above its weight that it must be juicing. And that’s for the price of £2,500 plus a Chinese takeaway.
And that’s not even the best part. I’ve listed a series of watches, each more expensive than the last, that make fine use of ETA’s best—but this watch isn’t one of them. Earlier versions used to be, but this one has a movement fresh from the Tudor factory—and by that I mean Rolex factory. The calibre MT5402—chronometer certified of course—is to all intents and purposes a Rolex movement, and you’re getting it in the Black Bay 58 brand new for less than the Bremont S301. I challenge you to find a watch that offers more for less.
It’s almost hard to believe that the Black Bay 58 even exists. How can it make any financial sense for Rolex to make it at this price? With the investment in the movement—shrunk specifically for the 58’s case I might add—the quality and not to mention the marketing, to get everything the Bremont offers and a lot more for nearly £500 less … I don’t know, perhaps it’s some kind of loss leader or something? All I know is that if you’ve got £2,500 to spend and you’re looking for a dive watch, there’s really, logically, only one place your money should go.
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