Hands On: Tudor Black Bay 54

The bestseller still full spec but now 37 mm.

Just launched at Watches & Wonders 2023, the Black Bay 54 is the latest step in the evolution of Tudor’s mainstay line of dive watches. Inspired by the brand’s first dive watch of 1954, the Black Bay 54 is clearly vintage-inspired.

But more notably, it is the most compact dive watch in the Tudor catalogue at just 37 mm in diameter, making it one of the brand’s most wearable offerings. Though scaled down in terms of size, the Black Bay 54 still possesses all of the characteristics that define Tudor watches, namely a high-spec in-house movement (with a 70-hour power reserve no less) and affordable price tag.

Initial thoughts

As I mentioned in the article introducing the watch, the BB54 is perfect for anyone wanting a wearable dive watch that pairs vintage style with corresponding vintage proportions. The minimalist approach is evident not just in the size, but also details like the bezel insert, which has been simplified to feature just five-minute markers. 

Despite the familiar vintage aesthetics and clean line that define the Black Bay, the Black Bay 54 (BB54) is compelling. For one, it catches the eye for being noticeably smaller on the wrist than its Black Bay siblings.

While it is certainly compact, maybe even small by contemporary standards, the BB54 doesn’t look diminutive on the wrist. Perhaps because of the stark, functional design and “gilt” dial, the BB54 has more presence than its 37 mm would imply.

I like the watch very much as it is, but if there was something to change, it would be the “snowflake” hands. While I know the “snowflake” hands are a Tudor signature, I prefer the “Mercedes” hour hand found on the vintage ref. 7922 that serves as inspiration for the BB54. Admittedly, the “Mercedes” hand is an impossibility for Tudor, given its association with Rolex, which uses it across its collection.

A key aspect of Tudor’s appeal is its price point, regardless of model. That holds true for the BB54. Starting at US$3,625 on a rubber strap, a little more on a matching steel bracelet, the BB54 is probably the absolute best value when it comes to a dive watch in the sub-US$5,000 category. 

Lastly, the BB54 is available with two strap options for now, a steel bracelet or rubber strap. The rivet-style steel bracelet is the easy choice in my opinion, because it gives the watch just enough heft. Though it is comfortable and lightweight, the strap leaves the BB54 looking too small.

A dive watch family

Like most of Tudor’s current offerings, the BB54 is another iteration of Tudor’s long-standing bestseller, the Black Bay, which cemented Tudor’s status as a leading brand in entry-level luxury segment. Launched back in 2012, the Black Bay marked a turning point for the brand, which hitherto languished in the shadow of Rolex.

Well-received thanks to a strong, vintage-inspired design, along with a good quality of build yet accessible price, the Black Bay has grown into a line-up of over a dozen models, most of which are crowd favourites that appeal to both beginner enthusiasts and seasoned collectors. And recognition has come from the industry too, with various Black Bay models garnering awards at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG), sometimes considered the “Oscars” of watchmaking.

The Black Bay GMT

In the past 11 years, the Black Bay line has expanded to incorporate the Black Bay GMT and the Black Bay Chrono. But alongside the addition of complications, the Black Bay has been steadily scaled down in size. In 2018, Tudor released a slimmer, sleeker version known as the Black Bay 58 (BB58).

While similar in design to its predecessors , the BB58 more closely resembled vintage Tudor dive watches with its 39 mm case (down from the 41 mm of the first-generation Black Bay). And it was the first serially produced Black Bay to sport a “gilt” dial , giving the watch a more pronounced retro flavour.

The Black Bay 58

A good size

The BB54 pays homage to the Oyster Prince Submariner ref. 7922, which holds a special place in Tudor’s history as brand’s first-ever dive watch. Launched in 1954, the ref. 7922 was supplied to the U.S. navy and Marine Nationale of France, marking the start of Tudor’s lengthy relationships with various military units around the world (recently revived with the Pelagos FXD). That history gives the BB54 a historical resonance that sets it apart from the sea of vintage-inspired dive watches that have proliferated over the past few years. 

The Oyster Prince Submariner ref. 7922

A familiar face

In terms of the dial, the BB54 is practically identical to the Black Bay 58. It has the usual Tudor dive watch layout that’s matched with “snowflake” hands and “gilt” print. The result is a high-contrast look that’s highly legible and also visually striking.

But unlike larger Black Bay models, the BB54 has a cleaner, monochromatic bezel that does away with the red marker at 12 o’clock and individual hashmarks for the minutes. It features only five-minute markings, just like the ref. 7922. The bezel design is logical since it suits the smaller diameter, which probably would have looked too crowded with the 15-minute scale found on the Black Bay 58.  

While the Black Bay 58 was already one of the most wearable dive watches, the BB54 goes a step further, making it ideal for anyone seeking a watch with old-school dimensions. Measuring 37 mm in diameter and 11.24 mm thick, the case of the BB54 is finished in typical Black Bay style with an appealing mix of polished and satin-finished surfaces.

An interesting detail that is unique to the BB54 is the vintage-stye crown. Unlike larger Black Bays that have a tubular crown with a flared, knurled top resembling a mushroom, the BB54 crown is small and flush with the case, just like that of the ref. 7922. 

The BB54 is offered with a rivet-style bracelet or a rubber strap with a steel folding clasp that’s essentially identical to the clasp found on the bracelet. Both options incorporate the brand’s proprietary “T-Fit” mechanism in the clasp that allows for micro-adjustment and a better fit on the wrist.

This thoughtful design feature has been found on Tudor’s bracelets since last year, but it is noteworthy that T-Fit is now offered with rubber straps as well. While the construction of the bracelet is unimpeachable, especially at this price point, I would have preferred a less fussy bracelet that does away with the faux rivets.

Powering the BB54 is the MT5400, the same automatic calibre found in Tudor’s other sub-40 mm dive watches, including the Pelagos 39. In-house and a COSC-certified chronometer, the MT5400 is produced in the brand’s newly opened manufacture in Le Locle.

Like Tudor’s other in-house movements, the MT5400 has excellent specs that are practically unrivalled in this price segment. It boasts a 70-hour power reserve – enough to keep running for a weekend – along with a silicon hairspring and free-sprung balance wheel, a feature often found in high-quality movements that promises more stable accuracy over time.

Concluding thoughts

The Black Bay 54 is a compelling value proposition in all respects. It combines a design original to the brand, excellent quality, competitive pricing, and heritage, making it easily one of the top choices for anyone wanting for a robust, wearable watch with vintage-inspired charm and compact dimensions.

Key facts and price

Tudor Black Bay 54
Ref. M79000N

Diameter: 37 mm
Height: 11.24 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: MT5400
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet or rubber strap

Availability: Now at Tudor boutiques and retailers
Price: Rubber strap – US$3,625; Bracelet – US$3,850 (prices exclude taxes)

For more information, visit Tudorwatch.com.


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