Tudor, simply killing it and giving people what they want. Oh, and before you rush off to the stores, this is a one-off piece for the upcoming Only Watch auction. Expect it to go under the hammer for a pretty penny.
Diving with the Tudor Black Bay (Blue) in St. Maarten
I had low expectations for St. Maarten. Other than the YouTube-worthy 747 landings at Princess Juliana Airport and some “clothing optional” beaches, I hasn’t heard a lot about this French/Dutch island in the Lesser Antilles. And the diving? “Skip it and go to Saba” is all I’d been told. Still, I packed along my dive gear and the new blue Tudor Black Bay and settled in for a week underwater, come what may. Six days later, I had a pretty good idea of the diving in St. Maarten and the Tudor, and I found both to be superb.
Over the course of the week, we focused on a handful of dive sites on the island’s southwest corner—a couple of wrecks and three reefs. Undersea life was prolific, and not just the little stuff. On one dive, no less than six spotted eagle rays buzzed a small sunken barge we were exploring while lobsters were stacked high inside and barracuda hovered ominously on the deck. And then there were the sharks. At Fish Bowl, a drift dive over a long reef system, our small group was followed by a fleet of muscular Caribbean reef sharks who sometimes passed a little close for comfort, photo bombing us every chance they could get. Alien-looking nurse sharks, typically found sleeping under ledges, were also out in the open water, mixing with their cousins, following us like faithful hunting dogs. This was a pleasant surprise. No one said anything about sharks in St. Maarten. Seeing one or two would be a highlight anywhere but this many was the sign of a healthy ecosystem and we couldn’t take enough photos of them.
As for the new Black Bay “Blue”, this was my first extended time with the watch. I’d dived before with Tudor’s Pelagos, which bristles with titanium, ceramic and a spring-loaded clasp, but I’m a retro-grouch when it comes to dive watches; I like ones that hearken back to the early days of diving. The Black Bay does this better than most of the growing number of vintage-style divers out there, merging elements from several of Tudor’s iconic historic divers—the big crown, the railroad track dial, the snowflake hands. While I’d love to dive with a Marine Nationale-issued Snowflake, it would be sheer lunacy to take a 40-year old collectible deep. The Black Bay fills that desire, like some sort of time travel to the days of rubber suits and double hose regulators.
As could be expected, the watch performs well. The big crown is easy to use, winds and sets easily and screws in with authority. The coin edge of the bezel is a bit thin to grip but ratchets like a precision combination safe. The dial and hands are predictably legible and a swim-through of the gutted wheelhouse of a wreck proved out the luminescence. My test piece came on the aged leather strap which I swapped out for the provided one-piece fabric alternative. This strap has gained a lot of attention since Tudor introduced it on the Heritage Chronograph a few years ago. As legend has it, they are woven by the same company that makes robes for the Vatican. The strap is thicker and “richer” feeling than a typical $20 nylon NATO and it boasts some impressive engineering, allowing for length adjustment on the fly. I found it a bit short for wear over a wetsuit sleeve and, when wet, the strap proved difficult to feed through the keepers. That said, it felt secure, held up to a week of saltwater exposure and dried quickly after use.
By Saturday, it was time to fly home—gear was dry and 24 hours of desaturation time meant I wouldn’t fizz out nitrogen and get the bends when the plane reached cruising altitude. The Tudor was back on its leather strap, ready once again for topside wrist duty. As the plane taxied down the runway towards the drunken waving throngs on Maho Beach, I studied the watch on my wrist. A few new scratches to the polished case sides were inevitable but then I saw that the bezel pearl was red. Rust? Glue? No, it was red paint, scraped off the side of the dive boat as I climbed the ladder after a dive. I tried to clean it off with my fingernail with no luck. It would have to remain there, a reminder of its week underwater in St. Maarten.