Editorial: The Strategic Genius of the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic

Quietly clever.

Tudor just debuted the Black Bay Ceramic, an appealing watch that is compelling value. I like it, but it is a well-executed dive watch in black ceramic – not majorly significant in the grander scheme of things.

But actually it is significant – shrewd and strategic in its concept, and a neat illustration of Tudor’s clever and patent strategy.


The answer lies in the industry landscape. Tudor’s parent is Rolex, the biggest luxury-watch brand in the world. According to Morgan Stanley estimates published in March 2021, Rolex sold almost CHF8 billion of watches at retail value in 2020. The equivalent number at Omega was a little under CHF3 billion, making it the second-largest luxury-watch brand.

In the same report, Morgan Stanley pegged the retail-value sales for Tudor at CHF633 million, the result of having enjoyed double-digit growth for several years. Though it’s a modest number relative to Rolex and Omega, it is substantial. The figure puts Tudor a hair below Jaeger-LeCoultre’s CHF681 million, and bigger than Panerai’s CHF520 million.

Tudor’s solid growth is attributable to many factors, most of which are encapsulated in the Black Bay Ceramic. Most obvious are the historically-inspired and thoughtful design, and of course the strong value proposition it represents.

But more than that it is a masterstroke. Specifically, the METAS certification that makes the Black Bay Ceramic a Master Chronometer is a brilliant move.

To be clear, Tudor officially has no comment on anything related to strategy or positioning – I asked and they responded – so this is just mildly informed conjecture.

Mighty METAS

Short for Metrologie und Akkreditierung Schweiz, or “Metrology and Accreditation Switzerland, METAS is the Federal Institute of Metrology, describing itself as “the most accurate place in [in the country]”.

The body concerns itself with all things related to measurement in Switzerland. For instance, METAS ensures the speed measurements taken by Swiss traffic police are exact. The measurement of time naturally falls within the purview of METAS. A watch that passes the METAS watch test is conferred the title of Master Chronometer.

Omega was the first brand to debut METAS-certified watches in 2015, having helped develop the Master Chronometer testing process. The brand invested significantly in promoting METAS certification as a key differentiating factor for its watches, with a key selling point being resistance to magnetic fields of up to 15,000 Gauss.

The Co-Axial escapement and METAS certification together were the twin features meant to elevate Omega watches to another level. Omega promised several years ago that all Co-Axial movements would be Master Chronometers by 2020 – a goal which it achieved.

In fact, the historical timeline found on the Omega website states in no uncertain terms: “Omega established a new watch certification process approved by [METAS]… This a revolutionary process established a new quality standard in the watch industry – you’d expect nothing less from Omega.”

And now you can expect nothing less from Tudor – for a lot less money.

Flanking the enemy

The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic costs US$4,725.

The most affordable Omega dive watch that’s a Master Chronometer is the Seamaster Diver 300m with a steel case and rubber strap that costs US$4,900. But the closest substitute for the Tudor is the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black launched in March. It costs US$8,650 – double the Black Bay Ceramic.

The fact that Tudor – which is to Rolex what Longines is to Omega – is now offering the same vaunted certification for much less money is a strategic triumph. The Master Chronometer appellation enhances Tudor’s standing, thanks in part to all of Omega’s marketing.

Granted, the METAS certification is now only found on a single Tudor model. But if history is a guide, Tudor’s slowly-but-surely approach means METAS certification will propagate throughout the lineup over time. That will give the brand a hefty competitive advantage, at least in the segments where Tudor is strong, namely dive watches and sports chronographs.

Hypothetically, if Tudor’s dive watches and sports chronographs are considered competition for the same products at Omega, it would end there. Omega is still far larger, both in terms of revenue and breath of offer. At the same time, a majority of sales at Omega come from watches like the Constellation and De Ville, best described as everyday dress watches.

