I know when this started — it started with my grandfather passing away. Shortly after his passing my grandmother handed me his watch, and told me she wanted me to have it. A Rolex Datejust, not particularly old having a 2007 model year, but it was the only watch I had ever seen my grandfather wear (something my dad confirmed). From the day my grandfather got that watch, and onward, it was always on his wrist. And for the next year and a half I basically never took it off either.
But that watch is not the style I would pick, and truth be told at the time I really didn’t know what my style was or is. So I started trying to find a watch, because that Rolex was what caused me to ditch the Apple Watch and never look back. I started with a classic Steinhart and have been on a rampage ever since then.
And then I, almost on a whim (a whim because I was looking to buy a different watch at about the same price), bought this Tudor Black Bay GMT, and it is the perfect watch. It is the only watch I need, and likely the watch I will wear the most for a very long time to come. Here’s why this is such a perfect watch, and why it could easily be most peoples ‘one’ watch collection. (For those not steeped in watch collecting, what that means is that it is the holy grail, the watch that makes you only want that singular watch and not dozens more. Yeah, I know, but it’s a thing.)
This is a true GMT watch, so what is a ‘True GMT’, also known as a traveler’s GMT? Basically it is that the hour hand is a jumping hour hand, which can easily be set without losing time, allowing the minute and second hand to keep going. In this case, setting the watch can be a little nuts, as you set the GMT hand and the minutes hand together, then jump the hour hand until the date is correct and set the hour hand to the local time.
When people talk about True GMT, they mean they can quickset the hour hand via some mechanism without adjusting the seconds or minutes — or the GMT hand for that matter. So if I travel from Central Time to Pacific Time, I can change the hour hand back two hours without losing track of the minutes and seconds. It’s insanely handy for travel and makes setting your watch a breeze.
(About half way through this article, there’s a GIF of the jump set function. It is worth taking a look at if you still have no idea what I am on about.)
I don’t know why this matters so much to me. But there’s something so particular about it, that I can’t help but smile when I use it. It’s not that setting a watch is hard — and in fact this makes actually correcting the time a bit harder (looking at you DST). But, then again, it is pure magic to pull out the crown and quickset the hour when the plane is still taxiing to the gate, all while knowing my watch is just as accurate as always. That’s neat, I love it, and yet it probably doesn’t matter.
This watch has an MSRP of $4,050 on the bracelet, and can usually be found for that price — maybe with a short wait. (I say this, because Rolex has ruined luxury watch buying of late, with long waits and often prices well above MSRP for many people.) For many of you reading that price, this will be an absurd price to pay for a watch. For some reading this, you will see it as a pretty good value, inexpensive even. It is all relative.
But for a True GMT made by a luxury watch company (which some dispute Tudor as being, but I firmly believe Tudor qualifies as luxury), it’s a bargain. The GMT-Master II from Rolex is $6,000 more than this watch on average. So price is relative, but for what you get, it is a bargain — whether you need to pay that for a watch is a completely different discussion all together.
But I bring up price second on this list because I do think that given this price point it sits in an interesting spot. It’s not absurdly expensive, but it’s not cheap either. It’s a quality watch with all the design, finishing, and features found in much higher priced watches, and yet at a price that if you really put your mind to it, many could attain.
One of the first things you might notice about this watch is the colored bezel, and while it may look dark gray and red, it’s actually Navy and Red. This is what watch lovers call a “Pepsi Bezel”, so named because of the resemblance to the color schemes on Pepsi cans.
Of the Pepsi variants out there (yes there is a Coke, black and red, a Batman, black and blue, a Rootbeer, brown, and a Hulk, green) this is the most sublte of the Pepsi color options. Most have a brighter red and a more vibrant brighter blue. But that subtlety is what drew me to this watch.
I love the Pepsi coloring, but it can feel in your face on many watches. Now, aesthetics aside, there is a vague reason for the coloring. The bezel is a 24 hour bezel and the blue section represents the hours of 6pm – 6am, which is typically the half of the day when it’s not light out. Which is why it is the section of the bezel colored blue, and thus darker than the rest. Which I admit is a bit like fitting a narrative to a color scheme, but that’s the gist of that.
What works so well on this watch is the subdued nature of this. Some of it is the colors picked, some of it is that it is not a ceramic bezel — it will fade and scratch. But like with the price it’s subdued in this market, and that plays well given the robust sizing of the watch. Pepsi coloring is well accepted in the watch world, and you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which this coloring would be wildly out of place. But I will now say that it’s a little funky to pair with purple shirting, so if that is your thing, beware.
