The Baselworld 2018 release from Tudor took many of the headlines at the time, but is it as good as it looks on paper?
Just as I thought my time with the Black Bay range was over for the immediate future, I came back to my desk here at WatchGecko HQ to find the new Tudor Black Bay GMT M79830RB-0001 (BB GMT) waiting for me. One of many Tudor releases from this year’s Baselworld, the BB GMT on the surface offers an incredibly well built, in-house GMT watch from an increasingly reputable brand at a very accessible price point.
It was released at the same time as another steel, Pepsi bezeled GMT (ahem, Rolex) where the price starts well over double the Tudor and the second-hand prices are selling for even double that; Tudor’s offering on the surface looks like a fantastic option. However, after spending some hands-on time with the watch, is it really as good as it looks on paper? Are stats everything?
Let’s start with what we already know…
For the BB GMT, Tudor has avoided going down the path of the smaller BB58 and stuck with their full-size, standard Black Bay 41mm case. As I have mentioned previously, I (among many others) find the 41mm size to be a remarkable and wearable, modern size. Despite this, having the standard Black Bay case does mean that the one pitfall is still present, the thickness of 14.5mm. Considering this Black Bay has a GMT function, it is hard to knock points off Tudor here.
It’s not like Tudor is unaware of the thickness, they have taken steps with this 2018 case to try and counter the size, such as some slight chamfering to the lower sides of the case which in practice, does actually help the watch wear thinner.
The Black Bay Diver (top) and new Black Bay GMT (bottom) – notice the subtle chamfering on the bottom of the BB GMT case, making it wear a touch thinner. (You can also see the changes to the crown here, with the newer GMT going for the embossed Tudor rose)
The GMT comes fitted on their oyster style metal strap which has the old school rivet design on the edge of each link. I love these bracelet designs as they combine the best of modern and vintage together into a very wearable strap. The bracelet feels very solid, modern and features some nice subtle polishing around the buckle. On the surface, this old-school styling might not look correct on this modern release, but its worth noting how the rivets are actually extremely slight and only noticeable when the watch is viewed at an angle.
The 22mm lug width is not a size preference of mine but it does act as a welcomed modern reminder for the piece.
An appreciated return to this new Black Bay is Tudor’s almost signature anodised aluminium bezel insert. This bezel has such a warm, soft look to it which expertly allows the BB GMT to stay true to not just the watches tool watch DNA, but also Tudor as a brand. This understated matte finish allows the bezel to shift in colour tones from royal blue and dark metallic red to an almost black and deep burgundy colour. After unboxing the BB GMT, I instantly felt the bezel reminded me of those stunning Bakelite Rolex GMT Masters from the 50’s, not a bad thing at all.
Image courtesy of BobsWatches – https://www.bobswatches.com/
The Calibre MT5652 is yet again another in-house movement from Tudor boasting a gratifying 70 hours of power reserve. For anyone like us, who regularly swaps watches out, they will be able to appreciate the nearly 3 days of power this watch can hold. In terms of functionality as a GMT, this new movement means the first position of the crown moves the hour hand independently, which can then be used to change the date as well.
Unfortunately for the Black Bay GMT, there are a few negatives I’ve picked up on during my time with the piece. I’ll get these out the way and then we can move onto some more positives…
Room for improvement?
The bezel on the Black Bay Diver reviewed recently is an incredibly buttery smooth feature of the watch. It was almost addictive to spend those few seconds turning the bezel back to 12. However, with the BB GMT and it’s 48 click bezel, it’s a completely different story. What was previously a hugely positive feature on the Black Bay Diver, is now quite a big negative for me on the GMT.
This stiff bi-directional bezel is almost the complete opposite to its diving brother. I find this a big shame, as the overall colour, size, thin line font and execution of the aluminium disc is perfect.
On the topic of features not being as well executed as it’s diving brother, I feel I have to mention the crown. Once again, it does feel like immediate history repeating itself unfortunately as when compared to the Black Bay Diver, the GMT crown doesn’t live up to the high-quality standard set. It works absolutely fine, but doesn’t feel as smooth and doesn’t provide me with that re-assuring quality detail. Most of the time, you know you’re handling a luxury watch when small, mostly un-noticeable features on watches are executed really well and to me, I feel the bezel and crown on the BB GMT does let the watch down. On the topic of the crown, you may have noticed the lack of colour on the crown tube.
Firstly, the black enamel fill we find on the Diver Black Bay is now replaced with a stamp rose design, and the surrounding tube has been dropped. This is something I wish was there as it added quite a unique design detail for Tudor. I would have liked to have seen a dark blue ring or even better, a Pepsi one?
This last point is very much a personal one. I did find while wearing the BB GMT that there was a bit of snowflake overload. As you may have gathered from my last Tudor review, I love the snowflake hand. Previously I wasn’t a fan, but the combination of the history and the unique presence it has on the dial really helps the BB range come into its own. I do however feel the seconds, hour and GMT hand all being snowflakes does feel a little too much. Maybe the GMT hand could have been more like those Bakelite GMT’s I keep getting the overall vibe from?
