In 1954, TUDOR introduced the world to the very first diver’s watch, a professional instrument that enabled organisations to carry out large-scale underwater activities.
This included the French Navy; in fact, it was the GERS (Groupement d’Étude et de Recherche Sous-marine – Underwater Study and Research Group) that contacted TUDOR in 1956 to evaluate the suitability of the watches for equipping the French navy's combat swimmers. This first contact was made and the relationship continued over half a century of TUDOR putting watches on the wrists of divers from the largest navies in the world.
Throughout the years, the TUDOR collection grew with more references in the collection. We examine the following in detail: Black Bay Fifty-Eight ”Navy Blue”; Black Bay P01; Black Bay Fifty-Eight and Black Bay Bronze.
Black Bay Fifty- Eight “Navy Blue”
Collectors and vintage watch lovers will be thrilled with this watch that for years kept the classic black dial that was considered a typical feature found on divers’ watches. In this new offering, a gorgeous blue has taken over, along with a new size, 39-millimetre diameter.
A comfortable size, indeed, as it is ideal for narrow wrists as well as those who prefer a smaller watch. Its configuration on a fabric strap, also in navy blue and woven in France, is the strongest visual evocation of the famous "TUDOR MN"s. These watches were in fact delivered to the French navy without TUDOR bracelets and were then fitted with various types of fabric straps, particularly woven ones.
Black Bay P01
A period of remarkable innovation took over the 1960s as watchmaking generally and TUDOR in particular were experiencing the same creative impetus -- out of this was born the "Commando project".
More specifically, in 1967 the brand which had been supplying the American navy with divers' watches since the second half of the 1950s, began developing a technical model to replace the Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7928. This meant that the new watch needed to meet a set of specifications laid down by the American government and new research into functionality and ergonomics had to be incorporated.
Hence, a development phase was launched, resulting in the production of prototypes, as well as a patent for the aforementioned and an unseen function. "Commando" was the code name for this ambitious project that was perfectly in tune with the zeitgeist.
The Black Bay P01 model (meaning Prototype 1) is directly inspired by a prototype developed as part of this study and preserved within the TUDOR archives. Half a century later, this series brings to life its unique functional appearance, where function and innovation took priority over any consideration of the watchmaking aesthetics in fashion at that time.
Produced in a contemporary spirit, while at the same time retaining the principle of the winding crown at 4 o'clock, as well as the prominent lug covers of the 1960s model, the Black Bay P01 tells a story that was little known in TUDOR's naval history. In the end, the US Navy chose to equip its divers with a simpler TUDOR model, the Oyster Prince Submariner 7016, and the "Commando" project never made its debut.
Black Bay Fifty-Eight
Watch observers would have noticed that the watch’s size, overall shape, gold accents on the dial, and red triangle on the rotating bezel best represent the first divers' watches and the first models adopted by the French and US Navies in the second half of the 1950s.
At the time, one particular reference had been chosen by the two organisations, the famous 7924, now known among collectors as the "Big Crown" due to its prominent winding crown, a strengthened version of TUDOR’s regular winding crown to be able to offer water-resistance to 200 metres for the first time.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight model stands for the aesthetics of the pioneering years of autonomous diving. In its configuration with a fabric strap, it recalls the military divers' custom of wearing their watches on different types of straps or belts, sometimes taken from other field equipment.
Black Bay Bronze
This is the only watch in the collection that does not share any qualities found in TUDOR's naval history. Instead, it presents a number of aesthetic qualities found in the rustic nature of life at sea with references and anecdotes about the way generations of sailors have used TUDOR watches.
Take for example the fabric strap. Following a parachuting incident in which a member of the French navy's diver-paratrooper unit was left momentarily dangling from the plane door by his fabric watch strap, the group decided to produce their own, more supple bracelets using elastic straps recycled from the emergency opening system of the rescue parachutes they used at that time. The strap is presented with a central yellow stripe, which is now found on the fabric strap of the Black Bay Bronze model.
The bronze used for the model's case is a high-performance cupro-aluminium alloy widely used in naval engineering for submerged parts and required to demonstrate a high level of resistance to corrosion, further evokes naval activity. The nature of this metal guarantees the development of a subtle and unique patina to match its user’s habits. The overall visual effect is of a rich, patinated object that might have battled the waves of the seven seas for years on a sailor's wrist, and which is "made" for him and his lifestyle.
For more information, call 6223 5151 or drop Kee Hing Hung a message via https://www.keehinghung.com/tudor/.