The Tudor Black Bay P01: Come for the history lesson, stay for the charm
Tudor’s Black Bay P01 proves that going ‘commando’ every once in a while isn’t such a bad idea.
These days, it’s common for brands to delve deep into their archives, pick out a winning model from yesteryear and re-issue it for the modern consumer. And mostly, these heritage reproductions seem to work well because, what’s not to like? A good classic design with a reliable case and movement; that’s a winning combination right there. If you’re Tudor however, you take it a step further and prove that #borntodare isn’t just a clever marketing gimmick.
Behold the Black Bay P01, inspired not from any old watch from the archive but a model that Tudor never even commercially made.
In the days leading up to Baselworld 2019, there was speculation that Tudor was going to bring back the Tudor Submariner. Instead, we got this, the Black Bay P01, which was inspired by a prototype watch – code-named Commando – developed in the late 1960s for the US Navy. It’s no secret that Tudor had been supplying the US Navy with dive watches since the late 1950s, but in 1967 they began development on a replacement for the Oyster Prince Submariner 7928, which was standard issue at the time.
Back in the day, dive watch bezels weren’t as reliable as the models you see today. As you can imagine, being used by the US Navy, a simple timing mistake caused by the bezel could have very serious implications. Thus, around that time, the American government called for watchmakers to find a solution for this. The Commando was Tudor’s response.
In 1968 they filed a patent for a hinged end-link system that could be used to lock the bezel in place. Furthermore, this system also allowed for the bezel to be removed quite easily, once unlocked, for maintenance purposes. We don’t know the real reason why the Commando never made it past the prototype stage but suffice to say, the entire project was shelved. Until now.
The new Black Bay P01 doesn’t re-produce this hinge mechanism entirely but according to Tudor, borrows from it very liberally. The end-link at 12 o’clock also unlocks the bi-directional bezel while the one at the other end doesn’t really do much. Even though the watch was based on a prototype, it looks like Tudor didn’t change much of the design. Remember, this prototype was commissioned by the army and so the focus of the design was purely functional with little consideration for aesthetics. What results is a rather weird looking watch, unlike anything out there in the market.
This is where the line will be drawn, the fence will be set up, and consumers, regardless of whether they are fans of Tudor or not, will pick a side. Love it or hate it, it’s undeniable that the real value with the Black Bay P01 is in its storytelling. How often can you say that you are wearing a piece of history that was imagined more than 50 years ago but is only seeing the light of day now?
The Black Bay P01 is powered by the Manufacture Calibre MT5612 which is Chronometer-certified by the COSC. And what kind of a dive watch would the P01 be if it didn’t offer a great water resistance of 200m? The case is satin finished steel in 42mm to keep with its utilitarian theme and the strap is a hybrid leather and rubber strap with a folding clasp and safety catch.