Hands-On: Tudor Black Bay Chrono Dark Limited EditionAll-black for the All Blacks.
Tudor’s latest watch is major – beyond the watch itself – for it is the first publicly available limited edition in its 70-year history. In an industry where limited editions usually emphasise “edition” rather than “limited”, the Black Bay Chrono Dark is limited to just 1181 pieces at time of writing (though the number will creep up each year; more on that below).
The new watch is a nod to Tudor’s partnership with the New Zealand national rugby union team, better known as the All Blacks – perhaps the most successful rugby team in history. Named for the all-black team jersey bearing a silver fern emblem, the All Blacks provide a literal inspiration for the Black Bay Chrono Dark, which has a black-coated case and bracelet. It’s essentially a cooler, limited and monochromatic version of a watch that is already an excellent value proposition.
The watch is based on the Black Bay Chrono launched two years ago. Though it was slightly controversial aesthetically – the design being a mishmash of dive and driving watches – the Black Bay Chrono was well-regarded for being good value; it was powered by a sophisticated chronograph movement based on the Calibre 01 made by Breitling. Proving to be something that grew on you over time, the line-up was joined by the two-tone Black Bay Chrono S&G unveiled at Baselworld 2019.
Now the collection grows to include the Black Bay Chrono Dark, exactly 1181 examples of it to be specific. This is the number of players that have joined the All Blacks since its founding in 1903 up till early 2019 – a tiny number compared to most limited edition runs in watchmaking. And the Black Bay Chrono Dark will be available at Tudor retailers and boutiques, unlike the brand’s other limited runs that were made exclusively for specific organisations, like an Italian watch forum or a unit of London’s Metropolitan Police.
But edition size will grow marginally in subsequent years: additional numbers will be added according to the number of new players that join the team each year. The additional watches each year will be numbered sequentially from the last used case number. Going by new team members in recent years, the annual additions will be negligible. Thirteen players joined the team in 2017, and the number was 11 last year. In 2019, only three players have joined so far.
Tudor’s venture into all-black watches began in 2015 with the FastRider Black Shield that had a black ceramic case; though good value, it was a so-so design. Then Tudor managed to get it right in 2016 with the all-black version of its cult dive watch, the Black Bay Dark, which was followed by the one-of-a-kind Ceramic One for this year’s Only Watch charity auction. These watches, at their core, demonstrate a degree of creative flex that has been crucial to Tudor’s independence, establishing an identity distinct from its coroneted parent.
While the FastRider Black Shield and Black Bay Ceramic One are ceramic, which is a black material, the Black Bay Chrono is steel PVD-coated with with titanium carbide. A type of ceramic used for drill bits, the coating is harder than steel, giving a higher scratch resistance, and also less brittle than DLC (diamond-like carbon). The only downside of such a coating is the possibility of it separating from the metal base below as a result of an impact that deforms (as in dent or ding) the metal base.
Because the case is entirely black, the details are harder to make out, but they are all there. The sharply cut bevels on the top and bottom edges of the case are there, just as neatly done as they are on standard cases.
Though the watch is based on the original Black Bay Chrono, it is actually smaller, compact enough to be svelte as far as sports chronographs go. The case measures the same 41mm diameter, but the domed crystal is slightly thinner, which means the dial can sit higher and closer to the crystal, while raising the movement further up inside the case. This slims the case to 14.4mm, versus the 14.9mm of the original. That makes Black Bay Chrono Dark slimmer than the time-only Black Bay dive watch that’s 14.75mm.
On the wrist, the difference is considerable, and because the dial is closer to the crystal, it looks flatted, giving it a compact and elegant feel. At the same time, because the watch is all-black, its visual presence is reduced, so it looks smaller from all perspective.
While thinner, the functionality of the case is the same. The watch retains a depth rating of 200m. And though it features screw-down pushers, which are meant to prevent accidental actuation underwater, it is among the handful of chronographs that are in fact operable underwater; the chronograph can be started, stopped and reset underwater.
The Black Bay Chrono Dark also retains perhaps the most controversial feature of the original chronograph: a fixed steel bezel, here black-coated to match the case, featuring an anodised aluminium insert with a tachymeter.
This is a conceptual, rather than aesthetic nitpick. The black bezel matches the case and looks good, but because the Black Bay Chrono is ostensibly a diver’s chronograph, a rotating, elapsed time bezel would have been more appropriate. Tachymetric scales are mostly associated with distance travelled, making them suited to driver’s watches.
The dial has a “bi-compax” layout with an unusual 45-minute counter at three o’clock instead of the conventional 30-minutes, while the sub-dial at nine o’clock is for the running seconds.
The chronograph is combined with applied circular hour markers and the brand’s signature snowflake hands – elements drawn from its dive watches. The thickness of the hands and markers far outweigh the chronograph counters, making legibility of the time excellent. And with the all-black treatment, these dive-watch elements are only more pronounced. The white date disc at six o’clock also stands out; an matching black date display would have been more fitting.
The watch features only two splashes of red on the tip of the chronograph seconds hand and the depth rating. On the topic, it would have made more sense to tip the elapsed minutes hand in red, since that matters more for dive times.
While the first two iterations of the chronograph had a vintage-style bracelet with visible faux-rivets, the Black Bay Chrono Dark sticks to the conventional, modern style with large screws to secure the links. And unlike most other Tudor watches, it is only offered on a bracelet, though a fabric strap can be purchased separately.
While Tudor’s earlier chronographs like the Heritage Chrono “Monte Carlo” and Fastrider Black Shield were variants of the Valjoux 7750, the new limited edition boasts the same superb movement found in the standard Black Bay Chrono: the MT5813 that was developed by Breitling and customised for Tudor.
It’s based on the Breitling Caliber 01 that is equipped with both a vertical-clutch and column-wheel chronograph, as well as a useful three-day power reserve. But the calibre is modified for chronometric performance, so is fitted with Tudor’s free-sprung, adjustable mass balance wheel and silicon hairspring. Performance-wise, it is COSC-certified, like all Tudor watches with manufacture movements.
And most strikingly, although the movement is largely similar to Breitling’s own version, the Breitling watches powered by the same calibre costs substantially more than the Tudor.
The Black Bay Dark Chrono is priced approximately 17% more than the original, but it is almost an entirely different watch in look and feel. It has a striking, ultra-contemporary blacked-out design, a more limited production run, and most crucially a better-proportioned case. It is, in short, well worth the 17% over the original, which was already one of the best buys in its category of sports chronographs at the US$5000 mark.
Material: Black-coated steel
Water resistance: 200m
Functions: Time, date, chronograph
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 70 hours
Strap: Black-coated steel bracelet
Price and availability
The Tudor Black Bay Chrono Dark (ref. 79360DK) is limited to 1181 pieces as of early 2019. Further watches will be added to the edition according to the number of new additions to the All Blacks each year, with additional watches being numbered sequentially in the edition.
The watch is priced at 5,651 Swiss francs, or 8,136 Singapore dollars, and is already available from Tudor retailers and boutiques. For more visit Tudorwatch.com.
Correction September 14, 2019: The Black Bay Chrono Dark is the first publicly available limited edition, and not the first limited edition of any sort as stated in an earlier version of this article.Back to top.