A week ago I was standing in a bar in the Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood of Nashville while wearing my Tudor Black Bay GMT. I spotted someone wearing Omega’s new No Time to Die Seamaster and we got to talking. We were pondering the attraction and merit of these, arguably, pointless machines that we had both chosen to invest a considerable amount of time and money into. What I believe is: watches act as signifiers of something that we dream of participating in. If I may let my BFA flag fly a little, what I believe is signified by wearing a GMT watch is that sense of travel.
I can begin to picture myself sitting in warm and humid bar on some island. Astrud Gilberto’s Take Me To Aruanda is on the speaker (vinyl naturally) and I’m holding a slick sweating glass of something with rum in it. This is only amplified by the vintage inspired aesthetic Tudor’s used with their Black Bay line. I might as well be wearing some old 1675 Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi. Basically they make me feel like Hunter S. Thompson. I feel these things even if I am only sitting in coffee shop in Nashville starting at my laptop; that I believe is that magic watches can inject into our day to day lives.
Brief Black Bay Background
Anyway, back to the Black Bay. The Tudor Black Bay GMT (ref. m79830rb) was released in 2018 during Baselworld and it set the watch world on fire. These watches were unobtanium for months and months after their release, and I was immediately attracted to them. It was the Rolex Explorer II or GMT Master that I might actually be able to get one day. We’ve seen Tudor release Black Bays in a variety of sizes and color ways.
We’ve also seen another GMT model released, multiple chronograph models, and even bronze cased timepieces with bronze bracelets. In a lot of ways the Black Bay has become an expected aspect of the annual watch release cycle from the iconic Swiss brand. “I wonder what we’ll see from Tudor apart from a dozen different version of the Black Bay this year,” Would be something uttered around any watch enthusiast hangout. The GMT, at its time of release however; was unexpected and extremely cool.
Tudor Black Bay GMT Specs
|41mm x 50mm x 14.7mm
|Stainless Steel Case With Aluminum Insert Bezel
|Tudor Calibre MT5652 Automatic Movement (COSC)
The Case, Familiar Comfort
If you’ve seen a Black Bay before you’ll know what the BBGMT’s stainless steel case looks and feels like. It’s a 41mm wide (not counting the crown) x 50mm lug to lug x 14.7mm thick (including the domed/boxed crystal). While this case size may be too large for some I think this case wears really nicely on my 7.5” (19cm) wrist. I think if your wrist is sub-7” then you might run into some issues with the lug to lug width — larger than 7” and you’ll be fine.
The case is brushed along the top flat surfaces. The slab edges of the case are polished. This is a simple stainless steel case when you first look at it. There are subtle details in the Tudor Black Bay GMT’s design that, in my opinion, are important to notice. If you look at the lugs (and by association bracelet end links) you’ll notice that they drop down dramatically. This downward angle of the lugs is what allows this watch to wear so nicely on the wrist.
Flipping the watch over you’re greeted by the expected plain caseback you see on Rolex/Rolex-adjacent diving watches. Around the perimeter of the caseback is some text that reassures you that this is in fact a Tudor watch, made in Geneva, with an in-house caliber. This would be a good canvas for you engrave something on if you so chose. One detail I think is important to notice here is along the sides of the case there is an over-so-slight bevel. I think this bevel allows the case to have a little “breathing room” as your wrists moves up and down.
The ‘Blizzard’ Dial
The Tudor Black Bay GMT’s dial is elegantly simple. You’ve got a matte black dial that hosts delicate white text at noon and six o’clock. Unlike the Pelagos’ novel at six o’clock, the GMTs only have “GMT” and it’s chronometer credentials written on the dial. The hour markers are simple polished “dots” with longer rectangular markers at 9 and 6 o’clock. Noon sports a larger triangle marker. All of them are white lume filled.
At 3 o’clock you have a date window, white date wheel, and a clearly printed date number. I’d have loved it if the date wheel matched the dial, but this is acceptable as well. The hands, like the markers, are polished and filled with a prodigious amount of super-luminova. I read somewhere the dial of this watch can be described as a “blizzard” dial due to its not one, not two, but three snowflake hands, I love that description.
The GMT hand itself is painted a nice red that matches the burgundy portion of the bezel. It also extends ever so slightly beyond the minute track, trying to drive home the fact that it’s pointing to the 24-hr scale on the bezel.
The bidirectional bezel sports an anodized aluminum insert that’s split burgundy and deep blue. The red indicates daylight hours where the blue is night time. That might have been obvious to most of you, it was -ahem- not to me.
Capping it all off is the domed/boxed sapphire crystal. This really drives home the vintage-inspired aesthetics of this particular piece. It’s worth pointing out as well, this raised crystal counts for a decent amount of this watch’s thickness.
The Black Bay GMT uses Tudor’s in-house Calibre MT5652 movement. This is the same movement that’s now in the Black Bay Pro and COULD be the same movement in a Pelagos GMT if Tudor would get with it. The MT5652 is a 28800 BPH movement (4hz), sports an shiny 26 jewels in it’s guts, and features 70 hours of power reserve.
