Review: Tudor Black Bay 36 Blue (Ref. 79500)

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The Tudor Black Bay 36 with a blue dial (ref. 79500) didn’t get the attention it deserved when it first launched in 2018 — understandable when going up against heavy hitters like the Black Bay Fifty-Eight and GMT. Reviews and in-the-wild photos were hard to come by for the first half of the year after the watch launched. Slowly photos began to trickle out, and what I was seeing certainly piqued my interest. But I still needed to check out the blue dial in the metal, and doing so was a mistake (for my wallet, that is). After seeing it and trying it on, I knew more than ever that I needed one for my collection, so I went out and got one last year. 

In my experience, the Tudor Black Bay 36 is a great little watch that I’ve found to be extremely versatile. It’s comfortable to wear, looks great with any outfit, and features some capable specs. Let’s take a closer look at this simple three-hander from Tudor with its stunning blue dial. 

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$2900

Review: Tudor Black Bay 36 Blue (Ref. 79500)

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Top-grade ETA 2824, regulated within COSC specs and modified by Tudor
Dial
Blue; applied indices
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Steel bracelet
Water Resistance
150m
Dimensions
36mm x 44mm
Thickness
10.5mm
Lug Width
19mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$2900

The bezel-free Black Bay Heritage line comes in three sizes — a petite 32mm (marketed toward women), middle-of-the-road 36mm, and the largest at 41mm. Upon seeing each of them on display at my local AD, I knew that the 36mm would be right for me. Even though each of the available models differs in case size, they share the same indices and dial text. This design choice makes the 32mm seem cramped, and, conversely, the 41mm too spaced out. The 36mm occupies the sweet spot in the middle, though it’s worth noting that by today’s standards, a 36mm case is considered on the smaller end of the spectrum for a sport watch.

The Black Bay 36’s appeal isn’t just about the case size and balanced proportions. It also features some excellent finishing that punches above its weight, especially given the asking price of the watch. Like its siblings in the Black Bay line, the Heritage 36mm features slab sides polished to a finish that gleams with a mirror-like shine. Since the watch is on the thinner side (10.25mm overall height), the slab sides are proportioned well to the rest of the watch and are in no way imposing (which, as we’ve noted in the past, can be a problem with the 41mm, in-house Black Bay diver range).

The right side is broken up by the crown that rests on a thin aluminum crown tube. The aluminum crown tube is one of the signatures of the Black Bay line. It looks far less prominent on Tudor’s larger Black Bay divers, but on this smaller case I feel that the crown sticks out a bit too much. Adorning the crown is the Tudor rose logo — a throwback to one of their logos used in the past (even on some of the earlier modern heritage models before the shield branding took over).

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Also worth noting is how far the crown sticks out when unscrewed — it’s very far. That detail, coupled with the size, makes for an easy time when pulling the crown out to different positions and adjusting the settings.

The lugs feature radial brushing that provides a contrast to the high polish on the sides and fixed bezel of the case. There’s the slightest chamfer on the edge of the lugs that separates the polished and brushed finishes — a small yet impactful detail that harkens back to the look of classic Oyster cases.

The reason that the Black Bay 36 first caught my eye was the semi-gloss blue dial. It seemed like the perfect shade of blue — not too dark, not too light, and it transforms depending on the lighting. In bright conditions, the blue is vibrant and really pops. In dim conditions, it barely even looks blue, registering more like a dark navy or even black.

Smaller details on the dial are executed really well, too. Standing ~0.5mm tall, the applied indices rise above the dial. They’re tall enough so you can appreciate the polished sides catching the light. I admire Tudor’s use of applied indices, as the effect gives the otherwise  straightforward dial some welcomed depth and interesting visual appeal. At 12:00, there’s an elongated triangle that points to the subtle Tudor shield logo. At 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 there are rectangular batons, and every hour in-between is marked with a circle. Each index is filled with white lume that glows green in low-light conditions. It’s not the brightest I’ve encountered, but it does help with visibility into the night.

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Tudor’s designers nailed the text on the dial as well. Some of their other offerings have what can only be described as a small paragraph on the dial — the current iteration of the Pelagos, for example, has five lines of text. At the 12:00 position, you’ll see a small shield logo, “TUDOR” below it, and finally in even smaller lettering “GENEVE” under that. Just above the 6:00 marker is my favorite detail. The text “ROTOR” goes straight across with “SELF-WINDING” following the curve of the dial underneath. At this time, it’s the only watch in the Black Bay lineup with the curved text, and I love the way it looks. Finally, there’s “SWISS MADE” in small text residing on the outside edge of the dial.

