Tudor Black Bay GMT

The Tudor Black Bay GMT was unveiled at Baselworld 2018. Simultaneously, Tudor’s sister company, Rolex unveiled its GMT-Master II with a ‘Pepsi’ bezel. While Angus Davies likes both timepieces, he freely admits he prefers the Tudor dual-time watch.

This detailed review of the Tudor Black Bay GMT includes images, specification details and pricing.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Product excellence is often a function of price. In the world of horology, the case material, movement finishing, complications and, to be honest, brand name, all have an influence on the price of a watch. However, at Baselworld last year, Tudor made me question my long-held belief that excellence and price are inextricably linked.

At Baselworld 2018, the GMT watch was en vogue with Rolex, TAG Heuer and Tudor all unveiling new watches endowed with a dual-time function. Like most other years, there was feverish activity near the Rolex stand, with many visitors to the fair extolling the virtues of the GMT-Master II featuring a ‘Pepsi’ bezel. Personally, I liked the new Rolex, albeit I felt an ‘Oyster’ bracelet would have suited the watch better than the ‘Jubilee’ version supplied. However, one thing I did not envisage was the frenzied buying behaviour of Rolexphiles and opportunistic speculators. Owing to demand outstripping supply, pre-owned examples now fetch more than factory-fresh models sold by authorised dealers.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Rolex GMT-Master II

During the fair, I also visited Tudor, Rolex’s younger sibling. My host showed me an array of different models, but the Tudor Black Bay GMT stood out as my favourite ‘novelty’ from the brand. I must say, despite its lower asking price of £2790, it compares favourably with the Rolex (£7150). In fact, I can already reveal I prefer the Tudor dual-time watch for a number of reasons. Allow me to elaborate.

The dial

The black dial is endowed with generously proportioned circular indexes, save for 6 and 9 o’clock where rectangular-shaped hour markers feature and noon where a triangular index denotes the midnight hour. The hours and minutes are conveyed with bold luminescent snowflake hands which prove highly legible. By pairing contrasting white details with a black dial membrane, everything proves eminently legible.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Riveted steel bracelet

An aperture at 3 o’clock reveals the date. The Rolex GMT-Master II is equipped with its legendary cyclops lens, magnifying the date and, in so doing, augmenting readability. While the Tudor Black Bay GMT lacks this useful feature, it remains simple to read.

Both the Rolex and Tudor use a red hand with a prominent tip to indicate the home hour. Moreover, both watches include a central sweep seconds hand with a ‘lollipop’ or diamond to aid read-off.

The case

Rolex has housed its GMT-Master II within a 40mm stainless steel case. The Tudor Black Bay GMT is just a smidgen larger, measuring 41mm in diameter. While this is a small difference, the Tudor does appear larger when worn and, in my opinion, looks better as a result.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Terra di Siena brown leather strap

A few years ago, Rolex moved from aluminium bezels to a new type lined in ceramic, a material is said to be virtually scratch-proof. However, a number of years ago I wore a Rolex Submariner, fitted with an aluminium bezel every day. It was subject to occasional knocks and scrapes but the watch shrugged off this harsh treatment without any indication of wear. I have little reason to dismiss the performance of aluminium.

The bezel fitted to the Tudor Black Bay GMT is anodised aluminium and, in common with the Rolex, features a 24-hour scale. This feature allows the wearer to ascertain whether the ‘local time’ is day or night. By equipping the Tudor with an aluminium bezel, the watch has an almost vintage feel.

In terms of the choice of bezel material, both the Rolex and Tudor appear attractive, legible and should prove hard wearing.

The crown on the Rolex GMT-Master II nuzzles between two shoulders of a robust crown protector. Again, speaking from experience, the crown fitted to my Submariner seemed capable of enduring adverse treatment with ease, vindicating the rationale for the fitment of said protector.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Tudor has eschewed the crown protector. It is not possible to comment on the comparative long term robustness of the crown as its toughness can only be appraised over a prolonged period. Certainly, the Tudor crown is neatly designed and I find the rose motif on its vertical flank particularly attractive.

