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Tudor - One Year, One Watch

Tudor One Year, One Watch

2012 : Black Bay*


In 1987, the book The Mayan factor raised the prospect of the world ending in December 2012. A 2001 bestseller, The Mayan Prophecy, popularised the same idea more widely, and in 2009, Roland Emmerich made it into a film, 2012 – with special effects that made the catastrophe utterly believable. And yet here we are in 2012, with planet Earth apparently still unbroken. However, the word chosen to describe this year owes its inspiration less to the silver screen than to one of the great publishing successes of 2012: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Topping the New York Times bestseller list, the work tells the true story of Olympic champion and hero Louis Zamperini, who survived the horrors of the Second World War. Not everything survived in 2012, though.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica – one of the oldest books still in publication – announced that it would no longer publish printed editions, focusing instead on an online version. At the other end of the scale, Twitter was anything but an encyclopaedia, with its Tweets restricted to 140 characters. In 2012, the brand changed its logo to a little tweeting bird – and in the ultimate irony, the new definition of the word ‘tweet’ entered the dictionary.

One Year, One Watch

Black Bay © Tudor

Not all of this had much ‘swag’ – another word trending in 2012 to mean ‘cool’. Unlike Barack Obama, described as ‘swagalicious’ by his wife Michelle, and elected President of the United States for a second term in November of that year. Another buzzword of 2012 was ‘cougar’, which made its way into the Petit Robert dictionary – not as a description of the North American big cat, but of an “older woman who seeks sexual relationships with much younger men”. So now that it’s time to choose a watch for 2012, which timepiece is a bit of a cougar, unbreakable and has a drop of royal blood in its veins, along with swag? I can think of only one: the Tudor Black Bay.

Why Tudor?

The sister brand to Rolex was born in 1926, positioned as a more affordable alternative to its big brother launched by the same Hans Wilsdorf 18 years earlier. From the outset, the brand made a big thing out of reliability, testing its watches in real-life situations. Very soon it was to use Rolex cases and straps, combined with movements from other Manufactures. Its exceptional valuefor- money image grew over the years, leading it to become the supplier to many armed forces, including the French Navy, the US Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy. Today, its legendary MNs (short for Marine Nationale) are among the most sought-after vintage military watches.

During the 1990s, the brand drifted off to sleep on a bed of roses (the former Tudor logo), just like an enchanted Princess (one of the Tudor models). Almost 20 years went by before the Geneva-based Sleeping Beauty awoke. In 2012, Tudor launched the Tudor Black Bay – a modern version of its legendary diving watches. The Queen was dead; long live the Queen!

One Year, One Watch

Black Bay © Tudor

The Tudor Black Bay – A Sexy Cougar

At Baselworld 2012, Tudor dared to turn the spotlight on a diving watch that drew inspiration from its 58-year-old predecessor, the 7922 Submariner. ‘Dared’ is the right word here: people lost no time in pitting the piece against the invincible Rolex Submariner; but the Tudor lost nothing by the comparison. The Black Bay was indeed a delightful vintage cocktail: it included the snowflake hands from 1969 and the ‘large crown’ that first made its appearance on diver’s watches in the Sixties, while the absence of crown protector on the case was a tribute to the brand’s first diving watches. The 2012 model came with a burgundy bezel and old-school roseshaped logo. Following its huge success, the collection soon expanded to include a blue-bezel version, then the ultra-rare version with a black bezel and ETA movement. When this iteration was replaced a few months later by a model with a Manufacture caliber, the Black Bay Black ETA is said to have become the rarest Tudor ever produced.

The Take from The Devil’s Advocate

Resurrections bring back bad memories for him, so he’s going to ignore this diver’s watch… The fact is that many hail the Tudor Black Bay as one of the greatest successes of recent years. It’s difficult to find fault with it. Its somewhat imposing dimensions were revised in 2018, with the Black Bay 58. In fact, there’s just one thing that puzzles me: its strange name. Perhaps it’s all part of the discreet, refined charm of this timepiece.

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

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