To tell the time, you’ll have to read a set of Tudor’s iconic “snowflake” hands. The easiest way to describe the hour hand is that it looks like a standard stick hand swallowed a diamond. The minutes hand is straight the entire way through, terminating at an angled point. Sweeping around the dial is the seconds hand with its diamond-shaped lume plot located towards the tip. At first, I was impartial to the snowflake hands. After living with them for a little while, however, they’ve grown on me quite a bit because of their unique look and high legibility. Plus, there’s no confusing the hour hand with the minutes hand since they’re so different from each other. The small diamond on the seconds hand also makes it easy to time short tasks if need be. Protecting everything is a flat sapphire crystal that sits nearly flush with the case.

The watch gives off mixed signals, but without the negative connotation. At first glance, it may seem dressy, but what makes the Black Bay 36 so interesting is that it’s kind of a tool watch in disguise. When you check out the specs, you’ll notice a few things that standout. Tudor’s BB36 offers an impressive 150m of water resistance paired with a screw down crown. There’s also a saphhire crystal up top. When considering the smaller sizing, case proportions, dive-inspired dial, and solid oyster-style bracelet, it’s hard to not think of the 36mm Rolex Explorer of years past. There aren’t a ton of modern “dressy tool watches” that come in this size that can truly pull double duty. Ultimately, it’s a small watch that’s just as good inside the office as it is in the great outdoors. It’s this versatility that led me to the Black Bay 36 and it’s what keeps me reaching for it over my other watches, day after day.

Inside the case is an automatic ETA 2824 movement. It’s a common, versatile workhorse of a movement. While much of the Tudor line has shifted in-house, the Black Bay 36 (and the rest of the bezel-free Black Bay range) still outsources movement duty to ETA. The watch hacks and hand-winds.

Tudor uses ETA’s top-grade 2824 movement and makes modifications of their own to keep things super accurate. The movements are regulated to COSC standard, but do not go through the actual certification process. The top-grade 2824 has several improvements over the base model, which help the Black Bay 36 achieve this level of accuracy. A recent 48-hour timing run indicated that mine is running at an impressive -1 sec/day.

The Black Bay 36 I purchased came fitted with a steel oyster-style bracelet. You can opt for the watch on a strap, but I would recommend choosing the bracelet. It’s almost always cheaper to get the watch on a bracelet than having to go buy the bracelet separately after the fact.

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The fit and finish on the entire bracelet is excellent. Mirroring the finishing on the case, the bracelet is faced with brushed surfaces and flanked with polished sides. There’s a 3mm taper from the lugs to the clasp, starting at 19mm and finishing at 16mm where it meets the clasp. The clasp itself is a bit wider, measuring 17mm. The taper adds to the vintage-inspired look and makes the watch a pleasure to wear. Keeping everything in place is a rock-solid locking clasp that features the design of the Tudor shield. There are three positions for micro-adjusting the bracelet, but unfortunately none offer a fit that works perfectly for me. Ideally, the bracelet would just be a tiny bit looser. I’m sure most will be able to find a comfortable setting, but it’s worth noting that Tudor doesn’t currently offer a half-link for the Black Bay 36.

Another minor quibble with the watch is strap-related. While there are more 19mm options available today, it’s still a relatively uncommon size, and if you’re like me, you’re far more likely to have a box full of 18 and 20mm straps. That said, I’m not all that upset because the quality, comfort, and look of the bracelet are all on point, and my watch will spend the majority of its time on the bracelet anyway.

Sometimes it’s easier to come out and say something instead of dancing around it. The Tudor Black Bay 36 is just plain great. The conservative 36mm size, Tudor’s attention to detail, and the watch’s vintage-inspired charm result in another solid entry in the Black Bay line. Overall, it’s the versatility of this watch that makes it so enjoyable to wear. It looks great, the size is particularly comfortable, and the blue dial stands out enough from a sea of black dials without being over the top. And though there are some minor quibbles, these days, I find myself reaching for it over other watches in my collection. Tudor

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.
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