Vs. GMT-Master II
The most obvious connection to this watch is Rolex’s GMT-Master II with Pepsi bezel. Perhaps one of the most iconic Rolex’s and made by the sister company to Tudor. The feature sets are nearly identical. True GMTs, chronometers, Pepsi bezel, stainless steel. The only slight difference is the water resistance rating is higher on Tudor, but honestly irrelevant in general. Rolex is also held to a tighter set of accuracy metrics, and so forth.
So then the look and dimensions are the biggest difference. The Rolex is thinner, and smaller over all — while the bezel itself is ceramic and brighter. That’s what $6,000 more gets you, and I can’t blame anyone for wanting it. It’s an icon. Is it worth the price? Yes. Is it the same watch as the Tudor? No.
Which one is better? Neither. I would own both at the same time and be smitten. Don’t compare the Tudor to a GMT-Master II, and don’t get the Tudor if what you want is the GMT-Master II. Get the Tudor because that’s the one you want, and that’s why I have the Tudor. (Allow me to also now point out that it is extremely hard to find one of those GMT-Masters, and decently hard to find the Tudor. Don’t expect to be able to walk into a store and buy either.)
Wear & Use
I have been wearing this watch every day, all day, since I got it with the exception of just a few days where I wore another watch. What I mean is I wear this watch to work, to play, and to sleep. It has been on my wrist the entire time, which isn’t unusual for me.
What is unusual is that I am not bored with this watch. It looks amazing, and sucks me in everytime I look at it. The weight, heft and size is exactly what I want. I love the coin edge on the bezel as it is addictive to run my fingers along, and the oversized and unprotected crown is the right kind of quirky.
All of it speaks to me.
And I love the GMT functionality. I took this watch on two trips so far in a different time zones and it was the first time I was excited to adjust my watch upon landing — as a quick roll of the crown perfectly updated the time on the hour hand. It was magic. It remains magic, and thus has ruined every non-jumping hour hand watch for me. What’s even the point.
The bracelet is very comfortable and easily worn. It slides easily under the cuff of every shirt I wear, and pairs well with all my clothing (exception only to that purple shirt I mentioned). The lume is fantastic, easily glowing all night without any concerted effort to “charge” it. I often find myself reading the time at 4am, annoyed to be up, but thankful I don’t need a bright screen to tell me the time.
I love that the watch has a 200m water resistance rating, telling me I can go ahead and drown the watch without worry. I’ll never need or use that, but it is there and comforting that it is there.
But the surprise of this all is the bracelet — I like this oyster style bracelet better than the actual oyster bracelet on my Rolex. Many have lamented the rivet design, but I find that hardly noticeable and I actually like that it adds nice flair to the watch.
What is stand out on the bracelet is the clasp, which has ceramic ball bearings for rentention. This is not normally the case, and what this means in practice is butter smooth action for securing and removing the clasp. It is addictive to play with as the action is just perfection. Weird thing to glam on to, I know, but I am telling you…
The one down side is the nub sticking up to aide in releasing the clasp, I find it to be an odd interruption to the design and useless in use as it is the most difficult way to release the clasp.
This is my perfect watch and I highly recommend it. I don’t actually need any other watch than this. But in my Watch Guide you might have noticed that I selected another Tudor in place of this as the one watch which is better for most people. So allow me to explain why I like this watch more and why it speaks to me.
I look down and I see a classic design, refined and adjusted for current times. A watch made for travel, exploration, and anything else which may come its way. In some ways, for the most part, a reminder of what I would rather be doing in life, and thus something to look forward to doing.
Almost a challenge to me on my wrist.
It’s odd to put that all on a watch, but watches have personality and that personality needs to fit your own. Without that, you have a watch that will move through your collection quickly and barely be remembered months from now. I don’t like divers, because I don’t like diving. It’s not what I aspire to do.
But a GMT built to work well in travel, that can keep track of time back where I was raised, that can handle all the abuse of diver tool watches — that’s my kind of watch. That’s a watch which is the chameleon I identify with.
And for that reason, this will always be my choice over any other watch you could get. Not that others are bad, but they aren’t right for me. This Black Bay GMT is right for me. Overbuilt, subdued, versatile, and yet completely classic at the same time.
You can wear it with anything, and also go anywhere with it. I am not sure what exactly there isn’t to like about this watch. Even the date window, while being contrasting colors with the face is perfectly slotted in at 3 o’clock such that you don’t get a jarring visual disruption.
You really should own this watch, if you can find it.