But in the everyday-dress watch category Rolex has smartly rolled out Oyster Perpetuals with colourful dials and Datejusts with patterned dials – all instant bestsellers. Again the handful of new models are a modest beginning but they are probably the first of many.

Is it a clever pincer move by Rolex and Tudor, flanking the competition from above and below?

Five years

Another salient element of the Black Bay Ceramic was the cheerful launch video. The narrator declared that the watch is accompanied by a “a five year transferable guarantee with no registration and no periodic checks required”.

If it had been voiced in a typical Swiss German accent – grüezi – it might not have stood out, but the gratingly millennial tone almost made it seem like Tudor is trolling its competitors, which have all been eagerly seeking customer data in exchange for a warranty extension.


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Patek Philippe Unveils the Aquanaut Chronograph in 18k White Gold

In olive green or blue.

First introduced in 2018 in the lively colours of grey and orange, the Aquanaut Chronograph ref. 5968A was a surprising execution from a brand typically conservative in style. Patek Philippe now expands the model line with the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G in white gold, available in either midnight blue (ref. 5968G-001) or khaki green (ref. 5968G-010).

Initial thoughts

The new Aquanaut Chronograph iterates an existing model by drawing on elements from other Aquanauts. The midnight blue and khaki green dials are familiar because they are found on the time-only Aquanaut Ref. 5168G that’s also in white gold. Dial and case metal aside, the new chronographs are identical to the ref. 5968A of three years ago.

Although the colourways aren’t novel, they are good looking, conveying a contemporary aesthetic that complements the sporty nature of the Aquanaut Chronograph. The bright colours, juxtaposed against the case of white gold – traditionally a metal for formal occasions – exemplifies the modern concept of a sports watch where it’s more luxury than sport.

Between the two, my pick would be the midnight blue: its gradient finish is striking, and better reflects the elegance and historical style that are quintessentially Patek Philippe.

My pick out of the two

The retail price of the new chronograph is a hefty US$69,190, which is about 50% more than the steel version. Though steep, the increment is conventional for a precious metal case relative to steel.

But given the surging popularity of the Aquanaut – and all luxury-sports watches – the price of the ref. 5968G probably matters little; many will pay much, much more just to land one.

Blue and green

Introduced in 1997, the Aquanaut was conceived as an affordable, casual sports watch for younger clients. Naturally, the Aquanaut is no longer as accessible as it once was, but it retains the youthful style.

Though the colours are new, the new chronograph is very much like its steel counterpart. The dial features the stamped chequerboard motif that’s an Aquanaut trademark, paired with applied hour markers and hands of solid white gold.

The hands and indices are also filled with Super-Luminova, but of different types on each dial: white on the midnight blue dial and slightly greenish on the khaki model. Both, however, glow pale green in the dark.

And like its steel sibling, the case is finely finished, with alternating satin-brushed and polished surfaces on the bezel, case ,and pushers. But because the ref. 5968G is in white gold, it will look a little bit more lustrous than the steel version.

Unlike most chronographs that rely on multiple sub-dials to record the time, the ref. 5968G has a single 60-minute totaliser at six o’clock that has a rounded octagonal shape that echoes the Aquanaut bezel.

That’s thanks to the CH 28-520 C movement under the hood.

An automatic, flyback-chronograph movement equipped with both a column wheel and a vertical clutch, the CH 28-520 C is distinguished by its clarity of layout. Elapsed seconds are indicated by the central seconds hand, while the sub-dial at six is the 60-minute counter. Even the version of the movement with a 12-hour register as found in the ref. 5960 combine both the hour and minute totalisers on the same sub-dial at six o’clock.

Because the vertical clutch allows the chronograph to operate without diminishing the amplitude of the balance wheel – as would happen in a laterally-coupled chronograph – the chronograph can be kept running constantly, allowing the chronograph seconds hand to double up as a running seconds indicator.

In addition, the movement features Patek Philippe’s trademark innovations such as a Gyromax adjustable-mass balance fitted to a Spiromax silicon hairspring.