As a “flyer GMT” the first crown position jumps the local hour hand in single hour increments, carrying the date along with it. The second crown position sets the the hours, minutes, and GMT together. The order of operations for setting the time on a watch like this is to:
- Firstly, decide which time zone you’re going to set the GMT hand to.
- Then you pop the crown out and set the minutes and GMT hand to that desired time zone
- After that jump into the first crown position and align your hour hand with your local hour (being careful to pay attention to AM/PM.)
- Once you’ve done all this what you’ll have is a watch that, when you step off the plane, you can quickly adjust the local hour to match your current time zone while retaining the timezone you’ve set your GMT hand to.
As far as accuracy goes, I likely have an unpopular opinion here. I don’t really care how accurate a timepiece’s movement is as long as during the time I’m wearing it I don’t notice the deviation. Currently the Tudor Black Bay GMT is keeping about +4s/day time-ish, and that is a-ok by me. (Granted that’s totally within COSC and I’m likely full of bullshit on this point, but hey I’m the one writing the article.)
When Rolex’s Little Brother Makes the Bracelet, You Know It’s Good
You know when you first wake up in the morning, walk outside, and notice that the day is just absolutely perfect? Maybe you go back inside and make coffee — and it just comes out perfect… Everything about that day is about as good as it can be? That’s almost what it’s like to put on a Tudor bracelet.
Granted, there is always room for improvement, but Tudor (I would guess because of the Rolex association) makes just a fantastic steel bracelet. Suurrrreee it has faux rivets (I don’t care), and surrree there’s no half links (stay tuned on this point), but the overall quality and wearability of all the Tudor bracelets that I’ve owned is second to none.
Now let’s talk about half links — Uncle Straps makes a half link for Tudor bracelets for $29/ea. This, even if Tudor made OEM half links, would easily be the cheapest route to fine tune your bracelets fit. Secondly, a company called Steel Reef came out with a fantastic product with their “extension links.” What these do is, allow you to pop the link “open” to give yourself an extra 5mm of bracelet length. This is exactly how Rolex’s Easy Link works on the modern explorers and I highly recommend them.
I’ve also worn the BBGMT on a Toxic (UTE) NATO strap and it sings on it. It does add a little height to the case, but I still find it nice on wrist. If anything it really “dresses the watch down.” Removing the steel bracelet and opting for a nylon of fabric strap really makes the Black Bay lean into its tool watch roots. I love the look personally.
My New Travel Watch
When I walked out of that Wedgewood Houston Bar, I knew three things for sure: The first was that I was definitely still in Nashville, not some tropical island. Secondly, the guy I had been talking to definitely thought I was a little over enthusiastic about watches. Lastly, I was ready to take the Tudor Black Bay GMT on a real adventure, as soon as possible.
I think if you’re shopping for a GMT watch this one is likely on your short list of possibilities. This review, however, comes at an interesting time as some cheaper flyer GMT movements have recently been released by both the Swatch Group and Miyota. So you can effectively get the same functionality out of a watch at a fraction of the price of this Tudor. But there is a quality that comes along with the brand.
These watches are made with exhaustive care and in my opinion you can really see where your money’s gone when you purchase one. If you’re willing to go used, they’re an even better value. At the time of writing this MSRP on the Black Bay GMT is $4300, but they can be found for under $3000 used if you spend a little time looking. So if you’re looking to inject a little adventure into your life and you wanna do it with a watch, I think the Black Bay GMT could be a solid choice.
Tudor Black Bay GMT Alternatives
Alright fine… this is an expensive watch. So what else could you potentially purchase that would elicit the same feelings in you, but for less moolah?
Option #1: The Mido Oceanstar Tribute
In particular the Hodinkee exclusive – this is a 40.5mm flyer GMT with some excellent vintage styling for around $1400, new. This watch is limited, but they pop up for even less on the used market.
Option #2: The Lorier Hydra
Lorier is an independent watch brand that’s really punching WELL above it’s price point. The Hydra itself is a 41mm GMT that takes advantage of the new Miyota 9075 movement. This gives it the same flyer GMT functionality as the BBGMT.
Option #3: The Seiko 5 GMT (SSK001,SSK003, or SSK005)
This is the new Seiko GMT from the much loved SKX family. 42.5mm, $475 (msrp you can def pay less), 100m water resistance, and a caller GMT. This is a no-brainer to me if you want a GMT for not a lotta coinage.
Aaron is a Nashville based watch collector and road bike rider. In addition to TBWS, his articles can been seen on ABlogtoWatch and Bladereviews.com. Aaron’s interests primarily focus on tool watches — specifically in the dive, pilot, or field watch arenas. When not over enthusiastically asking someone about the watch they’re wearing, Aaron can be found traveling, cycling, trying new restaurants with his partner Carissa, or petting any and all dogs within his sightline.