Once again we are excited to report on the 2016 Baselworld Tudor highlights. We made our annual pilgrimage to Baselworld for the Tudor launch dinner and world press conference for the 2016 collection of new watches. Last year you’ll remember from our report (here) that we were taken on an adventure on the Tuesday evening in a fleet of Land Rovers for a fireside dinner in the Swiss mountains. This year had a nautical theme…but more about that later. The annual Tudor Tuesday dinner has become an eagerly anticipated and popular fixture at Basel; the focus being on the social media contingent and an exclusive pre-release viewing of key pieces from the new collections.
We arrived late on the Monday night and enjoyed a late night Chinese meal near our hotel in the centre of Basel. We had some exciting talks about the new B&S collections coming this year and shared some stories about recent trips and watch buying adventures!
The Fun Begins
Tuesday started with a slow morning around the old part of the city, where inevitably we searched for some nice vintage watches. Bernhard struck gold with a beautiful oversize mono-pusher chronograph from the 1950s, with a fantastic original condition dial.
After a relaxing lunch with some good friends it was time to check into our hotel for the Tuesday night, the ‘Rolex Ship’…a luxury cruise ship that is taken over by Rolex & Tudor for the duration of the Baselworld event. Our rooms were as fantastic as ever, with floor to ceiling views of the river and the bustle of city life on the opposite bank of the Rhine.
Our invitation to the dinner requested that we meet at the entrance to Les Trois Rois, the grandest hotel in Basel and birthplace of the famous Watchonista Basil cocktail, which has become an annual Baselworld tradition, as a night cap following dinner! Once all the guests were assembled we were led across the river where there were two pleasure cruiser boats waiting to ferry us up the river to our mysterious destination.
A Dark Destination for Dinner
After a 15 minute journey we alighted the boats and entered a blue-lit tunnel; where the eerie atmosphere was punctuated with the intermittent ‘pings’ of submarine sonor…a hint of what was to come! We made our way to a reception room where we were greeted with flutes of champagne and canapés, is a room decked out with maritime themed objects and an outside area with a fire pit.
We were then ushered through to our dining room for the evening, an architecturally industrial feeling space that was set out with tables for twelve and a fascinating bronze deepsea diving helmet – another clue for our preview!
Our place settings featured a menu that doubled as a Battleships game card and a napkin tied with a silver chain with an anchor on the end. To the casual observer, these anchors looked like no more than a small ornament. To the vintage Tudor lover, however, it was obviously so much more. As we were informed later on, these were new-old-stock vintage Tudor anchors that were supplied with Submariner watches through the 1970s, 80s and 90s. In fact, they were the very last remaining pieces that Tudor owned and were a gift to each guest.
The Bronze is Officially Revealed
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 unveiling was greeted with cheers by guests – partly fuelled by the fact that there had been a lot internet chatter about the watch due to leaked pictures ahead of the embargo of 10pm on Tuesday night.
It’s always disappointing when one or two people choose to break agreed silences about upcoming launches in a bid to ‘be the first to get the scoop’, but it certainly created a buzz around the watch. And we weren’t disappointed by what the helmet revealed!
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 and vintage lovers’ favourite ‘3-6-9’ dial layout. The bezel is also brown, in a different but very complimentary shade. 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.
The Process of Perfecting Patina
We spoke to the Head Designer and Production Manager about the new case and issues with how it might age. As you would expect, the watch was heavily tested 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 tang 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).
Black Bay Dark
Following our pudding there was another treat in store for us. A short speech was given, at the end of which we were told the story of Steve Jobs Apple launch speeches always having one last trick at the end, at which point we were shown another Tudor watch…the new 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 (think Bamford Watch Department, Project X et al) and this is the first time that the Wildsorf family have officially done this.
Add into the mix the red triangle at 12 on the bezel insert and the ‘red-writing’ depth on the text and I think this will be a massive hit for Tudor. I personally loved it on the grey fabric strap with black pvd buckle and keepers (natch) and it also looked interesting on the straight endlink black bracelet. I like to refer to it as the Tudor Darth Vader, as one thing is for sure – ‘the force is strong with this one’!
A New Dawn
Breakfast on the Wednesday was a leisurely affair, where we were joined by a senior member of the Tudor Team and given another exclusive glimpse of a couple of new additions to the line up for 2016. We were also told that the whole Black Bay line would 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 an almost ovettone-esque profile.
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.
It is clear that Tudor will now concentrate on the Black Bay, Pelagos and North Flag for the Euopean and Americas and the Style and Glamour range for the Far East markets where these ranges are the core part of the business. Tudor is loud and clear – the messages are more refined, the collections have been refined (gone is the Gran Tour for example) and the watches are more refined.
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 Family Expands
The Black Bay family’s other addition is the Black Bay 36. This is a very cool watch and we 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.
A Great Year
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.