Nowadays, it’s the highest compliment you can pay to a watch:
“You have to see this in person”
We scroll through hundreds of flat, square images a day, double-tapping or stopping for microseconds to signal our tacit praise or approval. But sometimes, a watch comes along that demands more. For one reason or another, two-dimensional panes of glass don’t entirely capture its allure.
Sure, it’s often the case with ungodly expensive objets d’art — your Greubel Forseys, your Philippe Dufours — but it’s perhaps more interesting when an affordable watch demands the same in-person treatment.
Such is the case with the latest edition to Tudor’s Black Bay line, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 Silver.
A dive watch with 200m of water resistance, a 39mm silver case, fitted on a leather strap (not to mention a display case back). It makes absolutely no sense. And that’s why it demands in-person attention.
While you’ll find some vintage silver watches, it’s a relatively uncommon metal to use: it’s soft, it tarnishes, it turns things green. It’s a precious metal but not, like, that precious (you can pick up a few kilograms for the price of one ounce of gold at your local commodities trading pit).
Tudor, in typical House of Hans Wilsdorf fashion, won’t say a word about the silver alloy it’s using to supposedly combat silver’s typical tarnishing qualities, but I’ve read conjecture that they’re using palladium in the alloy, which is part of the platinum group of metals and much stronger and more resistant to tarnishing.
Of course, the natural question is — why silver anyway? Besides its impracticalities in watchmaking, you can hardly tell the difference from stainless steel.
To answer that question, I thought it’d be fun to compare the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 Silver to a neo-vintage steel Tudor Submariner, a reference 76100 “Lollipop” Sub, so named because of its hour hand that’s got a huge chunk of lume instead of a Mercedes hand. Do the two wear different? Feel different? Make me feel different when I wear them?
First, a quick word on the Lollipop: to me, it’s quintessential Tudor. It’s a take on a classic Rolex form, but not held back by the stuff Rolex has been doing for decades. It’s Tudor asking, “why do we even need the Mercedes hand? I mean, isn’t it kind of crazy that one of our brand’s most iconic designs is actually named after another brand? Let’s try something different.”
It turns out filling the entire hour hand with lume wasn’t a great idea: the lume tends to fall off, and lollipop hands often get replaced with service Mercedes hands. Tudor realized its slip-up: the ref. 76100 was only produced for a few years until the brand transitioned to using Mercedes hands. For this reason, to me, the Lollipop Submariners remain some of the more underrated on the Submariner market.
From a distance, the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight and Lollipop Submariner look alike, but man, are they different.
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Getting dialed in
Before getting to the silver-versus-steel question, let’s take a look at the dial and bezel of these two watches.
The taupe dial-bezel combo of the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight is something totally new. In press images, it seems to have a brownish undertone, but don’t let that fool you. This is pure taupe. Worn with green, some tones of sage might get pulled out of the watch, but that’s about it. It’s got a warm, matte texture that seems to suck up light and spit it back in a way that’s never too dark nor too reflective, not to mention completely complementary to the warmth of the silver case.
Meanwhile, this particular Lollipop Submariner doesn’t show much age as compared to when it would’ve left the factory. The black aluminum bezel and matte dial are staid and expected. This era of Submariner still has some vintage cues, but it’s mostly modern in terms of functionality. (That said, playing with these two side-by-side is a reminder of how much better clicking bezels are compared to friction fitted.)
The applied markers and surrounds of the Fifty-Eight certainly give it a more complete and layered look as compared to the painted markers of the Lollipop Sub. Put next to the Fifty-Eight, the flatness of the Lollipop’s dial is laid bare — even the shield logo and Tudor print aren’t raised in the way the Fifty-Eight’s are. Overall, it reminds you that the Fifty-Eight is a pure luxury product. While we often refer to neo-vintage Subs like the Lollipop as transitional, we could also call it confused. Tudor (and Rolex) stuck between eras, transitioning from their history as tool makers to luxury brands worthy of waitlists and rap lyrics.
Thirty years later, this dream of becoming a luxury brand is fully realized, with Tudor dropping dressy dive watches in silver and gold (the latter running $18,000).
Silver and steel
The easiest way to say it is that the silver is warmer than stainless steel. The matte, satin finish of the Fifty-Eight adds to the metal’s natural warmth. Luster is the word people use, and I suppose that’s as capable a concept as any. Especially in certain lights, the silver seems to have a warm underglow. If you’ve spent time on r/MakeupAddiction subreddit (don’t ask), it’s similar to understanding skin undertones. Most humans have warm or cool skin undertones, and I’d propose that metals are the same way. Stainless steel has cool undertones, while silver, even though a white metal, has warm undertones.
