2021 Watch Predictions: Will the Tudor Black Bay 58 replace the 41mm line-up?Zach Blass
Look, I don’t have a crystal ball that can tell me which new watches will or will not drop this year. But when people raise the question of whether or not the Black Bay Fifty-Eight with its 39mm dial will replace the 41mm line in the Tudor catalogue, I am not afraid to share my prediction. The short answer: no. Believe me, as the resident tiny wrister of the Time+Tide team (who regularly and playfully battles with his boss on the issue of ideal case diameters) I would have no qualms if this did actually happen. But if I really try to follow the trends of both marketplace preference and brand manoeuvering, I get the sense that it’s highly unlikely. Here’s why …
Rolex made their Submariner 41mm this year and Omega is sticking to the diameter as well
Rolex are sticklers when it comes to change. They favour the five-and-out mentality over Hail Mary overhauls (sorry, American Football reference). The incremental modifications they make each year are highly discussed in-house, with the subtle revisions made with extreme caution and care. The Submariner watch has never surpassed 40mm in diameter, but clearly Rolex felt the marketplace would be open to the slightly larger diameter. While it really does not enlarge the watch by much lug to lug (if at all), the immediate outcry within the watch enthusiast community was that the change was absolute heresy – with only collectors with larger wrists praising the change. Nevertheless, as we all know, the new watches are just as in demand as their discontinued counterparts, and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.
Omega is another brand that tries to play nice with the mass marketplace. Their Seamaster watches have enjoyed great success at 41mm/42mm diameters with the 36mm now discontinued. If they felt the watches needed to be tamed in size to increase sales, believe me they would be the first to do it, but it is clear that (at least for now) people seem to prefer the presence of the larger modern sizing.
The Tudor Black Bay 41mm models still sell well in stores
While I may argue with said individuals, plenty of forum posters and Instagram commenters claim that 39mm is too small for them – and only caters to puny wrists. Personally I find this complete blasphemy, but for the sake of word count I will not get into this rant now – and ultimately if it is not my money or wrist then it’s not my decision.
Sure the Black Bay Fifty-Eight watches are highly sought after, with likely waiting periods before purchase, and respectable resale values over retail pricing secondhand. But I think we can all agree that we still see Black Bay 41mm watches in the wild. The larger Black Bay models have more variants to choose from when you think about it. Yes, the dials are mostly black (with a few exceptions), but there are more bezel configurations than the two available in the BB58 line and the BB58 has yet to be fashioned in bronze (currently only used in larger 43mm Black Bay Bronze watches) or PVD-treated steel. Also, don’t forget, the in-demand Harrods Black Bay 41mm is the closet Wilsdorf-produced alternative to an aluminium Kermit in the marketplace today.
Another example of Tudor and 41mm being a success is their wildly popular Black Bay GMT watch, that is as equally scarce (if not more so) than the BB58 in store. With a lug to lug of 50mm, the issue with 41mm models in the catalogue has arguably never been about case diameter or even lug to lug – but we’ll get into this more in a second.
What the issue really is, and the more likely way it gets “fixed”
When you really get down to it, the only real issue with the Black Bay 41mm line was its increased thickness (approximately 3mm) when it went from ETA movements with “smiley” dials to the new in-house versions. The Tudor in-house caliber MT5602 is 6mm larger in diameter than the ETA 2824, and is clearly a beefier movement as well.
The question we should all really be asking is not whether or not the BB58 will replace the Black Bay 41mm (or bronze 43mm), but whether or not the MT5602 inside the Black Bay 41mm is eventually replaced with the MT5402 caliber inside the BB58. The MT5402 is only one millimetre larger in diameter than the ETA 2824, and if included in larger Black Bay watches would possibly mean the watches could be fabricated in less thick cases – all without returning to ETA movements, which are less anti-magnetic and efficient with more than 24 hours less power reserve.
In my opinion, the movement swap is the best scenario for consumers. If feasible, it would mean that everyone wins. The 41mm models would return to their more slender proportions found on the previous ETA models, and would certainly attract a large number of inquiries. The BB58 could then remain the less available or produced classic proportion model, and with more consumers pivoting to the 41mm it could theoretically cause the brief waiting period to shrink a bit in span.
Your move, Tudor.