The Tudor employs a combination of polished and satin-finished surfaces. The caseband shines resplendently, heightening the watch’s visual allure. The chamfered edge between the upper case surface and the adjacent flank is highly polished. It is difficult and time-consuming to juxtapose two contrasting finishes while ensuring they remain discrete. Tudor has skilfully kept the two surfaces separate, imbuing the watch with a sumptuous appearance.

The Tudor Black Bay GMT is endowed with a solid caseback and is water resistant to 200m (20 ATM). The Rolex GMT-Master II has a maximum water resistance of 100 m (10ATM).

The movement

Rolex and Tudor have equipped their dual-time watches with manufacture movements, both featuring bidirectional rotor systems. Each model has a power reserve of approximately 70 hours and both are certified chronometers (COSC).

The main point of differentiation relates to the balance fitted to each movement. The Calibre 3285, fitted to the Rolex GMT-Master II, incorporates the brand’s ‘Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring’. The paramagnetic alloy is unaffected by magnetic fields and ’10 times more resistant to shocks’. The Tudor is equipped with a ‘non-magnetic silicon hairspring’.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

The Tudor Calibre MT5652 features a variable inertia balance. This is remarkable considering the modest asking price for the watch. Indeed, typically I am accustomed to seeing this detail on watches costing significantly more.

A variable inertia balance is superior to a balance fitted with an index adjuster (raquette). An index adjuster nips the hairspring, changing its effective length, thereby altering the rate of the movement. The variable inertia balance uses screws, fitted to the rim of the balance wheel, to alter the moment of inertia and, by default, the rate of the watch. By adopting this latter approach, the concentricity of the hairspring is improved, aiding precision. In addition, Tudor has fitted the timing screws in-board within small recesses in the rim of the balance wheel. This mitigates air turbulence, again aiding precision.

Neither the Rolex Calibre 3285 nor the Tudor Calibre MT5652 feature Côtes de Genève motif, or hand bevelled bridges. The latter movement is embellished with a combination of satin-brushed and sand-blasted finishing.

Closing remarks

When it comes to the acquisition of a Tudor Black Bay GMT or a Rolex GMT-Master II, one has to question the buyer’s motives.

Rolex benefits from incredible brand awareness and the cachet of its name surpasses virtually all other luxury marques. The appetite for this company’s sports watches shows no signs of abating. Moreover, I suspect that consumer demand will forever outstrip supply.

Rolexphiles are a special breed of watch collector. It is not uncommon for one of these enthusiasts to own several versions of a Daytona, GMT-Master or Submariner. A subtle change to the colour of text, a new bezel material or enhanced movement specification is often sufficient for this loyal group of fans to part with their cash and add another reference to their burgeoning collection. While I do not suffer this wealth-impacting condition myself, I do respect those individuals who appreciate watches marked with the iconic crown symbol.

Tudor Black Bay GMT

Fabric strap

Sadly, some speculators seek to exploit the scarcity of some Rolex models, including the GMT-Master II, charging outrageous premiums with little justification. I must be honest, I view this group of individuals with total contempt. They do not invest in new technology or deliver impressive retail environments. Indeed, these individuals do nothing to further the industry I hold in the highest esteem.

The Tudor Black Bay GMT offers virtually everything that the Rolex GMT-Master II does. It is beautifully made, incorporates a praiseworthy Manufacture movement and proves effortless to read. It may lack the status of the Rolex, but don’t discount the long term desirability of a Tudor watch. Indeed, several older Tudor watches have become highly collectible.

Both watches are superb. The added-functionality granted with a GMT hand and a 24-hour bezel makes them both ideal for the intrepid jet-setter. However, the Tudor Black Bay GMT is my preferred model based on its aforementioned strengths. Furthermore, considering it costs a mere £2790, the Tudor disproves my long held belief that excellence is a function of price.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Tudor Black Bay GMT
  • Reference: M79830RB-0001
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 41mm; water resistance 20ATM (200 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date; GMT
  • Movement: Calibre MT5652; self-winding movement; power reserve 70 hours
  • Strap: Riveted steel bracelet with polished and satin finish with folding clasp and safety catch
  • Price: £2,790 (RRP as at 22.2.2019)

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