Tudor’s Black Bay 58 get’s its name from the year 1958, in which the first Tudor Diver’s timepiece which was waterproofed to 200m was introduced. In this article, we look at how Rolex’s Submariner influenced the design of the vintage Tudor Diver, and ultimately the modern day Black Bay 58.
While on the surface, the Tudor Black Bay 58 may look like another diver’s watch, however, it’s anything but. The timepiece carries with it deep history, that traces all the way back to the first Rolex Submariner, one of the most iconic watches in the world of horology. Let’s take a bit of a ‘dive’ into how it came to be.
The Black Bay 58 timepiece is one of Tudor’s iconic watches, with the first reference (M79030N) being released in Baselworld (Now Watches & Wonders) 2018. The hype behind this watch is real, with it having a simplistic design, large legible indices and hands, and of course the uni-directional rotatable bezel.
The modern day Black Bay 58 brings together the best of both worlds, modern materials and movement with vintage inspired design. What may seem like a simplistic and basic divers watch is anything but. The timepiece is sought after thanks to Tudor’s attention to detail and finishing, along with the history that lies behind the watch. And this history is probably the biggest selling point for this watch for a lot of watch enthusiasts. While the modern day Black Bay 58 was only released 5 years ago, this watch is probably the closest you’ll get to getting a vintage Tudor Diver, one that’ll still function as an excellent daily, and a great divers watch.
Tracing back the Black Bay 58’s design takes us back to 1958, when Tudor released the Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7924 “Big Crown”. The Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7924 timepiece came with as the name suggests a over-sized crown (8mm Rolex Crown marked “BREVET”), to help divers operate it easier with gloves on etc, and 200m of water resistance. This was the first Oyster Prince Submariner from Tudor to feature 200m of water resistance, marking an important milestone in the world of diving watches for the brand, and hence the creation of Black Bay 58 to commemorate this timepiece.
The Tudor Black Bay 58 takes many design cues from the vintage Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7924. Firstly we get the same 39mm case design, with knurled bezel with 60-minute markings. The bezel on Black Bay 58 also features the Super-lumiNova circle at 12 o’clock (or 0 bezel minute indication) for low light operation.
The dial design is relatively unchanged between the modern and vintage pieces, with the exception being the hour and second hand designs. In the vintage Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7924, the design carries Rolex’s “mercedes” symbol (we’ll get to why later on), while the Black Bay 58 carries the signature Tudor “snowflake” design. While the movements are certainly different, the watches both carry 200m water resistance rating, which as mentioned earlier is what made the Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7924 iconic.
Another design detail on the modern Black Bay 58 that we find on the Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7924, is the rivets on the side of the 3-link bracelet. While these rivets on these models are mostly for show, the design has been originally taken from the first Tudor diver’s watch; Oyster Prince Submariner ref. 7922. Reference 7924 and 7922 from Tudor’s vintage collection share similar design characteristics, and so they should, as ref. 7924 is the evolutionary model from the original. The difference is that Tudor’s first divers watch reference 7922 came with a 37mm case, only 100m of water resistance and a different movement.
Tudor’s Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922 released in 1954, holds a special place in the brand’s history. This year in 2023, Tudor released the Black Bay 54 as a homage to this iconic watch, keeping the design and measurements accurate to the vintage timepiece. While Ref 7922, carries smaller measurements and water resistance, the overall design is still the same on Ref 7924, and ultimately the modern Black Bay 58 model.
The reference 7922 was the watch that led to the Tudor military divers timepieces. These military watches were delivered to different military organisations, which included the Us Navy and French Marine Nationale. The Tudor Submariner references were chosen because of their reliability, robustness and high quality finish. These military organisations also gave feedback to Tudor on how the watch performed and also how they can potentially be improved, which led to the improved Submariner references later on.
So what inspired the design of the Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922? Prior to the 1970’s design change to Tudor’s Submariner models, the brand used the Rolex Submariner as an aesthetic reference point. This is why we see the early Tudor divers watches look almost identical in design to the Rolex Submariner. This is also why on Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922 and 7924 we see the “Mercedes” shaped logo on the hour hand.
These vintage models were created by Tudor for those that couldn’t afford or want to pay for a Rolex. During the 50’s, Tudor wasn’t taking big risks in terms of innovation or new designs, and used a proven design like the Rolex Submariner and fitted them with standard non-chronometer movements.
Tudor’s Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922 took its design inspiration from the very first Rolex Submariner released in 1953; reference 6204. At the time reference 6204 was released, watches being used for underwater diving was still a relatively new concept. From the moment reference 6204 was released, a legend was born. A timepiece that would inspire a range of watch manufacture’s to mimic the iconic design, including Rolex’s sister brand Tudor. The Rolex Submariner reference 6204 was essentially the first timepiece in the world that came with a water resistance of 100m (previously to this was Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms which was rated to 91.45m). This 100m resistance was what Tudor’s reference 7922 was designed to as well.
If you take Rolex’s Submariner reference 6204 and Tudor’s Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7922 and put them side by side, you’ll spot quite a lot of similarities. In fact, the most noticeable change between the two is that Tudor’s reference 7922 has minute markings on the bezel insert. Rolex designed the reference 6204 Submariner with a variety of different hand designs. Some models came with the straight “pencil shaped” hour and minute hands, while other versions of ref 6204 came with the “Mercedes” logo, which is the design Tudor used for the first divers watch, Oyster Prince Submariner Reference 7922.
Whilst the Tudor Black Bay 58 is a modern classic, it’s easy to see where its design roots have come from. Over the years there has been some conjecture over the styling of the Black Bay line overall, mainly concerning the faux rivets and the slab-sided case design, these all have a very good reason for being. And for those that appreciate the vintage inspired elements, these then make sense and make the Tudor Black Bay 58 one of those classic watches loved by enthusiasts the world over.