The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ref 79030N made its debut in 2018. It launched at Baselworld alongside the Tudor Heritage Black Bay GMT Ref M79830RB. The GMT generated more buzz for several reasons. Not least of which was the Rolex tie-up. But it wasn’t long before Tudor enthusiasts were singing the praises of the Fifty-Eight. In a short time it has become a very popular watch. Some even say it’s the best Black Bay model yet. But is it really that good? I could save you some time and say yes. Yes, it is. Instead, I’ll let you read on and decide for yourself.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Tudor Black Bay Collection
The Black Bay collection launched in 2012. It has since become Tudor’s best-selling range and will likely continue to be. The style of the watches can best be characterised as ‘modern vintage’. Granted, this sounds like an oxymoron. How can something be new and old at the same time? Well, Tudor has somehow managed to do it. Creating a contemporary dive watch with a very old-school aesthetic.
To achieve this, Tudor turned to its archives. In the early 1950s, mechanical dive watches were starting to take off. Blancpain launched the Fifty Fathoms in 1953. Followed shortly thereafter by the Rolex Submariner. In 1954, the first Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner came to market. Ref 7922. It established the dial layout and basic bezel design that would define the Tudor Submariner range.
Many of these key features are now found on the Black Bay. These include the black dial, chosen for legibility underwater. The arrangement of the luminescent index markers. Meaning an extra-large triangle at 12 o’clock and circular hour markers interspersed with rectangles at the 3, 6 and 9 positions. The minute track around the periphery boarded by a complete circle. And the coin-edge, rotating bezel with 60-minute counter.
The next source of influence is the “Big Crown” ref 7924. It came out in 1958. As the name suggests, it is known for its oversized, unprotected crown. A key feature adopted on all modern Black Bays. It was also the first Tudor Submariner to be waterproof to 200m.
To achieve this, the 37mm Submariner case was made thicker. And equipped, of course, with a larger screw-down crown. It also featured a new Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal. It was thicker and dome-shaped. This meant better resistance to water pressure. Today a domed sapphire crystal is standard on all Black Bays. (With the exception of the Tudor Black Bay 32/ 36/ 41 range).
The ref 7924 also serves as the primary source of inspiration for the Black Bay Fifty-Eight. But more on that in a minute.
The remaining features for the Black Bay come from the 1969 references, 7016 and 7021. Most notably the square-shaped hands known by collectors as “snowflakes”. And the shield logo, which replaced the Tudor rose.
Amalgamating this many different references was always going to be risky. But a clever eye for design and the careful use of restraint has made the Black Bay one of the most popular modern dive watches on the market. For some though, it’s a little bit too big. That’s where the Fifty-Eight comes in.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Retro-inspired watches are big business at the moment. Not all models are a success though. Some come across as more authentic than others. As a result, they tend to resonate more strongly with audiences. The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight falls decidedly into this latter category. It’s so authentic it almost hurts.
As previously mentioned, the Fifty-Eight is inspired by the “Big Crown” ref 7924. The name refers to the year in which the original was made. As with the other models in the Black Bay collection though, it’s an amalgam. Not a direct recreation of a single model. Like say the Seiko Prospex SLA033. This means it borrows design cues from several different references.
At 39mm, the steel case is larger than the 37mm original. But smaller than the standard 41mm Black Bay. It’s also noticeably slimmer, measuring a svelte 11.9mm. To keep everything in proportion the lug width has been reduced to 20mm. All this works to create a very wearable, very attractive dive watch.
The black dial is identical to the standard Black Bay models and features a gilt finish. Gilt dials were popular in the 1950’s. The term generally means that all the markings on the dial are coated in gold. Although sometimes a single line may be left in white.
The ref 7924 had a gilt dial. And so, the Fifty-Eight has pink gold-plated hands, indices and inscriptions. Tudor has also extended this Midas touch to the minute track of the black and steel bezel. It rotates unidirectionally of course and features a red triangle at 12 o’clock. A trademark of vintage Tudor dive watches.
Another key difference is the hands. The original features a Mercedes-style hour-hand, akin to that of the Rolex Sea-Dweller. The Fifty-Eight though uses Snowflake hands. This makes sense as it is consistent with the rest of the Black Bay collection.
The crown is oversized (obviously) and adorned with the vintage rose. Unlike other models, the tube next to the crown has been left uncoated. This doesn’t make any difference functionally. It just adds to the utilitarian look of the Fifty-Eight.
Inside is the manufacture calibre MT5402. It’s a rework of the in-house MT5602 movement found in the regular Black Bay models. As such, it shares all the same specifications of the larger 41mm edition. That means it’s COSC-certified as a chronometer. Is equipped with a silicon hairspring. And offers a useful 70h power reserve. It’s now smaller though, at 26mm in diameter and 4.99mm in height. In keeping with the vintage theme, there is no date display. Some people love this. Others not so much. Personally, I prefer the clean looking dial.
Price And Availability
The Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ref 79030N is competitively priced at GBP 2,600. So much so that they are hard to find at retailers. Even on the secondary market they are uncommon. Which means they command a small premium.
Why Is It So Good?
The Fifty-Eight ticks a lot of the boxes for dive watch enthusiasts. It’s water resistant to 200m. The 39mm case is a great size and not bulky on the wrist. It has subtle vintage appeal without being too overt. And it has a manufacture movement. Not to mention it’s part of one of most popular modern dive watch collections. Bar none.
The only thing Tudor seems to have got wrong with the Fifty-Eight is not doing more. Many fans were expecting new iterations at this year’s Baselworld. Instead they got the Black Bay P01. As they say though, there’s always next year.
Technical Specifications: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Ref 79030N
- Case: 39mm x 11.9mm height – stainless steel case, brushed and polished – domed sapphire crystal on the dial side – screwed steel back – screw-down winding crown – 200m water- resistance
- Dial: domed matte black dial with rose gold-plated applied indices and hands – uni-directional diving bezel in steel with 60-minute track printed on an aluminium insert with pink gilded markings and numerals.
- Movement: calibre MT5402, in-house, COSC-certified – self-winding – 26mm diameter x 4.99mm height – 27 jewels – 4Hz frequency – hours, minutes, seconds.
- Bracelet: satin-finished steel riveted 3-link bracelet.
- Price: GBP 2,600.