I'll be frank, it took me a long time to welcome the recent wave of two-tone watches. I get it now, but it took some time to get there. I wasn't old enough in the '80s to understand the context of the flashy fashion, enormous amounts of hairspray, and power suits. But even without having lived through it Ė movies, TV, and media from the '80s has taught me one thing: You were the coolest guy on the block if you had a two-tone professional sports watch hanging off your wrist. Or you worked on Wall Street and killed innocent people indiscriminately. Either way, I had the impression that two-tone sports watches were a poster product for '80s-style conspicuous consumption. Like, gag me with a spoon!
But after going hands-on with the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph Steel & Gold Iím not sure it has anything to do with those extravagant notions. Instead, it's a watch that's very 2019. From a design perspective, it captures the modern zeitgeist of the way '80s trends are being remixed today; on a practical level, it's executed like any other Tudor, with great finishing at a compelling price point.*
It's almost a misnomer to call it "gold," as the sheen of this modern take doesnít have much to do with the way gold was polished when two-tone watches were popular. My minds eye wouldn't be able to render the 2019 two-tone watch that Tudor designed if I just saw the name in print without a picture of the watch. And even pictures don't totally convey the soft satin finishing of the gold accents. The Tudor feels more like a capable tool watch that's dressed up with a dose of precious metal rather than simply a platform to revive the lurid vibes of two-tone watches of the past. The crown, screw-down pushers, bezel, and center links of the bracelet are all gold. The crown is technically "gold capped" but that nomenclature is only a formality. A small stainless steel tube is used inside the crown because solid gold wouldn't work for delicate threading inside the crown. Most of the crown is actually solid gold. Not enough gold is used to drastically affect the weight of the watch; it wears just like the Black Bay Chronograph.*
Unlike the Black Bay Chronograph, the steel and gold variant comes on a leather strap that brings back an anachronistic accessory, the bund strap. It's removable, but wearing it on the Bund doesn't feel as natural as the bracelet. Ideologically and visually it just doesn't land. The presence of gold center links on a really well engineered bracelet is what makes the watch. If you're going to go two-tone, then do it all the way. That being said, the fabric strap supplied with the watch feels great if you do need a break from the bracelet.*
The MT5813 is certainly a robust movement, with free-sprung adjustable mass balance and silicon balance spring being added by Tudor to a Breitling B-01 to create an in-house caliber. The pusher engages nicely, and the red-tipped seconds hand makes it easy to observe the smooth sweep. The MT5813 utilizes a vertical clutch, meaning the seconds hand doesn't "jump" when the pusher is engaged. I found the 45-minute register interesting in that the hand covers more ground so it's easier to observe change than a standard 60-minute counter, but because humanity has structured life in such a way that typical events like shows, classes, etc., are structured in terms of hours and not 45 minute blocks, a 60-minute register seems more practical.
Considering the factory where the movement comes from, just the inclusion of an in-house caliber like this can drive up the price of the watch substantially, but this watch retails at $6,800. Thatís not an enormous premium over the $5,100 sticker of the stainless steel model. Our instinct tells us to make comparisons to the Rolex Daytona with this watch, but I actually think it's not that easy. The Rolex GMT-Master II is easy to compare to the Black Bay GMT. Both watches set out to do the same thing. But the Black Bay Chronograph Steel & Gold emerged from the Black Bay line, which is generally dive-focused. It wasn't a chronograph model from the start, it's very much a Black Bay that happens to have a chronograph complication. And the water resistance of 200m backs that up.*
Acid wash jean jackets dot the streets of SoHo; the entertainment industry is cranking out shows like Stranger Things and The Americans. It's no surprise the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph Steel & Gold is hitting the marketplace now. My take is that if you're a two-tone fan already then this release may not lean into the two-tone thing hard enough for you. It might even be too subtle. But if you're playing with the idea of jumping on a trend that looks like it will be around for a while, then it's an easy entry point. The satin finishes and generally understated nature Ė as far as two-tone watches can be Ė make it more approachable. To me it looks better with a chambray shirt than it does with a pinstripe suit.*
It's generally accepted that trends are recycled. If it's not in now, just wait a few years, or decades, and it will be cool again. What I like about the new Black Bay Chronograph Steel & Gold is that it seems to have been developed acutely with a diverse 2019 audience in mind, and because of its restrained aesthetics, it might even open up a few people to the two-tone world who were previously stuck with an antiquated view on two-tone sports watches, like me.*
For more about the Tudor Black Bay Chronograph Steel & Gold, click here.*