Each version of the ref. 5968G is fitted to a matching blue or green rubber strap with an 18k white gold folding buckle. Unlike the steel version, the white-gold models are only delivered with a single strap.

Key facts and price

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph
Ref. 5968G-001 (Midnight blue)
Ref. 5968G-010 (Khaki green)

Diameter: 42.2 mm (measured from ten to four o’clock)
Height: 11.9 mm
Material: 18k white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 120 m

Movement: Cal. 28-520 C
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, and flyback chronograph with 60-minute counter
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 45-55 hours

Availability: At both retailers and boutiques
Price: US$69,190, or 91,200 Singapore Dollars

For more, visit Patek.com.

Addition May 29, 2021: The ref. 5968G does not have a constant seconds hand, unlike what was implied in an earlier version of the article. However, chronograph seconds can function as a running seconds.

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Seiko Reinterprets the “62MAS” and “Turtle” (Again)

Now with a special fabric strap.

Twenty-twenty marked 55 years since Seiko’s first foray into dive watches, which was the ref. 6217 “62MAS” of 1965. Naturally, it introduced myriad vintage remakes to mark the occasion – not only of the “62MAS” but also other dive watches of the era like the ref. 6105 “Turtle”.

A year on, Seiko continues with a pair of remakes: the 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretations “62MAS” (ref. SPB239) and the 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation “Turtle” (ref. SPB237), both powered by the mid-range 6R35 movement, making them affordable.

The “6105” remake with a textured grey dial

Initial thoughts

There have been numerous remakes of Seiko dive watches, including several limited editions – but all are practical, affordable watches, so more isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The result is a variety of iterated case and dial combinations with something for almost everyone.

The new models are as good looking as their immediate predecessors, since they are essentially alike save for minor tweaks, namely the woven-fabric strap and dial colour.

The “62MAS” remake with a brown “sunburst” dial

Each model is delivered with a pair of NATO-style fabric straps that add a bit of vintage charm to the look, especially compared to the rubber straps usually found on dive watches.

Although the fabric straps are merely, well, fabric straps, they are special. The straps are braided with the technique known as seichu, traditionally used to weave obijime, the cord used to secure a kimono. According to Seiko’s internal testing, the braided weave of the strap is four times as strong as an ordinary Seiko fabric strap, making the new band a perfect match for a no-nonsense dive watch.

The pair of straps do cost a bit more, as the new watches are US$200 more expensive than their equivalents that were delivered only with a rubber strap. For example, last year’s SPB147 was US$1,000, but the new SPB239 costs US$1,200. That still leaves both the new models relatively good value.

The fabric strap is braided with a cord-braiding technique known as Seichu

1965 and 1970 vibe

Both models have similar colours that are warm and earthy, a palette that is commonly found in vintage remakes since the hues evoke the faded dials of vintage watches.

Between the two, the “6105” remake is more unusual. It’s the first affordable 6105 remake with a textured dial. The “Naomi Uemura” editions announced earlier this year did feature patterned dials, but they cost substantially more because both were powered by the 8L55, a movement that’s basically a first-generation Grand Seiko movement without the fancy Grand Seiko decor.

The 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “Turtle”

The “62MAS” remake, on the other hand, is too similar to the SPB147 introduced last year, which had brown dial in similar shade as well as cream numerals on the bezel. The differences between the two are minor: the hands and indices are silver instead of gilded.

The 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “62MAS”

Key facts and price

Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “62MAS”
Ref. SPB239

Diameter: 40.5 mm
Height: 13.2 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: 6R35
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Brown fabric strap, with an additional beige fabric strap

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Seiko Boutiques and selected retailers from June 2021 onwards
Price: US$1,200

Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “Turtle”
Ref. SPB237

Diameter: 42.7 mm
Height: 13.2 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: 6R35
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Green fabric strap, with an additional grey fabric strap

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Seiko Boutiques and selected retailers from July 2021 onwards
Price: US$1,300


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