Owner’s Review: the Tudor Black Bay GMT

Pretty much since the first day of taking up the financially ruinous hobby of watches in early 2022, I’ve had a bit of a thing for tool and sports watches. Granted, I haven’t been scuba diving and I’ll certainly not be scaling Mount Everest any time soon, but there is – to me at least – something romantic about wearing a watch that offers a sense of genuine utility, especially in the age of the smartwatch. What’s more, I believe that a watch should tell something about its wearer; a glimpse into their personality rather than just be a status symbol and a source of bragging rights. When the opportunity for my first ‘proper’ watch arose in January 2023, I chose a Tudor Black Bay GMT. It was a belated 30th birthday gift and whenever I look at it, it reminds me that firstly, my knees hurt more often than they don’t, and secondly, reconciliation exists and hope springs eternal no matter how rough things may seem at certain times. 

There are also another two reasons unrelated to age as to why this watch is special to me. Several millennia ago as a student, I was fortunate to spend an academic year in St. Petersburg. That’s the Russian one, FYI, and that period from September 2010 to July 2011 kicked off a fascination with the awesome-yet-frightening city on Neva. In 2015, having also developed a love affair with the history of the Baltic States, I moved to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to try my luck at Eastern Europe without the paternal hand of the university on my shoulder. It was hard at first, but I ended up making several friends over there and eventually falling in love. I moved back to the United Kingdom in 2019 to be with that person, but my connection to both countries remains immensely strong, and that’s where the Black Bay GMT comes in. It sounds silly, but being able to track the time zone used by my friends in both countries (that’s GMT +2 in Lithuania, GMT +3 in Russia, if you’re interested) makes me feel somewhat closer to them, and I can still picture in my mind’s eye what I would be doing in either St. Petersburg or Vilnius at a certain time of day when I look at the watch. Another of my financially irresponsible pastimes is craft beer drinking, so if you get clever with the Black Bay GMT’s GMT hand, it’s always 5pm somewhere. 


To be honest, Tudor watches didn’t really register until mid-way through last year. Yet as I began to browse the types of watches I like, the Black Bay GMT emerged as a front-runner as it combines tool watch functionality with sports watch looks. I’ve always been a fan of the GMT-Master, especially the ‘Pepsi’ reference 1675 of the 1970s and the later 16700. The blue and red aluminium bezel inserts on those watches are just so unbelievably cool, and the Black Bay GMT has definitely borrowed some design language from both of these iconic pieces. It’s worth remembering that Tudor was founded by Hans Wildorf in 1924 as a sister brand to Rolex, which – in my mind, anyway – indicates that the Black Bay GMT shares more than just a little DNA with the original GMT-Master of 1954. In addition to the aluminium ‘Pepsi’ bezel of my watch, I love that the heritage of each of the watches I’ve just mentioned can be traced back to the ‘golden age’ of air travel – after all, the GMT-Master was created by Rolex for Pan Am pilots who required a watch capable of tracking multiple time zones. To me, this piece of history gives both the Black Bay GMT and non-ceramic bezel GMT-Master a sense of utilitarian glamour, to coin a term. 


Owner’s Review: the Tudor Black Bay GMT

Stainless steel
Yes, hands and markers
Stainless steel bracelet
Water Resistance
200 meters
41 x 50mm
Lug Width
Screw down

For a while after taking receipt of the Black Bay GMT, I would mainly wear an Apple Watch Ultra and the Tudor only came out on special occasions. I can be quite an introverted character, and after a while, there are only so many bleeps and notifications you can take from your smartphone and computer – let alone your wrist!  With my patience slowly wearing thin with the Apple Watch Ultra, I’d begun to wrestle with the idea of dailying the Black Bay GMT, and by mid-May last year after one “you haven’t met your daily step goal” reminder too many, the Apple Watch went into a drawer and hasn’t been seen since. Don’t get me wrong, I was slightly daunted to rock the Tudor as an everyday piece at first simply because I’ve never owned anything that expensive, but people have been daily-wearing tool watches since they were invented, so why should I be any different? Over the last six months or so, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how much of a resilient not-so-little bastard it is. I sleep in it, I wore it to a Pretenders gig the other night, it’s fastened to my wrist whenever I go to the gym, and given it’s water resistant to 200 metres, it’s been in the Aegean with me, too. I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to compare the “go anywhere, do anything” attitude of the Tudor Black Bay GMT with that of its no-nonsense, utilitarian sibling, the Black Bay Pro. That’s no bad thing. 

With its unguarded crown and slightly retro appearance, the Black Bay GMT adopts some of the design language pioneered by the Black Bay – the watch responsible for reviving Tudor’s fortunes when it relaunched in 2012. Whilst the Black Bay GMT is the first GMT watch ever manufactured by Tudor, the fact that it has applied its signature ‘snowflake’ design to its hour and GMT hands is a pleasant recognition of the brand’s 97-year history. As I outlined earlier, the watch’s aluminium bezel insert is finished in a desaturated navy blue and burgundy red ‘Pepsi’ colour scheme, and its matte finish – especially when paired with the matte black dial – provide the reference with a soft, almost gentle appearance. It’s not an aggressive looking watch at all. The red GMT hand and gilt-printed dial serve as a nod to mid-20th century references of this type, and I can’t help but applaud Tudor for choosing to go down this route as opposed to the more shouty aesthetic that so many watchmakers seem to – for reasons unknown to me – currently favour for their sports/tool watches. As you can probably tell by now, I’m somewhat enamoured with the general design of the Black Bay GMT, but my absolute favourite thing about it is the absence of a ceramic bezel insert. An aluminium bezel is more likely to bash up – sorry, “develop a patina” – over time and show that the watch has been used exactly how Tudor had in mind when it released the Black Bay GMT in 2018.

