The Tudor Black Bay P01 Ref M70150-0001 made its debut at Baselworld 2019. Coming completely out of left field, the feedback so far has been mixed. Those who’ve seen the watch in person praise its build quality. It looks nicer and is much more comfortable on the wrist than the photos might suggest. Others have been less impressed. Particularly those who thought Tudor would expand the popular Black Bay Fifty-Eight collection. Or introduce a new Submariner as they seemed to hint at on social media. These critics say the P01 is a missed opportunity. A watch that doesn’t make sense in the context of what the brand has been doing these past few years. And let’s not even get started on the Seiko SKX007 comparisons. Could they be right? Is the Black Bay P01 a mistake for Tudor?
The Story Behind The Black Bay P01
There’s no denying the Black Bay P01 is an unusual looking watch. Polarising even. The case is unlike anything in the current Tudor line-up. The Black Bay Chrono was already a stretch, but this takes things to a whole new level. So where did the design come from? As it turns out, from deep in the Tudor archives.
In 1967, the US Navy provided Tudor with a set of technical requirements for a new watch. These included:
- the need for a better-protected crown;
- a bidirectional bezel that is removable for cleaning; and
- locked spring bars.
Tudor created a prototype based on its existing Submariner and codenamed it “Commando”. It was an ambitious cross between a divers’ watch and a sailing watch. Presented in a large, elongated case, it had a 12-hour bezel giving hour and minute recordings. A crown positioned at 4 o’clock with a sloping crown guard to offer better protection. And a system of pop-up hoods (end links) at either end of the case to allow the wearer to adjust the bezel and then lock it into place. This system also allowed the bezel to be removed for cleaning. A patent submission was made for the design of the end links in 1968 and granted in 1970.
In total four prototypes were made. Two were given to the US Navy for evaluation. The remaining two were kept by Tudor. As it turns out, this innovative design was too innovative for Uncle Sam. It was deemed too technical for field use and a submission from another brand was chosen. And that’s where the story ends. At least that’s where it should end according to any number of disgruntled Tudor fans.
The Rolex That Never Was
In 2004, watch auction house Antiquorum sold a “U.S. Marine Prototype” Rolex Ref 1690 for CHF124,500. As you can see in the picture the design is almost identical to the Tudor Commando. According to the auction house, only two prototypes were made for the U.S. Marines. The only problem is that Rolex denies this watch’s existence. The prevailing theory seems to be that it is a high-quality custom job. Meaning that someone modified an existing Rolex to make it look like this. Antiquorum denies this and insists the watch is a genuine Rolex prototype. We’ll probably never know the truth. It does add another layer to the interesting tale of the Black Bay P01 though.
The Tudor Black Bay P01
At first glance, the Black Bay P01 looks very similar to the original Commando prototype. This is of course intentional. The case is entirely satin-brushed for that matt, industrial-type finish. Edges have not been bevelled and the crown guards are less than refined. Likewise, the hour markers on the dial are printed instead of applied. The whole point being to make this watch look and feel like a prototype. Granted, a high-quality one but a prototype nevertheless.
Tudor has made some changes too though. For a start, the 42mm steel case is larger than the 40mm original. The end links look visually similar but only the top one is hinged. It also uses a different internal design from the original patent. Because only one end link is hinged it’s not possible to remove the 12-hour bezel on the Black Bay P01. Completing the design is a matte black dial with Snowflake hands and date display. All hallmarks of the Black Bay family. It’s protected by a domed sapphire crystal.
Inside is the manufacture calibre MT5612. It’s fitted with a variable inertia balance and a non-magnetic silicon balance spring. COSC-certified as a chronometer, it offers a 70-hour power reserve. This is a great in-house movement for not much money.
For the strap, Tudor has gone with an interesting hybrid option. A first for the brand. It has a rubber base with “snowflake” motif on the back and is finished on top with a brown leather trim. Reminds me a bit of something you might find on a Hublot.
In some ways this seems like an unusual choice for a dive watch. As a result, it’s attracted its fair share of criticism from the watch community. Mobile satin-brushed steel attachments connect the strap to the watch case, again inspired by the prototype.
The Tudor Black Bay P01 is not a limited edition. Recommended retail in the UK is GBP 2,830. When you think about it, it’s actually a lot of watch for the money. Whether that will make it any more popular remains to be seen.
Is It A Mistake For Tudor?
For many die-hard Tudor fans, I think the answer to this question would be an emphatic yes. It is a cool watch with interesting heritage. But is it one that Tudor buyers actually want? Probably not. Tudor has engineered its own revival by turning its rich heritage into desirable, modern collections. Watches that are practical, wearable and good looking. The Black Bay P01 doesn’t seem to satisfy any of these criteria.
Likewise, followers of the brand are left to lament what could have been instead. Many were hoping for line extensions on popular models, like the Black Bay Fifty-Eight. Others thought this might finally be the year Tudor re-introduced the Submariner. Alas, none of that was to be.
Still, Tudor managed to generate huge amount of buzz around the brand. And as the old adage goes; “it doesn’t matter what people are saying about you, as long as they’re talking about you.” Maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all.
In any event, there’s always next year.
Technical Specifications: Tudor Black Bay P01
- Case: Steel – 42mm – satin-finished – domed sapphire crystal – 60-notch, 12-hour graduated steel bidirectional rotating bezel with stop system for the bidirectional rotating bezel via a mobile end-link at 12 o’clock – screw-down steel winding crown at 4 o’clock, with the TUDOR logo in relief – waterproof to 200 metres.
- Dial: matt black – lume-filled Snowflake hands – painted hour markers – date window at 3 o’clock.
- Movement: Manufacture Calibre MT5612 (COSC) – self-winding mechanical movement with bidirectional rotor system – power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
- Bracelet: Hybrid leather and rubber strap with folding clasp and safety catch, entirely satin-finished
- Price: GBP 2,830.