Tudor vs Oris: Has the king of the sub £3,000 diving watches just been knocked off the throne?
For many years now, the king of sub £3,000 diving watches has been the Tudor Black Bay. Others have come close, but the unavoidable desirability, fantastic execution of a clean aesthetic and its impressive quality has meant that Tudor has dominated for years.
But now a darling of the diving watch world has recently received quite the upgrade, challenging the reigning king in a huge way.
The Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 - why now?
So why have we waited until now to put Oris Aquis against the Tudor Black Bay? Well, the most obvious reason is the increase in price tag for the Aquis as it's now £2,700 versus the Black Bay 41 which is £2,840. This reflects a £1,100 price increase on the previous Aquis models. The reason? The Oris is now powered by the in house Calibre 400 movement which boasts some seriously impressive stats.
To be honest this isn’t the first time we’ve thought of making the Aquis vs Black Bay comparison. However previously with such core differences as price point and the movements used, the outcome was always going to be rooted in some financial logic. But now things are different, Oris is now commanding Tudor levels of dosh which begs the question:
Has the underdog just become the top dog?
The Defending Champion - The Tudor Black Bay Diver 41
Let's start with the one many of us are aware of and know its strengths, the Tudor Black Bay. This release from Tudor marked a huge turning point for the brand as it offered the desirable looks previously only found with vintage diving watches, in an obtainable and presentable modern package. Dimensions are universally appealing at 41mm wide, 14.8mm thick and a lug width of 22mm.
This version of the Black Bay comes with the MT5602 COSC movement which provides 70 hours of power reserve, vibrating at 28,800 vph with a silicon balance spring. A welcomed and significant movement upgrade when compared to other standard Swiss options. Tudor was first created to be the sister brand to Rolex and even today releases from each manufacturer cross-pollinate. It’s impossible to put a value on this connection Tudor has, but that shared DNA is huge for them and arguably is one of the reasons why it holds the number 1 spot.
Positives and negatives on the Tudor Black Bay Diver 41?
One aspect that is consistent throughout all of the Black Bay range is balance, in every sense of the word. From styling to price point, brand awareness and quality you really do get a little bit of everything with this watch.
The details and construction are also fantastic. No clumsy date windows, no unnecessary modernisation, just exactly what people are looking for with no compromise. The movement is tough and continues to tick for over double a standard option resulting in the watch still ticking away after a weekend off the wrist. Oh and that bezel. There is no doubt it still remains one of the easiest and most enjoyable to use.
The standard 22mm lugs on this watch also mean you have a huge amount of options when it comes to changing the lookup with a new strap. Be sure to click here to see more of our strap suggestion content for the Tudor Black Bay.
Possibly Tudor’s biggest positive is with its connection to Rolex. That assumed value it brings means it's incredibly hard not to default to picking up a Black Bay. Many say the watch is incredibly close to a Submariner and in some cases is actually a better option to go for (partially down to the fact you can actually walk into an AD and find them available…)
But the watch is not without its faults. Specifically, the 14.8mm thickness comes to mind as it most certainly doesn't go unnoticed on the wrist. If we’re being totally honest as well, you could argue that the black dial of the watch is a little plain and safe with the snowflake hand adding the only sense of unique style. The amount of praise it has received over the years also means the model has flooded the market. Chances are if you’re catching the tube in London, you won't be more than a few metres away from another Black Bay owner.
Yes, the Tudor Black Bay with its desirable history, fantastic execution and solid movement make it a deserving champion. Three years later, it is still clear as day as to why this is the top pick for sub £3,000 diving watches. But is there a better option?
- Its timeless, classic style helps maintain its versatility
- The bezel is unbelievably impressive
- Tudor’s connection to Rolex provides huge value and is difficult to resist
- In its own right, the Black Bay is a modern-day icon and will always be desirable
- It looks fantastic on all manner of watch straps be it rubber straps, leather straps or Military style straps
- The case is a little plain, plus it sits tall on the wrist at 14.8mm thick
- If you want something a little more unique this isn’t it
- The movement is started to be left behind by recent developments from other brands
The Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 - The new kid on the block
Let's move on to the rising star in the 2-3k price point, the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400. Up until recently, the Oris Aquis was commonly available with a Sellita powered movement and a price tag of around £1,600. It's always had a unique aesthetic that has won the hearts of many collectors. But as of 2020, the Aquis Date was upgraded and made available with their new in house movement, Calibre 400
This new movement is no joke as it offers features that actually mean something to the wearer with tangible, noticeable overhauling. A double-barrel set up provides 5 days of power reserve, further anti-magnetic properties and finally a 10-year service timeframe with the same warranty window.
Like we said, not just impressive stats on paper but actually useful additions and expectations that make wearing a mechanical watch still practical. It is also within COSC (although not officially COSC certified).
At 43.5mm wide and with a 50mm lug to lug, the watch is far from small on paper though. On the other hand with a 13.4mm thickness, it's bang on the money for a modern diving watch, especially one with a movement like the Calibre 400.
