Deep dive: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition

Tudor has released a bronze diving watch designed to age beautifully

Watches & Jewellery 8 Sep 2021

A new divers’ watch from Tudor has been added to its long line of divers’ classics – this new iteration is made using an aluminium bronze alloy, which not only gives it a striking look when new, but also means that it will change in appearance as it ages. Like a cherished pair of jeans or leather jacket, this timepiece will reflect its owner’s life journey by developing a unique patina. But while Tudor has made bronze watches before, this one is the first that also comes with a matching bronze bracelet. Featuring rivets, this is based on the firm’s metal bracelets of the ’50s and ’60s.

Indeed, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition (so called because it is available exclusively at Tudor boutiques) has a look that intentionally channels the spirit of the firm’s famous diving watches of the past. The first was launched in 1954 and was waterproof to 100 metres, and the new watch, with its 39mm bronze case, echoes the models from the second half of the 1950s in its proportions, particularly the famous “Big Crown” of ’58, the first Tudor waterproof to 200 metres.

Distinguished by their tough, reliable construction, and accuracy – so crucial when being used underwater – these watches from the mid 20th century set the tone for Tudor’s future diving watches, which have been instrumental in garnering this Swiss company a formidable reputation for making “tool” watches at a great price.

It’s now well known that Tudor is a sibling watchmaker to Rolex, created by that famous brand’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, in 1926, and named to express his Anglophile enthusiasm. Wilsdorf ’s vision for an affordable, functional, well-designed watch of great quality and robustness has seen Tudor diving watches used by some of the world’s navies. For several decades this included the French navy, which was supplied the Swiss watches without bracelets and so fitted its own.

Tudor ambassador David Beckham; the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition

One of these, now in the brand archive, is made of elastic recovered from a French rescue parachute, and this, with its central yellow thread, is the inspiration for the woven jacquard strap that comes as an added extra with the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition. It is made by Tudor’s regular supplier of these, Julien Faure, a 150-year old family company, which weaves the material straps in France on 19th-century jacquard looms in the St-Etienne region. You can swap between the bronze bracelet and the fabric strap easily, without the use of tools.

The Black Bay line from Tudor has become its hallmark, with a dial inspired by its historical divers’ watches, the characteristic angular “Snowflake” hands that were introduced by the brand in 1969 (today with grade-A Swiss phosphorescent Super-LumiNova® coating), and an unprotected crown and distinctive holes in the bars that pass through the horns, both features typical of the first generations of Tudor divers’ watches.

But it is the satin-brushed bronze of the case and bracelet that is the standout feature of the new timepiece, a fond aesthetic nod to the bronze used on old vessels and deep-sea diving equipment. This is what Tudor calls a “living” metal, a high-performance aluminium bronze alloy that is employed in naval engineering for parts that are submerged and need strong resistance to corrosion – propellers, for example.

This distinctive metal, coupled with a domed dial in matt “brown- bronze”, shaded concentrically from exterior to centre, and bezel, hands and hour markers with matching gold accents, gives the new Black Bay design a warm, pleasingly rugged retro look.

But inside, the house’s Manufacture Calibre MT5400 is certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) and has an impressive 70-hour power reserve. So though the impression might be old-school, the tech is anything but.

The Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze Boutique Edition with additional fabric strap, £3,390, available exclusively at Tudor boutiques worldwide;