The subtle smaller arrow hand we can find on classic GMT models such as this 6542 – Image courtesy of BobsWatches/ https://www.bobswatches.com
Okay, now those negatives are out of the way onto the positives…
Plenty of positives
In recent years, Tudor has seemed to get the balance between small vintage design touches and modern craftsmanship perfectly right. The Black Bay Diver with its gilt coloured details on the dial, red tipped bezel, rivet bracelet and cracked leather strap option all give off a vintage vibe, but the watch remains a modern piece.
The same can be said for the Black Bay Steel range with its similar use of red and of course the Tudor BB GMT. Once again, nothing is overly ‘vintage’, it doesn’t provoke a ‘homage’ feeling but the soft anodised bezel with its matt finish in an almost burgundy and blue and thin line font used to give off a simple, minimalist, bare-bones essential feeling.
And then looking at the BB GMT as a modern watch, it suddenly makes sense. You have the larger 41mm size, solid oyster bracelet with a sharp angular buckle design. The case has been upgraded with chamfering details around the back making the watch wear a little thinner on the wrist. Conscious design details and improvements like this from Tudor only make the watch more desirable.
The BB GMT keeps its tool watch DNA with a mostly brushed case, but it still gets the modern-day appealing finishes with thin lines and sides polished throughout. The watch features a modern silver metallic gilt printing which catches the light so easily on the wrist.
Let’s just look at the bigger picture for a moment, the Tudor BB GMT offers a modern GMT timepiece powered by an extremely robust, in-house, COSC certified movement with 70 hours of power reserve, 200m water resistance with a highly desirable design (Thanks big brother, again) for less than £3,000.
The inevitable strap change
Possibly my favourite part of our reviews, strap suggestions. Initially, for the BB GMT, I stuck with what I knew from my time with the Black Bay Diver and was drawn to the Vintage Highley. Once again, an incredible strap due to its pull up leather properties, neat beige stitching throughout and almost perfect dimensions for the BB GMT.
The Dark Brown option got some good attention and on wrist time at the start of my time with the BB GMT, but I felt that our large range of straps had something more to offer to BB GMT. If you’re after a strap combo which is the most versatile and will provide you with everyday comfort, the Highley should definitely be on your shopping list.
After some time with the BB on the wrist, I wanted to change it up even more. When it comes to strap changes, I think I’m addicted to picking leather straps. So I took this opportunity to curb this addiction and I found the perfect remedy in the shape of our Premium Croc Diver. This relatively new ZULUDIVER rubber strap is the ultimate strap to go for if you’re looking to really put this new BB to the test. As soon as this strap is fitted to the watch, everything starts to make sense. The black rubber colour matches that matt dial, yet because of the croc design embossed rubber there is enough detail to not make the overall aesthetic boring or plain.
The Premium Croc Diver also comes fitted with a modern, sharp buckle that matches the BB GMT in both mixtures of finishes and size perfectly.
Finally, the red stitching, This is the final piece of the puzzle bringing the whole watch + strap combo together perfectly. Once again we find neatly, consistent stitching throughout this strap matching perfectly to the red GMT hand and burgundy bezel. This combo works so well, it’s almost impossible to imagine that this isn’t a standard strap offered by Tudor themselves.
Last but certainly not least, is my favourite strap for the BB GMT. The Blue Helmsley Leather from our Geckota range ticks almost every box there is to tick. This strap comes in at 4mm thick which is ideal for Tudor’s modern case proportions. Straight out of the WatchGecko packaging you’ll notice the blue is a lovely dark petrol colour which is a scarily close match to the BB GMT’s Pepsi bezel.
As you enjoy the strap more and more you’ll notice the blue becomes even more vibrant. Unsurprisingly we find the extremely satisfying complete stitching around the strap finished off with thicker double stitching around the lugs. A generous 4mm taper down to the polished buckle completes this (once again) almost stock Tudor look.
The overall lasting impression of the Tudor Black Bay GMT M79830RB-0001 is a relatively positive one. I do get a hint with the BB GMT that some corners may have been cut with the bezel action, crown and even the box feeling sub-par when compared to its diving companion. Was Tudor pressured and possibly rushed by Rolex to release the GMT at the same time as their own to drive hype and interest up on their own model and at the same time also increase Tudor sales? Who knows.
All we really know is Tudor has added another highly desirable model to their already popular Black Bay line that has a tried and tested winning formula.
So that brings me back to the ultimate question: ‘Is the BB GMT as good as it looks on paper?‘
Putting personal preferences aside, it’s pretty clear Tudor have done it again. Another release that punches well above its weight.
As great as this BB GMT has been to experience, there is one other Baselworld 2018 release from Tudor that has really caught my eye, any guesses which one? #BB58…