With watch brands forced to showcase new novelties through webcasts this year, I’ve until very recently had none of the cherished, direct, hands-on time I’d have had at the fairs. Fortunately, some of the new pieces are starting to make an appearance locally in IRL.
With the added quiet from the Rolex Watch Co so far in 2020 despite the 50th anniversary of Tudor’s first chronograph, I was really excited to receive an offer to admire the rather desirable Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ Ref 79030B on my wrist for two weeks.
An instant hit when first introduced in 2018, the 39mm Black Bay Fifty-Eight is inspired by one of Tudor’s first diver’s watches from the 1950s. The original Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref 7922 was launched in 1954 but updated four years later to make it twice as waterproof, to a depth of 200m. To achieve this, the case of the Submariner Ref 7924 was made thicker and had a larger 8mm screw-down crown, hence its nickname the ‘Big Crown’. It was also fitted with a new domed-shaped Plexiglas crystal for better resistance to pressure.
Although a modern tool watch in almost every way, as a nod the Ref 7924 the 2018 Fifty-Eight featured large gilt-trimmed hour markers and angular ‘snowflake’ hands for perfect legibility against its black lacquered dial. The latest Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ has a domed dial with more subtle grained, matte finish. The snowflake hands — a hallmark of Tudor divers’ watches since 1969 — and hour markers are silver-edged and treated with Super-LumiNova, and surprisingly are not as luminescent in the dark as I’d expected.
While this is essentially just a facelift and not a new watch, expect the waiting list to grow as interest in this Navy Blue addition seems even greater than for its sibling. Its blue livery is inspired by a Submariner from 1969, which was adopted for use by the Marine Nationale (French navy) into the 1970s. This unique blue is a little warmer than the blues featured on other Tudor divers’ and is matched in the “soft touch” Jacquard-weave strap, which, like this low-sitting timepiece, wears really comfortably on the wrist.
For a sports luxe look, there is an option of a satin finished and polished steel bracelet but this watch will work on rubber or a number of Nato strap colours of your choosing.
While this is a conversation starter of the highest quality, its ‘vintage’ sizing means the Fifty-Eight is a very unobtrusive daily wearer that I’ve put to the extreme test by taking it on my daily jogs as well as the occasional dip in the extremely freezing Silvermine Dam. Perfect for an active lifestyle, this timepiece is about as elegant as a modern tool watch gets and goes just as well with a sports jacket as it does with swim shorts and a tee. It’s also one that won’t break the bank.
Operation of the unidirectional, rotatable bezel is impressively solid — a sign of excellent build quality. Like its 39mm polished and satin finished case, the coin-edge bezel is machine from 316L steel and features a matte blue anodised aluminium and silver 60-minute graduated disc to precisely measure dive time. The steel screw-down winding crown features the classic Tudor rose, recalling the brand’s emblem on early models.
Ticking softly inside is the Tudor manufacture calibre MT5402 (COSC-certified) automatic mechanical movement — unique to the Fifty-Eight — which offers a 70-hours power reserve during your downtime.
With the warmer weather coming and our level 2 interprovincial freedoms, it’s time for some adventure. And as I grab my duffel bag and head out the door, I believe that based on quality, practicality, comfort, style and value for money, the Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ definitely finds a special place on my top five list of ‘the one watch I’d take with me’.
Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’ on steel bracelet with folding clasp and safety catch, R56,750; on leather strap with folding clasp and safety catch, R51,850; and with the Jacquard fabric strap with buckle, R51,850.