Tudor Black Bay: More Than Just a Cheaper Alternative to the Sub

Jan 20, 2020
Tudor Black Bay: More Than Just a Cheaper Alternative to the Sub

The Tudor Black Bay is one of the most popular divers and we often compare it to the Rolex Submariner, or what we fondly call ‘the Sub’.


The reason for that is that they have the same founder — Hans Wilsdorf. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard that name, he’s the founder of Rolex. Yes, Tudor and Rolex are sibling companies and that says a lot about the watch.


Even though the Tudor Black Bay is often dubbed as the “poor man’s Sub”, make no mistake. It has the same high-quality craftsmanship. People will also say that the Black Bay is not a mere copy of the Submariner. In fact, it is its own watch. It has its own charm that is very distinguishable from other diver watches.


Read on to find out why I believe that the Tudor Black Bay is not just a downgraded version of the Rolex Submariner.


Rolex was a success. But to founder Hans Wilsdorf, something was missing. What is the point of a great watch if he cannot share it with other people? Thus, he created a more accessible watch brand called Tudor.


Think of Tudor as the frugal version of Rolex. When Rolex would splurge on branded clothes, its frugal sibling will go to the thrift store to find high-quality goods with a lower price tag. But don’t get the wrong idea. Just because it is more affordable, doesn’t mean it is not of quality.


While Rolex caters to professionals who want their wristwatches simple and formal, Tudor is a bit more playful. Compared to its sibling company, this brand became Wilsdorf’s avenue for being more experimental. If you would notice, Tudor’s watches feature more playful colourways. Take the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One, for example, which has a unique colourway and is geared towards the fashionable crowd.


Selling a high-quality watch for a lower price is no joke. To cut down the costs, they had to sacrifice a few things. While the Big Crown uses in-house movements in their watches, Tudor uses Swiss ETA movements.


Don’t worry. ETA movements are still of quality. Just knowing that it’s made in Switzerland guarantees its fine craftsmanship. To convince you more, ETA movements are often found in other luxury watches. Watch enthusiasts would even bet that if your luxury watch doesn’t have an in-house movement, it has an ETA movement.


Before the Black Bay, there was the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner. Read on to find out how the Rolex Submariner-based dive watch evolved into a new breed called the Tudor Black Bay.

front view of Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7922 watch

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7922

The Tudor Oyster Prince 7922 was Tudor’s very first dive watch. Although its descendants are discernible from the Submariner, the 7922 looked a lot like its Rolex counterpart. It shared the same case, bracelet, and crown with the Sub among other specifications.


It also managed to impress several professional divers. In the 50s where technology was not as advanced, this watch had everything a diver would need. It’s water-resistant up to 100m and had a bi-directional bezel (uni-directional bezels were not yet invented then).

front view of Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7923 watch

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7923

Among the vintage Oyster Prince models, this one is the rarest. It also differs a lot from the other ones both on the inside and the outside.


For starters, it is the only manual winding version of the Oyster Prince Submariner. Because of that, the case is also slimmer. Some even consider it as the thinnest watch that Tudor has ever made. 

front view of Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7924 watch

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7924

While the 7924 looks almost the same as its predecessors, it did receive a lot of improvements in terms of features. One major improvement is its water-resistance which doubled from 100m to 200m. Apart from that, it also had a more durable tropic-type Plexiglas crystal.

front view of Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7928 watch

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7928

The 7928 marked the beginning of the Black Bay’s transformation. This version introduced the square crown guards. Based on its name, it protects the winding crown from shocks and impacts that can damage the watch. 

closer view of Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 9401 watch

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 9401

When watch enthusiasts see the Snowflake hour hand, they’ll know in an instant that it’s a Tudor. This was the model that featured a new kind of hour hand. If you would notice, its predecessors sported the Mercedes hand that can also be seen on the Rolex Sub. 


The Mercedes hand is round and looks a lot like the logo of the car brand it was named after. Meanwhile, the Snowflake hand is quite the opposite. Instead of being round, Tudor decided to give it a rectangular shape. We can also see this kind of hand in the Pelagos.

front view of Tudor Black Bay watch


In 2012, the brand proudly launched the Tudor Black Bay. While it boasts a modern look, it still borrowed some details from the previous Oyster Prince Submariners. Consequently, it gave the timepiece a perfect combination of retro and modern. Here are some details that gave the Tudor Black Bay its own character.

1. The Big Crown

While the modern versions of the Black Bay do not have the crown guard, Tudor decided to retain the slightly larger size of the crown. Aside from giving it its distinct look, it also makes it easier for the wearer to wind the crown and set the time.

2. Slightly Grained Dial

Despite its modern features, the Black Bay is still an eye-candy to vintage lovers. The grained dial makes it look like the watch has aged for years. Apart from the nice aesthetic, the matte dial helps make it easier to read as it does not reflect light.

3. Special Snowflake

It was a good call for Tudor to retain the previous versions’ Snowflake hour hand. This unique feature has grown to become one of the brand’s signature features.


Although some people say that Tudor stands in the shadow of Rolex, a lot more people would say otherwise. True, the bezels of both watches are identical. However, the Black Bay has its own distinguishing features. One of those is the snowflake hands which has been a signature look since the late 60s.


