In Review

The history behind the new Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue

Latest addition to the brand’s flagship collection is one of the most highly sought-after diving watches of 2020

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The launch of a navy blue version of Tudor’s Black Bay Fifty-Eight diving watch created a huge buzz this summer, with the new timepiece prompting a sales rush and reams of discussion among fans on specialist sites. But few may be familiar with the long and fascinating history behind this modern classic.

Tudor was established by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf just after the Second World War with a clear directive: to produce affordable, high-quality watches that were as robust as they were stylish and reliable. Rolex’s reputation for performance and luxury provided the perfect springboard from which to launch this sister brand, and exploration played a key role in establishing these firm foundations of trusted brand loyalty.

In 1953, the Swiss marque set out to prove the hardy properties of the newly launched Tudor Oyster Prince by putting it through a series of “Trial of Destruction” tests - the watches were worn for hours on end by a variety of blue-collar workers including coal miners, stonecutters and construction men, who appeared in illustrated form in magazine advertisements. Right from the onset, then, Tudor firmly aligned itself with the notion of durability and dependability.

In 1958, Tudor released its now-legendary reference 7924, or Big Crown, model, a diver’s watch equipped with a large screw-down crown and thick domed crystal, strong enough to withstand water pressure to 200 metres. While not the first Tudor dive watch – reference 7922 was introduced four years earlier and was waterproof to 100 metres – the Big Crown was a game changer and instantly claimed a place in the pantheon of breakthrough tool watches. Remember, these watches were more than a time-telling instrument; they were engineered to assist military divers and help save lives. In 1964, Tudor supplied watches to the American Navy, but it was the French Navy that proved to be an important test-bed for the Big Crown reference 7924.

Indeed, military personnel helped shape Tudor’s dive watches: the famous snowflake hands first appeared on dive models in 1969 and were developed in direct response to a request from the French Marine Nationale (MN) to make watches more legible when exploring dark waters. The colour blue has an important place in the story, too: throughout the 1970s, Tudor provided dive watches to the MN that carried a blue dial and matching blue bezel – and continued outfitting France’s combat divers with them well into the 1980s.

To civilians, derivatives of the Big Crown came with the promise of unmatched durability and the romance of deep-sea discovery – above all, they were affordable and impeccably made, and were even compared to armour in advertising campaigns. Tudor’s pioneering early dive models were a source of inspiration for the brand’s contemporary Black Bay model.

Launched in 2012, this vintage-inspired piece, replete with modern tech, totally reinvigorated Tudor’s reputation as a leading tool-watch maker. More accurately, the Black Bay is Tudor’s success story that keeps on giving: each new watch from this bestselling family generates a huge amount of interest thanks to Tudor’s investment in high-performance movements and materials, as well as eye-catching designs that honour a rich maritime legacy.

Which brings us on to Tudor’s latest release, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue – a 38mm addition to the series which reflects the slim-line proportions Tudor's 1950s design codes. As the name suggests, it is cast in navy blue, a nod to the livery of the aforementioned 1970s MN models.

The timepiece is powered by Tudor’s in-house calibre MT5402, which exceeds the standards set by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC), guarantying a precision of -2 and +4 seconds per day. Tudor rightly calls this movement “weekend-proof”: the MT5402 runs for 70 hours, meaning you can take it off on Friday - though the latest Black Bay Fifty-Eight is a model you’ll that probably want to wear constantly. 

From £2,520; Tudorwatch.com

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