At 41mm across, the diameter of the stainless steel case is pretty much what you’d expect from a watch of this type. Yet with its slightly domed sapphire crystal, it wears a little taller than some of its contemporaries with a thickness of 15mm – the same height as the original Black Bay diver. From the wrong angle and on a smaller wrist, the GMT can look slightly cumbersome due to the absence of curved lugs. However, it never looks oversized and I’ve never experienced any slip on my bony wrists as of yet. What’s more, Tudor has packaged things well to hide the Black Bay GMT’s heft, as despite weighing in at 175 grams, it never feels bulky and the use of brushed and polished surfaces help tame the watch’s ample dimensions. Overall, the case gives the Black Bay GMT a sense of honest utility. It’s not a formal piece at all, but it has zero pretensions of being so. Sure, it certainly doesn’t look out of place with a dress shirt and jacket, but I find the Black Bay GMT is at its visual best when worn with a favourite pair of jeans, a tried-and-tested old t-shirt, and a pair of shoes you can’t quite bring yourself to throw away yet. It’s very much a piece that lends itself to being worn, which is much of where the watch’s charm stems from. 

It’s no secret that Tudor borrows mechanical components and some design elements from Rolex, but the Black Bay GMT’s stainless bracelet isn’t one of the latter. Whilst it looks visually similar to the sporty, three-link ‘Oyster’ bracelet synonymous with its sister brand, Tudor’s offering is made from standard Steelinox stainless steel, and not Oystersteel – Rolex’s proprietary blend of stainless steel with additional elements of copper, chromium, molybdenum & nickel. As a result, the Tudor’s bracelet links and bracelet clasp have picked up plenty of wear and hairline scratches over the last six months. If you’re anything like me, you won’t mind that your watch looks as though it’s had a life. Yet if you’re planning on wearing it just on Christmas and your birthday, this will probably wind you up as it marks very easily. The clasp is a simple deployant-style buckle, and doesn’t borrow anything from Rolex. In fact, if you flick it, it feels slightly tinny and cheap. This annoys me deeply, especially when you consider how much thought Tudor has put into the rest of the watch. Given the amount of DNA shared with the GMT-Master, it would also be nice if Tudor offered its own ‘Jubliee’ bracelet. Sure, there are aftermarket Jubilees out there and they do a fine job, but adding a non-official component to the watch feels like a middle finger to Tudor and cheapens the whole experience – feel free to disagree with me, of course, but it’s a bit like going to a Michelin star restaurant and taking along a bottle of tomato ketchup because you think you can do better than the chef. So, if anyone from Tudor happens to be reading this, add ‘GMT Jubilee bracelet’ to your notes as a reminder of things to do in 2024! 


The instruction manual on how to use the watch’s GMT function is largely useless. That said, this could also boil down to me being pretty much numerically illiterate. However, after some help and a simply-worded explanation, learning and understanding the GMT function isn’t too hard. The way the movement is designed, the long, red 24 hour GMT hand is meant to always read “home” time and would be set first. From there, you jump the local hour hand wherever it needs to be. A third time zone can be tracked using the bezel and the appropriate GMT offset. Don’t get me wrong, there is a genuine question of whether the manual GMT function is a relic of the past, and given how easily smart devices can display multiple time zones, then yes, it probably is. However, it’s bloody cool and a pleasant throwback to another era – full props to watchmakers who still persevere with it.

And persevere Tudor has! The watch is powered by Tudor’s in-house developed calibre MT5652, an automatic COSC chronometer offering a 70-hour power reserve and an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day. Unlike most watches at this price point, the movement’s GMT functionality is integrated rather than modular – in other words, instead of buying in a base movement such as an ETA or a Sellita and modifying it accordingly to save time and money, Tudor went out of its way to adapt its calibre MT5621 it introduced in 2015, when it began producing its own movements and is a GMT adaptation thereof.

If you’re looking to purchase a Black Bay GMT on the secondary market, do be aware that a handful of the early “first-gen” watches from 2018/2019 were affected by a sticking date wheel issue. This meant that in some cases, the date would advance earlier than midnight, and sometimes the date would advance by up to 1.5 days, meaning it would get stuck halfway in the date window. However, it has since been widely-reported that the issue was fixed mid-way through 2020. Please note that Tudor has since gone on to use the calibre MT5652 in its Black Bay GMT Steel & Gold (or “S&G” in Tudorese) and Black Bay Pro, both of which debuted in 2022. 

So, how do I sum things up? Tudor Black Bay GMT has proven to be a great jumping off point. Research into Tudor’s backstory and the history of the GMT complication has opened up a whole new appreciation for the brand and this type of watch. It’s just utterly romantic, and if you’re still operating on the premise that “Tudor is a poor man’s Rolex”, then please give your head a wobble. I love that the Black Bay GMT is a distant relative of the Rolex GMT-Master, and Tudor hasn’t succumbed to making it flashy or particularly modern looking – in fact, I’d say it’s pretty timeless. I love that its “go anywhere, do anything” personality shines through when being used as a watch and ultimately, a tool and not a showpiece. Tudor

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George lives in the North West of England, and was bitten by the watch bug at an early age when he received a FlikFlak as a way of learning to tell the time. Whilst enthusiastic about all types of watches, he has a propensity towards rugged 'go anywhere, do anything' pieces that can take a whack and serve as a memory box of adventures and stories. The next watch on George's list is an Omega Seamaster 300M 'Goldeneye' because he's British and represses a long, yearning desire to be Pierce Brosnan.