The 36mm Oyster needs no introduction and we are huge fans here at Bulang & Sons. We’ve written about the Ovettone watches in the past and the 50s Oysters have a special place in both Bernhard’s heart and mine. In a world where consumers are bucking against the gargantuan watch trends, the 36mm watches are very popular amongst vintage Rolex and Tudor collectors as well as buyers of new watches. It was still a surprise, however, when Tudor launched the latest and most diminutive member of the Black Bay family at Baselworld this year – the Tudor Heritage Black Bay 36.
The Black Bay is a watch that we have reviewed from the very beginning and we have been impressed by the various colour ways and case finishes that have been released over the past four years, since the original BB Burgundy was launched to huge fanfares in 2012. This watch is different though – its smaller, hence the name 36 but also it has a fixed, smooth steel bezel which gives it a very different presence…much more dress watch than out and out toolwatch. I think that this is a very smart move by Tudor. If you’d told me before the launch that this watch was going to be released, I would have envisaged a mid-size ‘mini me’ version of the Black Bay; Tudor have a track record of this. In fact, at one point you could buy Tudor Submariners in four sizes – 26mm, 32mm, 36mm and 40mm. The non-rotating bezel on the Black Bay 36 just works in my opinion…it’s a winner!
Reduced But Retained
The watch retains many key features that we recognize from the Black Bay family. The iconic snowflake hands are present, against the backdrop of the familiar hour marker layout seen on the rest of the family. I particularly like the silver printing on the glossy dial – it reminds me of the very last of the Tudor Submariners (ref 79190) especially with the recently reintroduced shield logo. It has been used on all the Black Bays this year, one could assume as marker for the introduction of the in-house movement to the line. The Black Bay 36, however, retains the workhorse and Tudor-stalwart modified ETA caliber 2824. For me, I like the idea of the ETA movements in these heritage watches as they really are a key component in the brand’s history. The in-house movement, however, is such an exciting milestone in the brand’s journey that it makes sense to utilise it as much as possible.
On the wrist, this is a very interesting watch. As I stated earlier, we are big fans of the 36mm Oysters and there is a timeless elegance about the proportions of the BB36 that makes it feel balanced and unobtrusive. One of my personal favourite watches of all time is the 36mm Rolex Oyster with the sapphire crystal. There is a striking resemblance when comparing the two watches, but in my opinion the snowflake hands have the edge over the mercedes hands of its cousin. The watch also looks brilliant on the signature fabric straps that accompany all the Heritage models. The grey ‘urban’ camo pattern of the strap works brilliantly against the gloss black dial, bright luminous material and silver text on the dial.
Punching Above Its Weight
This is an understated watch that is incredible versatile and I think it would be a little unfair and undeserved to refer to this watch as the ‘entry level’ Tudor Black Bay. The Air King always had that unofficial title and yet it was one of the most interesting and long-running watches in the Rolex portfolio; as was celebrated this year through a comprehensive re-launch at Baselworld. The Black Bay 36 is a stunning watch and is the perfect proportions for the current collecting world. This would be the perfect watch for dressing up or down – it looks like a timeless Oyster on the steel bracelet and then looks like a military watch when worn on the supplied grey ‘camo’ fabric strap. It would be at home in so many
different contexts that, in many ways, it could be the perfect do-all do-everything watch.