Right before the start of Watches & Wonders 2023, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Tudor’s new headquarters in Le Locle, where the sister brand of Rolex makes its in-house mechanical movements. The new Tudor Manufacture is an impressive location where Tudor will be expanding production of METAS-certified movements. Within a few years, Tudor hopes to only produce METAS-certified movements. And this new reference M7941A1A0RU is the second watch from Tudor to come equipped with METAS-certified “Master Chronometer” movements. It also happens to be the third generation of the Tudor Black Bay — the brand’s bestselling sports watch product. Let’s take a close look at the 2023 Tudor Black Bay Master Chronometer collection.
“Master Chronometer” is a term that competitor Omega watches came up with in order to designate watches that have been given a METAS certification. Most people would never have guessed that the term would show up on a Tudor watch until it happened in 2022, when Tudor launched the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic Master Chronometer. With that slick black ceramic watch, the timepiece world learned not only that “Master Chronometer” was not a term unique to Omega watches, but also that Tudor was getting in on the METAS-certification game — a new Swiss government standard that is appreciably more robust than COSC Chronometer certification. Some of the highlights of METAS-certified watches are that they are tested with the movement inside the watch (not just the movement itself), and that magnetic resistance is a big part of the certification’s promise. Just as it was with Omega, Tudor needs to ramp up the production of watches it can equip with the right movements, then certify through the testing process. For now, only members of the Black Bay family have Master Chronometer models.
Tudor got the explanation of this fact correct on the dial. Watch fans love to joke about Rolex or Tudor dials with too much text on them, but that issue does not exist with the new Black Bay. This is a highly refined product meant to be a great mainstream luxury tool watch, but it also is made by people who listen carefully to design preferences voiced by timepiece enthusiasts. So, having the correct amount of text on the dial is an important point. Other small dial changes include a minute hand with a pinched end right before it connects to the central axis point. In fact, the entire Black Bay case has been redesigned, and while it maintains a similar 41mm-wide size, it looks like a very different watch.
The steel case for this new-generation Black Bay is the best the collection has ever had. The previous-generation Black Bay wore larger and had more visual mass. The new model is a bit thinner and has less prominent lugs that help the watch wear a bit smaller and more comfortably. The lugs also don’t run right along the side of the case, so a bit more attention is given to the watch dial (versus the entirety of the case shape and profile). The bezel edging and crown are totally new, as is the dial, but it is hard to tell until you put the new and older generation Black Bay models next to each another. Even though Tudor went a bit more classic in style with the M7941A1A0RU Black Bay, I think it helps make the watch that much more desirable.
Engineering on the Black Bay is very good. The case itself is a recreational diver’s watch with 200 meters of water resistance and a domed sapphire crystal over the dial. The bracelet uses a very refined “T-fit” micro-adjust system in the clasp which, is similar to what you get on some Rolex watches and gives a full 8mm of adjustment space. Really, every part of the watch is modern even though Tudor designed the new Black Bay to resemble a more vintage timepiece. A great example of that design mentality is the “stepped” tapering bracelet design. One authentically old-style material on the watch is the use of an anodized aluminum bezel insert, which in the watch pictured here is Tudor’s gorgeous tone of maroon red. This, along with the “gilt” gold-tone dial elements makes for an extremely legible and good-looking dial design. From a watch design perspective, pretty much everything about this third-generation Black Bay is an improvement. That said, the watch doesn’t have as many visual quirks, and it loses a bit of the modern personality of the Black Bay generation that came before it. Inside the M7941A1A0RU Black Bay is Tudor’s in-house caliber MT5602-U automatic movement. This movement operates at 4Hz with 70 hours of power reserve. Tudor offers the Black Bay Master Chronometer with just one dial style to start, but three available strap or bracelet options.
In addition to the black rubber strap version, Tudor is offering the M7941A1A0RU with two different bracelet options. One is a matching steel Jubilee-style bracelet, and the other is a three-link-style bracelet. Interestingly, Rolex charges just a little bit more money for the five-link Jubilee-style bracelet, and I would have assumed that both steel bracelets would be the same price. Aside from the relatively old-school nature of aluminum as a bezel insert material when ceramic has clearer scratch resistance properties, the Tudor Black Bay Master Chronometer is an excellent modern watch, dressed as a timepiece from the past. The maroon-red color of the bezel matches tastefully with the mostly black and gold-toned dial, and the two bracelet options are both compelling choices to wear this Black Bay on. We also know that in the near future, Tudor will be developing new Master Chronometer watches in the Black Bay collection, and that likely also means new dial and bezel colors for this generation Black Bay product. I personally look forward to spending more time with these Tudor products.