The Tudor Black Bay P01 "military" watch hands-on
This year marked Baselworld's turning point after the Swatch Group, and other major brands had left the fair later last year. What does the future hold for Baselworld and, moreover, how much have the brands that took part this year invested in the 2019 edition? The future of the watches and jewelry show was the main topic this year, given the expected visitor declining turnout.
Of all the exhibiting brands, Tudor is among those to have recently experienced the most significant commercial growth and is still building on the success guaranteed by products launched last year like the Black Bay GMT and the Black Bay 58. They're both very popular and are boosting the brand's sales. That's why Tudor has, in my opinion, decided to focus on a few novelties, like new chronographs and a flagship model, this year.
The legacy of the Tudor P01.
Tudor watches added a new and pretty unexpected proposal to its Black Bay collection, thus reinforcing its little known "military" pedigree. While some pre-Baselworld 2019 pictures had teased us with what seemed a modern re-edition of the highly sought-after Tudor Submariner ref. 7928, at first sight, the Swiss brand surprised everyone by launching a military-inspired three-hands watch that eventually paves the way to a whole new chapter for the Black Bay collection and the brand: the Tudor Black Bay P01.
The original P01 was the result of a project carried out by Tudor for the US Navy in 1960 and called "Project Commando". It was a tool watch equipped with a bi-directional rotating crown (not a 60 minute graduated bezel, as the watch itself was not just conceived as a 100% divers' watch) along with a patented device to lock the bezel in a chosen position, via a fixed and a hinged locker placed at six and twelve respectively, to avoid accidental shocks to cause the unwanted rotation of the bezel.
The newest version sports the same design, with two big shoulders to protect the winding crown located at four o'clock, a solution that is common to modern Japanese divers' watches.
The Tudor Black Bay P01 watch: untaggable.
The Tudor Black Bay P01 introduces esthetic details you might easily find on vintage Tudor watches: the triangular luminous index at twelve is long and narrow, all the indexes are filled with vintage looking cream-colored luminescent material but without any golden ring surrounding the central part like on a traditional Black Bay.
The original P01 comes with "Mercedes" like central hands, replaced on the current one by Tudor's snowflakes'. The P01 is a sturdy watch designed to withstand, on paper, intensive military use, a timepiece you'd expect to see wrapped around Ian Fleming's secret agent's wrist, and this feat makes it very appealing to me.
Many were the harsh comments on the Internet following the unveiling of the watch. The truth is that the Tudor Black Bay P01 can't be regarded to as a standard Tudor Black Bay, it is an entirely new proposal that nothing has to do with the brand's hero product. It instead is a new way of exploring the historical roots of Tudor sport watches. All in all, the case's build quality is superb as is the finish, the bezel locking system is a bit hard to release, and the bezel's ratcheting is not as smooth as a Black Bay Bronze's, while the strap and folding clasp quality are top notch.
The strap is crafted in leather and rubber, and the folding buckle locker has the Tudor logo embossed on it. The caliber that powers the P01 is familiar: it is the manufactured Tudor MT5612 caliber that guarantees 70 hours of power reserve. Once on your wrist, it looks and feels way better than any professional photo can ever describe: no pictures do give justice to a timepiece that, once worn, is impressive yet comfortable, thicker than a standard Black Bay and with a charm of its own.
A new line of military-inspired Tudor watches ahead of Baselworld 2020?
The Tudor Black Bay P01 is not a diver's watch, as stated above. In its corporate video, Tudor classifies it more as a general use military watch and not as a diver, for that purpose you would instead go for a Pelagos. I like it since I'm generally open to new things and products that have a story to tell (it is no coincidence I own no ordinary watches like the Monaco Sixty-Nine, for example) and I consider the P01 a hot piece.
Generally, I believe that "innovations" in watchmaking can be classified as follows: there are new technologies and achievements like ultra-flat calibers and new collections and there are then flagship models that draw inspiration from the past, whose aim is to increase brand awareness and enhance the brand's heritage. The P01 belongs to the latter and, considering Tudor's pedigree I'd like to find out whether it is just a one-off experiment or the first in a row of many others.
There are, however, some areas of improvement: for example, the bezel is not as smooth as a Black Bay Bronze's or a Tudor Pelagos' and if you're buying one, be ready to get familiar with the locking system, which is a cool feat but a bit hard to operate. Tudor will retail the P01 at €3,760 proving once again it's a winner, as it keeps offering high-quality timepieces at an unbeatable price point, in an age where prices have skyrocketed.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®