We get a lot of things delivered to us for review, but this week’s arrival was a special one indeed (and no, not just because lockdown has put us on a first-name basis with the FedEx guy). In an anonymous brown box, beneath a thick cushion of packing peanuts, and inside another smaller box lined with foam, was Tudor’s newest release, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue.
Any new release from Tudor is exciting, but this one was special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in a normal year both Tudor and its parent company Rolex would roll out their new season’s watches at the Baselworld watch show in April. This year, however, due to the pandemic, neither brand has released anything new until now. Secondly, among fans of vintage-inspired tool watches with military heritage, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is something of a star. With its 39mm case, “snowflake” hands, in-house movement made by Tudor, a long history of ties with the French navy, and a price under $5,000, it hits the sweet spot for a certain kind of watch fan. Needless to say, I am just that kind of watch fan and if you’re reading this, you probably are, too.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue is a noteworthy piece for a few other reasons as well. Firstly, its size. Back in the 1950s, when the watches that inspired the Fifty-Eight were released, men’s timepieces were usually 34mm or 36mm across the case. While the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner, a cutting-edge dive watch launched in 1958, was 37mm across, this is still significantly smaller than most dive watches today. Chalk it up to changing tastes or a desire to flex wristwear over a shirt cuff, but 40-42mm cases are pretty much standard now, and larger sizes are common. At 39mm the new Black Bay model is remarkably understated, and strikes an ideal balance between authenticity and modernity. Also, as a guy with slim wrists, it suits me perfectly.
Another interesting thing about the Black Bay Fifty-Eight is its relatively austere design. While most watches in the vintage-inspired diver category come equipped with at least one additional complication, usually a date, this Tudor is unapologetically time-only. Again, this is a nod to those beautiful midcentury tool watches and the people who love them. Like the rest of the Black Bay dive watches, this one’s dial comes adorned with simple white hour markers: triangular at 12, rectangular at 3, 6 and 9, and circular on the other hours. The hands are Tudor’s iconic “snowflake” design, which premiered in 1969 and have become one of the brand’s most recognizable features. This less-is-more design approach is one of Tudor’s strongest attributes, and a big part of what people love about the Black Bay line in particular.
There is a lot more to love about the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue, of course, from its woven fabric strap, to its ties to French navy divers, to its unique shade of Atlantic blue, but we’re still too busy enjoying the watch to go into all that today. Check back here in a few days for the rest of our impressions, plus more pictures, and head over to @sharp.watch on Instagram to see even more.