Sure, it’s more luxurious than a stainless steel Black Bay Fifty-Eight, but not overly so. It’s still the familiar dive watch, but a modern, luxury desk diver, and not ashamed of it.
Weighing both watches on a leather strap, the Lollipop Sub actually comes in a few grams under the Fifty-Eight’s 86g. I maintain that vintage Submariner cases are some of the best-wearing in all of watches. The 40mm case is versatile for a wide range of wrists, and at only about 12mm thick, it’s svelte. To me, nothing feels better than a Submariner on a vintage Oyster bracelet that’s perfectly worn-in and drapes just so around the wrist. Of course, the Silver Fifty-Eight falls a bit short here, offered only on a leather or nato strap.
Despite the Silver Fifty-Eight having similar dimensions — 39mm in diameter and 12.7mm in thickness — I still maintain that the Lollipop Sub just wears better. A complaint about the Fifty-Eight’s case has always been that the mid-case feels a bit like a tall, flat slab. Perhaps that’s what sets it apart from the the vintage Sub.
To be clear, both watches wear terribly well. Don’t let the slight uptick in thickness (less than 1mm compared to the stainless steel Fifty-Eights) due to the Silver Fifty-Eight’s caseback scare you off.
One of the coolest things about precious metal watches is the hallmarks on the cases, typically stamped by the case makers. In vintage watches, they give all kinds of clues as to the manufacturer or origin of a case. Here, Tudor doesn’t disappoint either, with hallmarks engraved on the backs of the lugs of the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight. The subtle rose hallmark is one of those details that most people won’t ever notice or know is there, but gives you confidence that every single detail of this watch was thought through and makes for something special.
Another detail to love about the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight: the bevels. It features thick, exaggerated chamfers like the sports watches of old from Rolex and Tudor. It’s something Rolex has moved away from in recent years, so it’s reassuring to see Tudor carrying on the tool-watch legacy of the House of Wilsdorf. Of course, it’s a bit contradictory to carry on this legacy in a precious metal watch, but that’s what makes this particular Black Bay Fifty-Eight so smart. It’s looking backward and forward at the same time.
The Fifty-Eight’s manufacture caliber MT5400 is nothing to write home about, an evolution to in-house that the market demands today, for better or worse. The Lollipop’s ETA movement is fine too, if not easier (and cheaper) to service than these fancy new proprietary movements. To be sure, the Fifty-Eight’s movement is COSC-certified and has 70 hours of power reserve, real technical upgrades befitting of a watch that’s become the flagship of the Tudor brand.
Of course, part of Tudor’s charm — indeed, its very purpose for being — has always been its price point. At $4,300, the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight delivers here too, a tick above the $3,700 a stainless steel 58 OG or Blue will set you back on a bracelet. Lollipop Subs like this are trading somewhere around $7k for a full set. Honestly, it’s hard to justify paying almost 2x the price for a neo-vintage Sub that’s technically and aesthetically inferior to the Black Bay Fifty-Eight.
At the start, I called the Lollipop “quintessential Tudor” — they tried something totally different and experimental from Rolex. It didn’t work, and they stopped producing it after a couple of years.
That’s exactly why I love the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight. Sure, the watch is beautiful and luxurious, but it’s more than that. It’s Tudor playing around, trying something Rolex never could or would try. Tudor has always felt like the experimental research lab for Rolex — weird hands, exotic dials, etc. Now, it’s playing with case materials too.
Tudor is certainly a more sophisticated being than it was back in the 1980s when it tried the Lollipop Sub, but there’s still a chance the Silver Black Bay Fifty-Eight could totally flop too, either in the technical or business sense. Maybe the alloy mixture isn’t quite right, and the silver starts tarnishing in a couple years; maybe enough people just have the “a silver dive watch? why?” reaction and no one buys it (totally fair).
But that’s why I love it. Listen, it’s easy enough to point out that Tudor’s been on a total heater since re-entering the American market in 2013, but that was never a given, and it’s also not a given it’ll keep up the streak. Even Steph Curry gets injured.
Staying hot means staying a step ahead. It’s innovating, trying new things, succeeding, failing. It’s making a dive watch in silver.
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