Tudor Black Bay Chrono
What happens when you combine Tudor’s Heritage Black Bay and Heritage Chrono? Easy—the Heritage Black Bay Chrono, and here it is. But is it any good?
Despite its 72-year existence spent mainly in the shadow of Rolex as a cut-price alternative, the arrival of Tudor’s 2010 Heritage Chrono marked the moment it started the journey to becoming its own brand. The financial environment, post-crash and with the Rolex Submariner costing twice what it did not ten years prior, Tudor suddenly started to look like quite the appealing prospect.
And so it went: the eye-catching designs and youthful proportions garnered critical acclaim, and Tudor built up enough courage to ask parent brand Rolex for some money to build its own movement, the MT5602. Turns out, this arrangement isn’t as clear cut as perhaps initially thought, because while Rolex and Tudor are essentially the same company, Breitling isn’t.
But why am I talking about Breitling? Because it appears that part of the deal for Tudor to build its own movement involved sharing it with Breitling. The MT5602 is now also available with a Breitling logo on it, buried inside the SuperOcean.
A little background: with Swatch, the parent company that, ironically, owns movement manufacturer ETA—after almost destroying the mechanical movement in the 1980s entirely—repealing its supply of movements to brands outside of the Swatch group, anyone that used an ETA movement that isn’t a Swatch group brand has been forced to find power elsewhere.
Some companies went one way, switching to movement manufacturers like Sellita to source Swiss made ETA clones as a straight swap, making the most of the expired patents on ETA’s movements, whilst other brands went another, using the situation to justify spend on development of an in-house movement.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono M79350-0001
Tudor and Breitling’s relationship sits somewhere in the middle, and in exchange for Tudor donating its MT5602 to Breitling, Breitling has returned the favour by letting Tudor use its own 70-hour B01 chronograph movement.
It’s that movement that’s the heart of the Black Bay Chrono, and it’s the start of the next chapter in Tudor’s emergence.
The first point to note about Tudor’s debut watch with the B01 movement—a calibre it’s calling the MT5813—is that it is £500 more than the ETA 2892-powered Heritage Chrono, at £3,390 on leather and £3,610 on a steel bracelet. The second point to note is that Breitling’s cheapest watch with the B01 movement is a little over £6,000. That Tudor has resisted the temptation—at least for now—to sit the price of the Black Bay Chrono somewhere in-between is a pleasant surprise. Of course, a price increase over the Heritage Chrono was expected, and £500 seems pretty reasonable.
This is solidified by the fact that the movement, despite being hidden under a solid case back, has been extensively modified by Tudor to achieve the right look for the Black Bay Chrono. Like the Heritage Chrono—and unlike almost every other modern chronograph on the planet—the Black Bay Chrono has twin sub-dials rather than the trio supplemented by the B01, and so the hour recorder is ditched, and the 30-minute recorder geared to 45 minutes to compensate.
The design combines elements from the Black Bay and the Heritage Chrono
Heavier modifications include the complete abandonment of Breitling’s regulated balance for Tudor’s free sprung unit—as is Rolex’s preference—a setup that is harder to adjust, but more stable once it is. Where a regulated balance allows beat correction via fine-tuning of the balance spring, a free sprung unit is fixed. Regulation is therefore achieved by using a variable inertia balance wheel, one that has small masses on its perimeter that can be wound in and out to adjust the beat.
The MT5813 is finished much like the rest of the watch is, with an industrial, yet precise treatment. It’s unlikely that this watch will ever be described as delicate—the 41mm case has an extra 2mm of thickness over the Heritage Chrono, thanks in part to the domed sapphire—and the albeit unseen finish of the movement feels appropriate.
But if this watch is going to be a success for Tudor in the same way its predecessors were, it needs to deliver aesthetically. A good-looking watch with an uninteresting movement will always move more units than an ugly arrangement slathered over the finest calibre.
Where the Black Bay found inspiration from dive watches and the Heritage Chrono from driving watches, Tudor has chosen in this instance to use both to furnish the Black Bay Chrono with its persona. Snowflake hands from the Black Bay reach out to the sporting, if slightly crowded, tachymeter scale of the Heritage Chrono, with the whole monochromatic ensemble garnished with a red indication of its 200-metre diving capabilities. Some might find this amalgamation confusing, others may simply not care. The Daytona has had screw-down pushers like this for over half a century, and they don’t make sense on that either. Sometimes design can just be design.
The calibre MT5813 is a modified version of Breitling's B01
More classic flourishes include a rivet-style bracelet, a nod back to the old hollow links made from folded steel, capped on the ends to cover the gaps and riveted together to stop the whole tinny concoction from falling apart. Thankfully, Tudor has drawn the line at the look, and the links—like the rest of the bracelet, and indeed the watch—are reassuringly solid.
The Black Bay Chrono is quite simply a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of watch; the result of a brief that can be reverse engineered to quite simply: make it look good, make it feel good, make it work good and don’t let it break the bank. Is it revolutionary? No. Does it redefine watchmaking? Undoubtedly not. Does it matter? That’s up to you. There are timepieces out there that turn watchmaking on its head, but chances are if you’re looking to spend between £3–4,000, you simply want a great all-rounder. That used to be Rolex. Perhaps it’s now Tudor.
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