Given the success they’ve had in recent years, the executives at Tudor seem to have one mantra on the mind:  “We’re makin’ Black Bays!”  Sure, they have that old-school charm which seems to be lost in the era of the super case and 42mm+ offerings of many other brands, but one piece in particular is letting me pretend it’s the 1970s all over again. 

These days, given the vast amount of Rolex watches on market after the investors and “buy and hold” crowd is flooding every secondhand shop with watches, it might make sense to get that newer Explorer or Datejust you’ve had your eye on.  With all the choice, you’d be forgiven in thinking that we’re well on our way to buying the dip and enjoying a new era of Rolex accessibility.  You might very well be right in that sense, but should you buy a Sub or a Yacht-Master, are you going to wear it out and about during everyday life?  Are you really going to risk a scratch which you’ll then have to hit the forums or groups and ask how best to resolve that uncomfortable situation?

No, you’re probably not going to wear it out and about on your next hiking trip or ski weekend at Breckenridge.  The possibility of prices going up again is simply too real to risk that sort of behavior.  What, then should you do instead?  You are after all a person of adventure and exploration, so it’s only natural that you need a piece you get out there and use. 

Enter the Black Bay Pro – yes that 70s Explorer II derivative that sold out almost as fast as it was announced – is one that really lets you get into the world of what it used to be like to buy and own a Rolex.  Ads for the brand used to feature spelunkers, divers, Concorde pilots, and National Geographic photographers.  People lived their lives and didn’t give much thought to the bumps and scrapes that might befall their watch in the process.  They also weren’t shelling out the cash equivalent of a well-appointed used Camry, either.  Maybe that has something to do with it these days, and maybe not.  Either way you look at it, it was a time where you’d spend a bit of cash on your watch yet not lock it in a safe and hope for a large return on your “investment.”  The Black Bay Pro is positioned to let you enjoy that kind of life whilst not looking like a candy ass for begging for help on the Facebook groups when you get the inevitable scratch. 

Officially, these are $4,000 on the Tudor website.  Realistically, you can get it for less from your guy or a few sites that sell them new.  It’s just enough coin to drop on a watch that it’s still something to take note of and care about, yet it’s not enough to drive you up a tree if you get some scratches on the bracelet or the bezel.  Take your photos on the Serengeti, get your climbing ropes out and scale El Capitan, or lounge on the Jersey Shore after a few slices of pizza.  You won’t worry that much about what’s going on with your watch like you would if you’d shelled out $18,000 for a GMT Master II. 

If you look at the old advertisements Rolex has made in the 1970s about these types of watches and the people they chose to highlight the “everyday” use of these timepieces, you see a common theme:  Outdoorsy activities where people were living each day to the fullest.  Even venturing beyond the Explorer II, you’ll see the Concorde pilot-based GMT Master, the cave diving Sea Dweller, racecar drivers and their Datejusts, and even skiers taking their Explorers to the mountain.  If these ads are to be believed, these are the people who best represent the brand and the way of live that Rolex was doing its best to convey to the watch-buying public.  There are many folks in our watch collecting hobby who look at these vintage ads and get nostalgic about the way these watches were used and how the ads really seemed to show that the coolest and best folks bought Rolex watches and used them to their full potential.  These waxing poetic folks point to the whining and crying of today’s buyer:  a single scratch on a bracelet clasp or a case nick are instant Red Alerts to the modern Rolexer.  A cursory look at the forums or groups can confirm this and many folks wonder how we got to this point from such a rough and tumble past.  Rose-colored glasses sure are prevalent these days, so it’s not difficult to see why the yearning for the past is so popular. 

And, if you look at what the Black Bay Pro brings to the table, you can easily see why it’s our choice for cosplaying the 1970s all over again.  The clasp is a wonderful take on a safe and secure Rolex design that’s made its way down to the Tudor line.  First seen on the bronze offerings, it’s great to see it make an appearance on this fantastic watch.  You get the usual flip-lock system that helps ensure your clasp won’t pop open unexpectedly.  The bracelet itself is a look back at the old, riveted ones of yore.  It’s a great touch today since we’re all about embracing the past designs that we wish were still available.  With this watch, you can have that riveted bracelet aesthetic which tapers and still have the modern convenience of a screw system. 

The real star of this show is the dial and bezel combination.  The obvious throwback comes from the color combination:  Black dial, typical Tudor indices, and the faded-orange GMT hand.  This is the most obvious way Tudor has borrowed from the older-brother of fifty years ago and, to be real, it works.  The Black Bay series overall has proven to be both popular and profitable and this is just another take on that formula that allows those of us who wish we could own a 70s Explorer II to have a piece of that design aesthetic.  This dial nails it with great contrast and easy legibility, while the fixed bezel in steel adds to that utilitarian look.  After all, our premise here is that you can buy this watch, wear it for decades, and still enjoy it without all the worry and that bezel choice Tudor has made allows for that to happen.  You aren’t worried about ceramic cracking or shattering, nor are you worried about aluminum fading or bending from a knock on a doorknob.  If you’re a fan of the snowflake look which Tudor has employed for decades, this take on an Explorer II should be right up your alley.

For me, the addition of a date window is a huge win.  On a few of the watches I’ve owned that lacked a date function, I found it hard to fully fall in love.  Of course, it’s easy enough to remember what day it is or check your phone but having the ability to simply glance at a watch I love looking at already and seeing the date is a plus I’ve never grown out of.  I know Tudor has had some issues with their date mechanism in the past, but with this new METAS certified movement, the MT5652, they seem to have worked the bugs out.  It’s in a spot that’s close to the edge of the dial, so it doesn’t take away from the dial design in a way other widescreen dial windows might.  At 39mm, it should fit many wrists of enthusiasts and not feel like a hockey puck whenever you wear it with a suit or with your Canada Goose parka. 

If heritage really is important for the watches we wear today, then surely this is a nice way to relive a moment in time where things seemed to be a bit less complicated as far as wearing watches was concerned.  Whether you admit to being a bit of a cosplayer or think it’s not really what you’d label it when you dive into the retro or vintage world with an aim to capture the essence and the mindset, the Tudor Black Bay Pro is a great way to get into something that’s still worth the save and yet isn’t prohibitively expensive.  A little peace of mind goes a long way in these days of market upheavals, and one would be hard-pressed to get peace of mind when one decides to daily a Rolex.  I’ve said time and time again that one of the real flexes these days is a singular watch you buy and wear every day while you experience life’s incredible moments.  After all, many of the watches passed down to us from our parents or elders carry with them that character and intrinsic value of accompanying our loved ones.  This watch offers you a chance to do just that:  buy it, wear it, love it, and pass it down when the time comes…you know, just like they would have wanted in the 1970s. 

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