Apart from that, Tudor has grown from using ETA calibres to making their movements in-house. And honestly, they’re doing well. The Caliber MT5621, for example, is officially chronometer-certified by COSC.


Tudor released different versions of the Black Bay for different types of people. Find out which model suits your lifestyle the best by checking them out below.

front view of Tudor Black Bay 58 watch

Tudor Black Bay 58 for the Vintage Lover

The Tudor Black Bay 58 is the closest thing you can get to the original diver watch that Tudor released in 1958. From the big crown to the size up to the snowflake hands, this version of the Black Bay is best suited for vintage watch lovers.

front view of Tudor Black Bay Steel watch

Tudor Black Bay Steel for the Adventurous

If you don’t fancy any of the colourways, then check out the Tudor Black Bay Steel. Instead of a coloured bezel, it features a matte, satin-brushed one. It also comes with a small date window in case you need that complication.

front view of Tudor Black Bay 32 watch

Tudor Black Bay 32 for People with Small Wrists

Do you have small wrists? No problem! The Tudor Black Bay 32 is the smallest watch in the Black Bay collection. This small but terrible (in a good way) timepiece still has all the things that make a good tool watch like the other models. 


If you’re leaning towards the more elegant side, you’ll be pleased to know that this is also available in the S&G bracelet.

front view of Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One watch

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One for the Stealthy One

Need a watch that will go with your all-black outfit? The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One is the one you need. Not only does it come in a black dial, but it also comes in a monochrome finish. Everything about it is black. The strap, the dial, hands, and even the markers. 


The black is not the usual matte black that you see in other watches. To give you an idea, some people describe it as something that looks like it’s been recovered from a fire. This may not be other people’s cup of tea, but if you’re adventurous when it comes to style, this is a good timepiece to experiment with.

front view of Tudor Black Bay GMT watch

Tudor Black Bay GMT for the Globetrotter

Instead of the Rolex Submariner, the Tudor Black Bay GMT looks more like the Rolex GMT. The Black Bay was originally made for divers, but the GMT version was made for globe trotters. The GMT stands for “Greenwich Meridian Time” and typically, a GMT watch tells two timezones at the same time. One bonus is that it even comes in the famous Pepsi colourway, just like the Rolex GMT.

front view of Tudor Black Bay Bronze watch

Tudor Black Bay Bronze for the Patina Lover

Love your watches with a patina touch to them? I’m sure the Tudor Black Bay Bronze will pique your interest. Not only does it look good, but it is the type of watch that you’ll have a personal connection with. I say this because as you wear the watch, the patina will develop naturally. 


Seriously, if I didn’t know any better, I would think that this watch had just been recovered from a treasure box that’s hidden for decades.

front view of Tudor Black Bay Chrono watch

Tudor Black Bay Chrono for the One Who Needs the Timer Feature

The Tudor Black Bay Chrono is for people who need to tell more than just the time. Additionally, this model is Tudor’s attempt at combining their love for diving and motorsports. Some would even say this is a hybrid of a chronograph and a diver watch.


This version looks a lot like the other models, with the addition of two subdials and a tachymeter bezel. Additionally, it has a date function that can be seen just above the 6 o’clock marker.

 front view of Tudor Black Bay S&G watch

Tudor Black Bay S&G for the Elegant One

Can’t choose between silver and gold? Why not try a two-toned watch like the Tudor Back Bay S&G? The combination of the two metals gives it a loud yet elegant touch.


They say that silver and gold are not meant to be combined, but Tudor here broke the rule like a boss. 


If you want to further personalise your watch, consider changing the straps. Luckily, the Tudor Black Bay is like a chameleon that can blend in well with different types of straps/bracelets.


Here are some of our suggestions:

front view of Tudor Black Bay watch

Leather Strap

Despite its modern features, the Tudor Black Bay keeps a vintage aesthetic. But to go vintage all the way, why not put on a brown leather strap? This also gives the Black Bay a more elegant and formal look in case you want to wear it with a blazer.

side view of Tudor Black Bay watch


Generally, metal bracelets are more expensive. But the good news is it is a lot more durable. So, you wouldn’t have to worry when you’re out hiking with it. Apart from giving you that classic and elegant look, steel bracelets are versatile and will go with most of your wardrobe.

side view of Tudor Black Bay NATO strap watch


Are you into military-style watches? You should give NATO a chance. According to history, NATO straps were originally developed for the British army soldiers in the ’70s. 


The best part about this type of strap? It is so easy to apply and remove. Unlike the other straps that are composed of two separate pieces, this one has a single-piece construction. This means that you can just insert it into the spring bars for convenience. There is no need for tools just to replace the strap.


Despite its origins, Tudor has grown how to stand on its own feet. It has learned to pave its own path that’s different from Rolex. People are buying the Tudor Black Bay not just because they can’t afford a Rolex yet. They buy a Tudor because the brand is a treat on its own.


If truth be told, the Black Bay is one of the most bang-for-buck divers in the market. Tudor has given a lot of time and effort to its innovations and craftsmanship. But most importantly, it makes watch collecting a more accessible hobby without sacrificing quality.


In the market for a German Bauhaus watch? Check out our review of the Nomos Tangente!

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