Tudor Black Bay 54

When the Black Bay 54 was revealed at the Watches and Wonders 2023 event, forum threads were started and sides were picked.  You were either in Camp Black Bay 58, or you belong to the pack of heathens rooting for the smaller upstart.  TBC takes a look at the feature-packed Black Bay 54 and see if the Little Watch That Could could indeed acquit itself honourably.

Photography by Ronald Chew

by Terence Tee

  • February 1, 2024

It would be a little odd to write a piece on the Black Bay 54 without mentioning the Black Bay 58, which is, to many, the gold standard for what a modern vintage-inspired dive watch should be.  And so, TBC will tacitly invoke the bigger brother as we take the look at what is possibly… the perfect modern vintage-inspired dive watch.  Oh dear.

The path that Tudor has taken with the Black Bay line is indicative of the larger (Pun Count:1 ) watch trend of sizing down.  So you would be forgiven if you thought the Black Bay 54 is yet another reduction of the original Smiley Face. But that would be reductively (Pun count: 2) incorrect.  You see, Tudor launched the Black Bay in an admittedly thick 41mm-diameter dive watch in 2012.  Barely six years later, they gave the world the Black Bay 58 in a 39mm case.  The 54, at 37mm, is more than just a great vintage homage.  Clearly, it has the proportions of its forebear.  And yet, it is not the result of Tudor shooting the Black Bay 58 with a shrink ray.  The details were all carefully considered, delivering a watch that belies its diminutive stature.

But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.  Let’s start from the beginning.

Less Is More

The Black Bay 54 is thusly named after the Ref. 7922 Oyster Prince Submariner, which was launched, you guessed it, in 1954.  The nods to the past are aplenty, and the unidirectional bezel is a good place to start.  The insert is new, devoid of the minute graduations you see on the rest of the Black Bays.  There are only 5-minute markers and numerals for the 10th-minute positions, capped off with a luminous pip framed in a silver triangle. Printed in silver over a black anodized aluminum base, this clean and fuss-free bezel is just what you need in a smaller watch.  Tudor is not quite done with the Black Bay 54’s bezel – it also has a new lateral design, with a vintage coin-edge profile.  

Continuing with the “less is more” theme, the crown of the Black Bay 54 has been downsized as well.  Measuring at 5.7mm, the new smaller crown has more tactile knurling which makes winding a positive experience. Decorated with the vintage rose logo in relief, the crown sits flush with the case when screwed down – essentially doing away with the coloured crown ring which has been a design calling card for earlier Black Bays.  

Another thing worth mentioning about Tudor’s handling of the Black Bay 54’s reduced dimensions is compromise, or more accurately, the lack thereof.  Usually, any size reduction in dive watches would imply some level of trade off – reduced water resistance, reduced power reserve and so on.  That is not the case with the Black Bay 54.  It doesn’t give away any of the features of its stablemates, as it retains a 200m water-resistance and all features of other bigger models.

The Case

At a mere 11.24mm in case height, the Black Bay 54 sits low and close to your wrist.  In comparison, the Black Bay 58 has a case height of 11.85mm, but the 6.45mm flanks take up a lot of that height, retaining the slab-sided look that started in 2012 with the ETA Black Bays.

The Dial

All the signature design details of the Black Bay 58 – from the circle and triangle applied indices to the snowflake hands – have been faithfully reproduced in the 54.  Even with the reduced real estate, the dial does not look crowded.  This may or may not have something to do with the thoughtful change from a snowflake seconds hand to a lollipop seconds hand.  As in the case with the Black Bay 58, the gilt markers in the 54 contrasts well against the dial that has an inky sheen, especially in direct light.  This is a dial you catch yourself looking at, and not for timekeeping reasons either.

The Bracelet

As a fairly new product, the Black Bay 54 naturally receives all the new bells and whistles, including the game-changing T-fit clasp.  Tudor’s T-fit adjustable clasp works when the wearer pulls the bracelet away from the wrist.  The bracelet can then be adjusted by 8mm in either direction.  Mind you, this only really works for those who wear their bracelets with a little give.  Those who like their watch bracelets to cling on for dear life will have to take the watch out to adjust the bracelet.  It is an easy-to-use mechanism that does not require a giant clasp housing.  And that is really all TBC is going to say about that topic.

The Movement

Inside the Black Bay 54 resides the Manufacture Calibre MT5400.  A COSC-certified movement, this Calibre has a 70-hour power reserve which means the Black Bay 54 won’t need winding after a weekend.  The movement has everything that you have come to expect from Tudor at this point – a silicon hairspring, free-sprung balance, a beat rate of 28,800 and bi-directional automatic winding.  Ready for some interesting trivia?  The Black Bay 58 uses the Manufacture Calibre MT5402, which has the exact same specs as the MT5400, but is smaller.  You read that right – the 37mm BB54 uses a larger movement than the 39mm BB58.

photo 2024 01 12 09 58 34
BB54 Gallery 9

Newer Is Better

With every new Black Bay release, Geneva has shown itself to be innovative and bold in the use of new materials (there are Black Bays made in steel, ceramic, bronze, silver and yellow gold) and design decisions.  Though, we are fairly certain that no one who bought the original ETA-equipped “Smiley Face” Black Bay back in 2012 could envisage just how expansive Black Bay line-up would be in a scant 12 years.  Suffice to say, the brand’s revival is complete.  And the Black Bay 54, if we may be so bold, would be the capstone product.

To answer the question posed at the start of this pictorial, it is an easy yes.  The Black Bay 54 offers more watch than its larger stablemates, with Tudor packing everything and more in a case that is some 4mm smaller.  It should not be dismissed as merely a homage project.  It is a love letter to a much-loved legend, but with its feet firmly planted in the modern day.  Just close your eyes and replace the Tudor brand on the dial.

The Black Bay 54 is simply that good.

Specifications

BrandTudor
ModelBlack Bay 54
ReferenceM79000N-0001
Case MaterialStainless steel
Case Diameter37mm
Case Height11.24mm
Lug-to-Lug46mm
Water Resistance200m
MovementTudor (Kenissi) MT5400 — automatic winding, 28,800vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve, 27 jewels
ProductionRegular
WearsTrue to size

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