Positives and negatives of the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400?
The first most noticeable difference between the watches is just how much more eye-catching and appealing the Aquis is. We’re not talking about the fact this is blue, but rather how Oris has paid attention to making the details of the watch as impressive as possible.
On or off the wrist this is a beautiful watch to look at thanks to its surprisingly use of polishing on the strap, its dazzling deep sunburst dial, the ceramic bezel and the multi faceted hour markers. You don’t need to be deep into horology to know that this is an attractive watch. Proportions aside, the steel case of the Aquis is simply gorgeous with depth and bold design choices which work so well.
Oris has managed to create something that is visually impactful via its broad crown guards and chunky transition to the stainless steel bracelet at the same time as showing restraint and they have avoided going overboard. Remember this watch is only just over 13mm in thickness. Sure, that 43.5mm width sounds a lot on paper, but slip the watch on and secure that deployment buckle and it almost reduces down to the Black Bay’s 41mm size. It might be reassuring to hear that the difference in case size is far more noticeable off the wrist than on. Chances are if you’re considering a 41mm Black Bay, you’ll be able to pull off the 43.5mm Aquis. For someone like myself who is normally obsessed with proportions, I think that is a testament to Oris’s case design.
As you might expect, the new Calibre 400 movement has been a dream to wear and look at via its display caseback. Thanks to those double barrels I enjoyed 5 blissful days without worrying about whether the watch would still be telling the right time by the morning, all while not compromising on vibrations per hour. Perhaps more importantly, I didn't have to worry about leaving this watch next to magnets. The iPad keyboard case, iPhone 12 and my Airpods are always within a few metres of me and all feature magnets that (to a degree that) could impact a mechanical movement. None of these items cause any unwanted stress for the Calibre 400, peace of mind was achieved.
There are a few quirks with this watch though with the first being the strap situation. Rather than standard straight lugs, the Aquis has larger fixed lugs and uses the centre link gap to attach the strap. This was upgraded further with this new version of the Aquis as it now has a quick change system involving a clasp that wraps around a fixed bar meaning you don’t need any tools to change the strap, it takes a matter of seconds. The result is neat, clever and actually a positive for the watch. However, this unique fitting will mean you’re limited by default to official Oris straps only.
This is an attention-grabbing watch to wear, there is a noticeable increase in polished surfaces when compared to the Tudor which simply won’t appeal to everyone. It’s far from understated which in turn means it drops a few points versatility wise when compared directly to the Tudor Black Bay.
- It has a refreshingly unique look on the wrist
- 5 days of power reserve, improved anti-magnetic properties and a longer service interval of 10 years makes the Calibre 400 one of the best movement available at this price point
- The case, bracelet and dial details are all finished to a fantastic high level
- A date at 6 o’clock means you enjoy improved usability with no impact on symmetry
- The quick-adjust for the bracelet means strap changes can be made in a matter of seconds, without any tools
- Although changing the strap is quick and easy, by design you are limited to just Oris straps
- The strong use of polished surfaces might not appeal to everyone as this watch is far from understated
- It’s not as versatile as the Tudor Black Bay
So, which watch should you go for?
These are two of the most capable, usable watches available for mid £2,000 today. Both feel like they can withstand anything life can throw at them and in their own right, look the part. Tudor comes with an obvious lineage of perceived value thanks to its well-known brand name and connection to its bigger brother. In recent years, Tudor has effectively moved away from the shadows of Rolex, but still retaining the desirability of the relationship. For some time now the Aquis has been regarded as one of the best value propositions for this price point. With the watch only going from strength to strength, it's starting to feel like the Oris Aquis with the Calibre 400 movement is now at a price point it deserves to sit at.
A lot of the final decision making (in fact, I'd say about 90% of it) will be down to personal preference so it’s difficult to categorically tell you which one you should add to your watch collection. Tudor offers historical importance, versatility and a slither of icon status, whereas the Oris offers modern watchmaking, increased unique style and a complete, arguably more interesting package. It's up to you to decide which of those features speaks to you more and how you want to use a watch such as this.
In terms of watchmaking, Oris has leapfrogged Tudor offering a far better power reserve, longer service intervals and more practical features in a thinner case. it's a glimpse into the future of how watchmaking and the artistic appeal can still retain their usable purpose without becoming a relic.
From top to bottom, the Aquis Calibre 400 is coherence in its purest form. The Tudor Black Bay is the safe, obvious choice and there is nothing wrong with that. But the Oris tells the world that although you can afford a Tudor you went for something different.
Tudor and Rolex fanboys look away, as I think we might have a new #1…
We’d like to thank Oris for sending the Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 in on loan. The Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 is now available for £2,700. To find out more and to order your very own be sure to head over to oris.ch.
The Tudor Black Bay Diver 41 is now available for £2,840. To find out more be sure to head over to tudorwatch.com.
Should we compare more watches from Tudor and Oris in the future? Maybe the Oris Diver 65 vs the Tudor Black Bay 58? Let us know in the comments below!