It can be surprising to realize that Watches & Wonders 2022 happened just a few months ago. Time can be tricky that way — something recent can seem like it was ages ago, while something from our distant past feels like it happened yesterday. However time has dilated for you, it is hard to dispute that the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT was one of the most anticipated — and then debated — watches of the show.
The Tudor Black Bay line first appeared in 2012 and can be considered to be the modern extension of the Tudor Submariner that first appeared in 1954 (for the reference hunters, that one is the 7922 Submariner). With that history, it is not a surprise that the Black Bay line features watches that are divers first. Different complications have been added in the intervening decade, with the GMT first appearing in the Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT (note the lack of the “Pro”) that was introduced at Baselworld 2018. That one appeared with the classic Pepsi Bezel and was compared against the new (for the time) Rolex GMT Master 126710. Four years on, and Tudor decided it was time to make some more changes
The most noticeable change for the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT is the color scheme. Gone is the more colorful Pepsi bezel, replaced for a simpler black-on-steel fixed bezel. Once freed of that color scheme, Tudor opted for a bright yellow – rather than the more traditional orange – for the GMT hand, as well as the water-resistance text on the dial. A closer look at the dial reveals another very interesting change with the indices. Instead of applied indices that are filled with luminous paint, the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT opts for indices made of a luminous ceramic material. So, while the size of the indices is unchanged, they will seem to be slightly larger. It will also provide a brighter glow in the dark, as you’ve got the whole indice giving off light. In terms of sizing, another reason they might look larger is because the case size has been reduced to 39mm.
The trend in watch sizing has definitely swung back to smaller case sizes. In our opinion, it makes for an eminently more wearable watch, and can more easily fit a variety of wrists. Of course, the diameter is not the only important dimension to consider. Lug-to-lug is 47mm which is indeed smaller than the non-Pro GMT. So far, it seems like we’re on a good path. Where the controversy and debate came up for this watch release was the case height.
In a vacuum, hearing a 200m WR watch has a 14.6mm thickness (including the crystal) doesn’t feel like anything to worry about. When some of the early photos came out from the show, though, it seemed like the watch was way thicker than it needed to be. In speaking to those who have actually handled the watch in person, it seems that the height of the watch is much less concerning on the wrist. In short, we’re chalking the impressions from the photos (and spec sheet) up to a trick of the eye when you compare the height to the diameter. However, if you have your doubts, it’s definitely something you’d want to see in person before making your final decision if this belongs in your watch box or not.
Inside the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT is the Manufacture calibre MT5652. This is an automatic movement that was first introduced in 2018 with the Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT. While it has “just” a 4Hz beat rate (aka 28,800 BPH), the slower beat rate helps the watch to attain it’s 70 hour power reserve rating. It has passed all of the stringent COSC tests to achieve the chronometer certification, so accuracy should not be a concern.
For those who collect GMT watches, the big question here is this: is the movement a “true” GMT? The short answer is yes, it is. What this means is that you set the local time hour hand independently, rather than the GMT hand. For the traveler, this means when you land at your destination, you can quickly move the hour hand forwards (or backwards), leaving the GMT hand undisturbed. This is commonly set to your home time (or even UTC time) so your frame of reference is locked.
The MT5652 also has another trick up its sleeve, and it’s how that hour hand interacts with the date disc. As you would expect, advancing the local time hour hand past midnight forces the date disc to trip over to the next day. Should you wind the hour hand backwards, though? The date will actually go backwards. This saves you from having to wind through 30 days to get to your correct date should you accidentally go too far. It’s an interesting feature, for sure, and no doubt a neat parlor trick to show off.
Versus The Competition
The most obvious competition for the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT is one we’ve mentioned a few times in this article – the Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT. It contains the same movement as the newer Pro model in a larger diameter case, so it proportionally may look more “correct” than the Pro, if that’s bothered your eye. It also has the brighter Pepsi bezel, which certainly is iconic.
Certainly, a model from big brother Rolex would not be amiss, but what if you wanted something that feels a bit more dressy than sporty, and still retains the yellow GMT hand? Then look no further than the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat GMT. This one will be slimmer than the Tudor options, and given the polished hands and indices – and no external bezel – this is one that will certainly feel more at home with a suit, if that’s your preference.
Defining what makes something “Professional” can be a tricky thing to do. Can it do its primary function better than what came before it? Can it withstand more abuse than others of its kind that do the same job? I would argue with tools, those are certainly criteria that can be evaluated. With a tool watch, that’s not there. Where the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT feels professional to us is the overall look. By going with a simpler steel bezel that is fixed, you’ve reduced your moving parts as well as removed colorful distractions. By implementing the solid luminous ceramic indices, legibility in the dark has certainly been increased. Does that make it more “pro” than the model introduced in 2018? No, but yes.
Just like the 2018 Black Bay GMT, the Tudor Black Bay Pro GMT is a well-built watch that should handle whatever you can throw at it. What makes this one Pro – in our estimation – is the look of the watch. By reducing the color scheme and keeping the focus on steel, it really does feel more like a tool. Not to mention the fact that it hearkens back to the Rolex Explorer II models, with their steel bezels and clean color palettes. Those original models were built for spelunkers (aka cave explorers), and so we associate the general look of the watch with doing dangerous and exciting things.
Even if you’re not about to explore a dark hole in the ground, the fact that your watch looks and feels like it could do just that? No doubt it puts a spring in your step, and gives you comfort that it’ll be more than ready for running around the park, or dashing to make your plane before the doors close. So, sure, it may not carry the hard details on the spec sheet to call it Professional, it certainly has the looks – and the pedigree – to back the nomenclature up. Whatever its daily use is going to be – cave diving or desk diving – it will get the job done without breaking a sweat.