Tudor, ‘The People’s Rolex’, Revives A Very Underrated Watch

Tudor’s been on somewhat of a winning streak lately.

Rolex’s sister brand has always been popular, but in recent years it’s become a total darling of the watch world while – carving out a reputation for extraordinary quality at a reasonable price differentiating its offerings from Rolex and developing a much more individual identity as a brand .

Their latest release, however, is a bit of a conundrum – but not in a bad way. Unveiled at Watches & Wonders 2022, the Tudor Black Bay Pro is at once both the perfect expression of how independent Tudor has become while also how Rolex’s influence is ultimately a very positive thing for the brand.

The Tudor Black Bay Pro (ref. 79470) is a GMT watch rendition of Tudor’s popular dive watch, but with a bit of a difference. Of course, Tudor already has a Black Bay GMT – indeed, a new two-tone stainless steel and gold Black Bay GMT was also part of Tudor’s W&W ’22 releases – but the Black Bay Pro is a different beast to Tudor’s existing GMT watches.

The Tudor Black Bay Pro and its three different strap options: a riveted steel bracelet, a hybrid rubber/textile strap and a NATO-style jacquard fabric strap. Image: Tudor

Essentially, the Black Bay Pro is a bit of a revival of the original Rolex Explorer II (ref. 1655), which was produced from 1971 to 1985. While unpopular during its heyday, the ref. 1655 has since developed a cult following among collectors. It’s definitely underrated and very good to see it return in Tudor guise, as it were.

The current Rolex Explorer II design (ref. 226570), which was actually introduced at W&W ’21, features arrows separating hour markers on its bezel instead of straight lines and has a 42mm case. In comparison, the original ref. 1655 – and the Black Bay Pro – is 39mm in diameter, has those aforementioned lines plus a much flatter, more retro-looking bezel, too.

This also makes the Black Bay Pro smaller than most other Black Bay models, the majority of which have case sizes of 41mm or above. Also unlike other Black Bay models, the Black Bay Pro has a fixed bezel.

The Black Bay Pro takes design codes from the ref. 1655 and melds them with the aesthetic of the incredibly popular Black Bay line: namely the use of ‘snowflake’ hands for the hour, seconds and GMT hands. It’s also twice as water-resistant as an Explorer II, thanks to its dive watch lineage – although it’s worth pointing out that it’s not really a dive watch, but rather an “adventurer’s watch”.

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It’s a very sporty GMT. Image: Tudor

We think the Black Bay Pro is absolutely beautiful and is actually a better-looking watch than the ref. 1655 it pays homage to. Speaking of homage, we love the choice of yellow for the GMT hand, too – a nod to the recently discontinued Tudor North Flag, perhaps?

The Black Bay Pro doesn’t just look good, either: it’s got a rather impressive new in-house movement. The cool thing about its MT5652 caliber is that the date display is coupled with the local time hand so that when setting the time and passing midnight in retrograde, it instantly jumps to the previous day.

This is a very cool and practical complication that really elevates the Black Bay Pro as a GMT watch – and serves as a testament to how independent and advanced Tudor’s in-house movements have become. Oh yeah, and it’s water-resistant to 200m and has a hefty 70-hour power reserve, so it’s totally weekend-proof.

Honestly, we could spend all day gushing about the Tudor Black Bay Pro. It’s a great addition to the already superb Black Bay family and one of the real highlights of W&W ’22. It could even give the new Rolex GMT-Master II a run for its money… The people’s GMT-Master, perhaps?

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