It is a quantifiable fact that Tudor has won the last decade of modern watch-making. It started out for plenty of North Americans as “Tudor? Isn’t that a cheap Rolex?” and finished with wait lists for the latest Black Bay variant. The watch I’m talking about is the Black Bay 58 Navy Blue and it absolutely smashes the dive watch formula out of the park. Outside of North America, Tudor has enjoyed a more storied history and we can see that in the Submariner 9411/0 Snowflake, a watch that garners respect instantly from collectors.
In 2020, a year that has seen even the Rolex Submariner succumb to a 41mm case size, Tudor has embraced its creative freedom to expand their 39mm offering with a new colour scheme that is as much a nod to the military-spec Snowflake Submariners of the past as it is to indulging customers in their favorite dial colour of them all: blue. When the Black Bay 58 came out a couple of seasons ago, it appealed to enthusiasts by combining a svelte (and somewhat unexpected) size with nostalgia-inducing gilt accents over a serious black dial. The original Black Bay 58 could be the representative photo in the encyclopedia article titled “classic dive watch”.
I’ve written in the past how much I love that Tudor seems to get all the creative green lights available within the Rolex empire. The choice of which brand to work for, if offered, would be increasingly difficult after seeing how much fun the Tudor people are having these days. Check out that P01 for example. Tudor got to roll the dice on that one with a historical bogey that was a stretch at best. The new Black Bay 58 Navy Blue doesn’t have to stretch nearly as hard for that historical tie-down. The vintage Tudor Submariners once employed by the French and South African Navies are becoming increasingly coveted these days and while the BB58 doesn’t provide a carbon copy of this Snowflake Sub (a good thing), it hits all the correct elements to pull off the vibe.
It would have been very possible for Tudor to choose the wrong blue for the BB58, which is why this is so much more than a story about a new colourway. If the blue was too dark, there wouldn’t be enough differentiation from the standard Black Bay 58. The Black Bay 41 Blue is a good example of how a dark blue can look too black in many circumstances. If the blue is too light, it risks coming off comical and cartoonish. I reckon there were many different prototypes tossed before the Navy Blue was finalized.
Interestingly enough, the “Navy” in Black Bay 58 Navy Blue is not so indicative of the shade of colour on the watch, rather as a nod to the heritage of use in seafaring military forces. The blue is actually a perfect middle ground as it contrasts the white lumed hands and indexes sharply but retains a more marine than navy hue. The vintage Submariner on the other hand has a darker blue dial but, in this instance, it is a beautiful matte finish. With the bezel fading to a blueish-tinged grey, the two-tone effect is breathtaking, not to mention impossible to reproduce on a modern watch.
I’m sure it was tempting for Tudor to consider making the hands and indexes on the Black Bay 58 Blue a cream colour to convey that faux vintage message they do so well as on the Pelagos LHD. The fact that they didn’t sends a strong statement that this Black Bay can stand on its own as a new watch that is bolstered, but not handcuffed, by history.
The look comes across as very clean and highly legible because after all, the Black Bay 58 Navy Blue is a tool watch first and foremost. I also like that Tudor resisted using the coloured crown tube from the 41mm blue bezel version, giving enthusiasts what may be the perfect sized, proportioned, and cleanest blue dive watch on the market. Examining the 9411 Snowflake closely, one gains a severe appreciation for the authenticity and warmth of the aged cream coloured indexes and hands. Do you think anyone at Tudor or Rolex in the 1970s ever thought we would be waxing poetic about the colour fade on their military-spec tool watches fifty years distant?
The rest of the Black Bay 58 is what we have come to recognize as the evolution of Tudor from the “cheap Rolex” shadows. Inside the strong case beats the COSC certified MT5402 movement. Vintage Snowflake Submariners, desirable as they may be, make do with a capable but not in-house ETA powerplant. That strong case by the way features the beautifully chamfered edges on the lugs but is much thinner in profile than the 41mm, allowing for an amicable shirt-cuff relationship and transparent feel on the wrist.
Embrace the modern Black Bay 58 over the vintage Snowflake an you’ll also be treated to a supple and premium tapered bracelet. I find the faux rivets on the links to be the only unnecessary feature of the watch but far from an ownership-blocker. Clasp security and operation is pure modern Tudor. I’ve also deployed the BB58 Navy Blue on both dark blue and light grey NATO straps and can confirm this watch is especially friendly to these different looks. Tudor will also supply the watch on either their own leather or fabric strap as well.
Seafaring officers of the NATO clan needed the Submariner Snowflake through the depths of the Cold War as one of their many tools to help keep an eye on the vast oceans of the world. The Tudor Black Bay 58 Navy Blue is exactly what we need in mid-2020. A modern, well-executed watch that embraces its historical inspiration but provides function and fun from a brand that is definitely enjoying a heyday unlike any other.