Earlier today, Tudor announced all of their novelties for Watches & Wonders 2023. And, among everything from an opaline-dial BB GMT to a METAS-certified steel Black Bay 41, the brand also took the wraps off of a new expression of the Black Bay format – the 54.
Intended as a sort of modern take on Tudor’s first dive watch (the reference 7922 of, you guessed it, the year 1954), the new Black By 54 (which goes by reference 79000) follows the downsizing pattern we’ve seen applied to the Black Bay line over the past few years, going from 41mm to 39 in the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, and now 37mm for the Tudor Black Bay 54 .
As I said in my original Intro, this will undoubtedly bring a new balance to the Black Bay line and offer specific appeal to those who either prefer a genuinely smaller dive watch or those who want a modern and robust Tudor that still feels like vintage.
Well, now I’ve had the chance to wear one for the better part of half an hour and I think Tudor made a great call in giving a smaller Black Bay the green light. The combination of minor detail tweaks (like the new crown and more sterile bezel, along with the very thin case profile) make for a lovely-wearing watch. It captures the proven appeal of the Fifty-Eight, but does so in a way that feels more willful in both its vintage inspiration and more intentional in the push for a smaller wrist presence. Despite measuring 37 x 11.24 x 46mm, the Black Bay 54 has 200 meters of water resistance. And though such dimensions are not so diminutive as to make the listed water resistance especially difficult, sub-38mm dive watches do not commonly offer 200 meters of water resistance. I’m not entirely sure why, but once you start to get on the smaller side of the dive watch realm (which is likely centered around 41 to 42mm), some of the specs start to diminish, with passive crowns, less water resistance, and the like.
Not here. With the Tudor, you get an actually small, vintage-like dive watch that still offers good water resistance, a luminous pip at 12 on the bezel, and a smooth 60-click bezel. After all, if you’re buying a Black Bay, even a small one, you want a proper diver watch. Additionally, you have the option of a steel bracelet, which tapers from 20mm at the lugs to 18mm at the clasp, or a black rubber that shares a similar taper en route to its fold-over steel safety clasp. Also of note, and value to my eyes, both the bracelet and the rubber strap feature clasps with Tudor’s T-Fit toolless micro-adjustment. I think it’s great that Tudor is including this on more of their bracelets – and even better that it’s now available on the available rubber strap.
For those asking, there is no official comment as to whether or not any of the Tudor Black Bay 54 hardware is interchangeable with other Black Bay models. Regardless, I really like T-Fit and it makes a lot of sense for a rubber strap that uses a fold-over clasp. Aside from the design elements I mentioned in the introduction to the 54, the main takeaway that I found from having it on my wrist is that it feels very much like a smaller Fifty-Eight, but that’s only partially because of the 37mm case. The rest comes down to thickness and, and the manner in which the 54’s various layers stack up on your wrist.
At 11.24mm thick, it’s already a slim watch, but even compared to my Pelagos 39 (which is only 11.8mm thick), the two wear very differently and the 54 both looks and feels much thinner. This is primarily due to how much of the thickness is tied to the crystal and bezel edge rather than in the bulk of the main case structure. The central case element is both quite thin and shaped to keep the lugs flat against your wrist. This gives the watch a very low profile that I didn’t expect, and one that made my Pelagos feel almost thick by comparison. It’s a nice bit of ergonomic consideration that ensures that the Black Bay 54 will likely suit a wide variety of wrists (also thanks to the 46mm lug-to-lug) while also wearing in a manner similar to an actual vintage sports watch.
The Tudor Black Bay 54 is offered only in no-date with a black/gilt-effect dial. Beneath that dial, we find Tudor’s manufacture MT5400 movement, which is COSC certified, ticks at 4 Hz, and has 70 hours of power reserve. Also seen in other no-date Tudor divers like the Pelagos 39 and the Black Bay 925, the MT5400 is produced under Tudor by Kenissi in a new Le Locle-based manufacture that is also where Tudor’s watches, including the new Black Bay 54, are assembled. I got a chance to tour the new facility just before Watches & Wonders and was very impressed by the experience. Expect a full report soon enough.
The Tudor Black Bay 54 will retail for $3,850 on the steel bracelet or $3,625 on the rubber strap. With such a small delta between the two prices, I’d be keen to see what the asking price would be if I got the steel and added the rubber, too. Both work well and as much as I’m often a fan of 3rd party rubber straps, the T-Fit clasp and the fitted end links are both welcome refinements over more conventional aftermarket options. At the price point, the Tudor Black Bay 54 remains a premium offering, similar to that of the other steel Black Bay models, but in a space that has fewer options in terms of dive watches with equal proportions and equal specs. It’s not the only option on the market, but I’d wager that after today – if you’re in the market for a smaller dive watch – it’s almost certainly on your list (or should be).
With the Tudor Black Bay 54, Tudor has managed a cool trick. They’ve expanded their scope by shrinking the Black Bay and creating one of the most appealing vintage-inspired dive watches I’ve seen so far in 2023.