This year was my third year at Baselworld as a guest of Tudor watches and as ever, it was great fun and a celebration of all things Tudor! I was guest again on the ‘Rolex Ship’…a luxury cruise ship that is taken over by Rolex & Tudor for the duration of the Baselworld event that is moored on the Rhine. My room was equipped with floor to ceiling views of the river and the bustle of city life on the opposite bank of the river.
Those of you that have been to Basel will be aware of Les Trois Rois, the grandest hotel in Basel (and my favourite spot for a late night cocktail with friends after a long day of watch watching!). This was the initial meeting place for the now famous Tudor Baselworld Launch Dinner and once all the guests were assembled we were led across the river where there were two boats waiting to ferry us up the river to the venue for the dinner in a room decked out with maritime themed objects and a fascinating bronze deepsea diving helmet …a hint of things to come!
The annual Tuesday night Tudor dinner is now something of a tradition at Baselworld. Selected journalists and friends of the brand are invited to a dinner where there is an exclusive preview of some of the collection ahead of the official launch the day after.
After our main course (a delicious slow cooked beef with fois gras) the lights went down, an air-raid siren sounded, the lights strobed and the bronze deepsea diver helmet was winched towards the ceiling revealing the new Black Bay Bronze. The new Black Bay comes in a 43mm bronze case that is made from a brass and aluminium alloy that was three years in the making. Featuring a newly worked in-house movement (which fills the new size case), the Black Bay Bronze has a faded brown dial with the newly reintroduced shield logo. The shield logo was the last in the logos used by Tudor and was introduced across all the watches as part of this years Baselworld strategy. An interesting note, especially for and vintage Submariner lovers is the introduction of a ‘3-6-9’ dial layout. Early Big Crown Submariners (on which the Black Bay is based) featured this iconic dial configuration and it is one of my favorite aspects of the new watch. The tropical-brown bezel compliments the dial beautifully. The dial has an almost instant aged look that has a quasi-vintage vibe, whilst the brown of the bezel insert has a choco-patina that will be familiar to vintage aficionados. I spoke to the Head Designer and Production Manager about the new case and issues with how it might age. The watch was heavily tested in conditions to replicate the ageing process and an alloy was developed that would patinate to a degree then stay at that point and not deteriorate to a green finish, which has been seen with other brass-based watches. This patina will definitely give the watch even more character, especially in light of the all over brushed finish. The watch will be available on a leather strap, with new style bronze buckle and also a green fabric strap, with yellow stripe. This latter strap is heavily influenced by the homemade watchstraps worn by French Marine Nationale divers on their issued Tudor Submariners (which were made out of elasticated parachute straps).
Following our pudding we were given another exclusive glimpse of a new watch…the Black Bay Dark – a PVD coated watch featuring the new shield logo on the dial. There has been a huge amount of activity around the PVDing of Rolex and Tudor watches by third party customisers by companies such as Bamford Watch Department and Project X and this is the first time that Tudor have officially done this to a production model watch. Again, showing its commitment to the rich heritage of the brand, Tudor included the red triangle at 12 on the bezel insert and the ‘red-writing’ depth on the text, which are both very sought after features on vintage watches. This is a great looking watch and out of all the options available, I personally loved it on the grey fabric strap.
The world press launch is always an exciting event and an opportunity to discuss and handle the watches. The watches were presented and it was a great opportunity to hear about the new direction for the brand and some of the theories and passion behind the new designs and ranges. We were informed that the whole Black Bay line will now be updated with the new in-house caliber movement and that all the watches from now on will feature the shield logo instead of the rose. The new Black Bay has also had a case redesign, to facilitate the new movement including a more pronounced caseback, which has a more rounded profile.
As well as a new case shape, dial and strap option (burgundy fabric on the Black Bay Red) the stainless steel bracelet has had a redesign in the form of a rivet construction. Again, this is not just an aesthetic novelty, but a development in the construction of the actual bracelet. The rivets are the ends of the axel that holds each link, which are then laser welded at each end to form the rivet. This is another example of Tudor innovating to create a functional improvement that is visually pleasing too.
The Black Bay family’s other addition is the Black Bay 36. This is a very cool watch and I loved the proportions of it; especially at a time when the 34-36mm vintage Oysters are enjoying something of a revival. The dial and hands will be familiar to Black Bay fans, but the fixed stainless steel bezel is an elegant touch that gives the watch a tool watch/dress watch crossover that looks particularly cool on the woven grey and black fabric strap.
So another great year for Tudor and again a great welcome and party was thrown to celebrate the brand and the values it holds. Gone are the elaborate and cinematic launch videos replaced by a clear vision and focus on making high quality, functional and beautiful watches that celebrate the brand’s rich heritage and also look forward to new and exciting eras in horology.