Back in 2019, there were predictions — confident predictions, at that — that Tudor would be unveiling a reissue of the Snowflake Submariner. That was based on a teaser photo, as well as the watch world’s loudest enthusiasts playing their favorite game. That is, which of their own favorite designs from the past would be reissued. Whatever people thought would be coming, it is a safe bet that not a single person expected the Tudor Tudor Heritage Black Bay P01.
History for this model is, well, a bit murky. On one hand, the Tudor Tudor Heritage Black Bay P01 is a brand-new design in the current catalog, so this is where the model starts. However, it does have a direct inspiration. It calls back to a prototype that was built in 1967 for the US Navy — but never saw the light of day. So, it’s an acknowledged design, albeit one that was never made (and hence the ‘P’ in the name of this model, indicating a prototype). Another interesting bit of trivia is that there was a very similar watch that surfaced in 2004, except it had Rolex on the dial. That watch was – much like a Mission Impossible team — disavowed by Rolex. If it was a knock-off, how would someone even know about the prototype design? Mysteries abound here, for sure.
The design of the Tudor Tudor Heritage Black Bay P01 is dominated by its bezel locking mechanism. While we’re used to ratcheting springs in our bezels today that click firmly and solidly into place, that was not the case 50+ years ago. So, brands experimented. Rather than get intricate, Tudor went with something simple and robust. And simple and robust is exactly what you want for something intended for hard use. In short, you press on the clasping portion (at the top of the dial) and it raises up. This allows you to rotate the bezel to where it needs to be, and then you flip the clasp back down. The one at the lower lugs is just there for looks, and is not functional in terms of locking the bezel.
It’s a simple solution, and one that in turn dictates the form of the watch. It gives that weird sort of extended look between the lugs, and when viewed in profile, shows them arching up to the bezel. All in all, it is very definitely a look that we’re used to today, and can seem a bit elongated when viewed from on top.
The other design detail that may feel odd for a Tudor design is its crown position, specifically that it has been moved to four o’clock. This is ostensibly done for wrist comfort, and to keep the crown a bit more out of harm’s way. However, it also still has the crown guards, which may feel a bit redundant to the wearer. Then again, if the design was originally intended for hard military use, the more protection, likely the better.
Inside the watch, you’ll find the Tudor Caliber MT5612. This is an automatic movement that was first introduced in 2015 in the Tudor Pelagos, and is the first caliber that Tudor has designed for themselves. Why does it make sense for this watch? The Pelagos gives us the clue. This is a movement that was designed to be very robust and durable. When you get into the details, you’ll find things like a silicon hairspring (resisting external physical influences), and a balance wheel being held in place by a full balance bridge (connecting to both sides of the mainplate rather than the more common balance cock, with single attachment point). Topping it off comes a power reserve of 70 hours, which was relatively uncommon in 2015, especially for a tool watch.
Versus The Competition
If you’re considering alternatives, of course you’d have all manner of choice within the other Black Bay models, or even Submariners. That’s not the only place to look, particularly if you want a vintage design. The first we would point you to is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. There are a number of designs, but one that puts you into the same era as this Tudor would be the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “No Radiation” (whether the reissue or even a vintage reference). This gives you all the classic looks of the Fifty Fathoms, including the domed bezel insert. The bonus here is the application of vintage lume, making the watch appear to be older than it actually is.
Then again, if you’re considering this Tudor, you may also be finding yourself drawn to the vintage Submariners. If you like the look of those models gone by, but appreciate the build of a more-modern design, then something like the Project X Designs Milspec 1 Submariner is where it is at. This conforms to the design of the original MilSub, and features aged luminous paint and even a “beat up” lume pip on the bezel. All built on the foundation of a Submariner that is just a few years old. Best of both worlds, we say.
The Tudor Tudor Heritage Black Bay P01 is a watch that dives deep into some of the odder – and rarer – corners of military watch history. The 1960s saw all sorts of experimentation across many industries, and watches were not immune to it. Sometimes we ended up with over-engineered approaches to solving a problem (such as the Ploprof), and other times we ended up with a simplicity that approaches brutal, as we do here on the bezel mechanism. While there is no denying its place in history, there is also a reason that this sort of mechanism is not widely used today.
This Tudor design is polarizing, no doubt. The elongated look to the lugs plays with our perception of what a dive watch should look like these days, as does the locking mechanism. Even so, this is a Tudor that – should you purchase one – would seem to indicate that adding the watch to your collection was more than just a purchase based solely on the name on the dial. It’s putting your support behind maintaining and recognizing the designs that have gone by and inform today, without being just a simple reworking of an existing model to look like a design that preceded it by 50 years or more. No, this is ripped from the deep archives, and by its existence, we get another view into the thought processes of designers of the eras. On the wrist, its quirks will no doubt bring you enjoyment, and should serve as a great conversation starter at the next watch get-together.