[VIDEO] Review: The Almost Too Good Tudor Pelagos 39

The Pelagos has always been a watch with no middle ground. It’s not for everyone, and it never really tried to be. It wore its identity on its sleeve and scoffed at the conventional wisdom of more demure tool watches built for easy everyday wear. That is, until now. The new Pelagos 39 is a tool watch that is, without jumping the gun here, remarkably easy to wear everyday. As good a watch as the Pelagos 39 is, it does bring the Pelagos (pronounced Pelagos, not Pelagos, btw) in general to a bit of a crossroads in regards to its identity. Taking a step back, this is a move that very much falls in line with Tudor’s broader gameplan, from my point of view, at least, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But then, why does it feel so surprising? 

There are two ways to think about the P39: as a part of the otherwise air-tight Pelagos family, and as a Tudor dive watch. Of course, it is both of those things, but I’d call this a great Tudor dive watch (and a great watch, full stop) first and foremost. As a Pelagos, this is a somewhat frustrating watch; not for what it is, but for what it isn’t.

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$4400

[VIDEO] Review: The Almost Too Good Tudor Pelagos 39

Case
Grade 2 Titanium
Movement
Tudor MT5400
Dial
Satin Sunray Black
Lume
Ceramic Lume Blocks
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Titanium bracelet; rubber
Water Resistance
200M
Dimensions
39x47mm
Thickness
12mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
5 Years
Price
$4400

I’ve made no secret of my fondness for the Pelagos FXD since its release late last year. It’s not the super-deep diver that other Pelagos references are, but it’s a weird, niche dive tool built around specific underwater maneuvers performed by the French Navy. It checks all the boxes of what I want from a Pelagos, with plenty of quirky character, like the fixed lug titanium case and countdown bezel, thrown in for good measure. It is not a watch upon which you’d apply a term like ‘urban sophistication’, which is exactly what Tudor has done with this watch.

Like the FXD, the P39 is a dateless, 200M dive watch within the Pelagos family and is, no doubt, just as capable. However, it ditches any pretense of being a hyper-focused dive tool in favor of gaining a bit of that urban sophistication. This manifests in a few ways, from the less extreme dimensions, to some added visual flair in the finishes selected for the dial and bezel. Taken as a Pelagos, the P39 is not quite a jarring experience, but certainly a step off of the narrowly beaten path that the collection had been on. 

As easy as it would be to envision this watch, or a very similar version of it, existing within the more style-conscious Black Bay family, the P39 continues some of the styling cues first seen on the FXD that are very much associated with the identity of the Pelagos. Namely the square hour markers, which have been removed from the rehaut. The P39 is also purely modern in its aesthetic aspirations, with pure white lume, sharp case lines that incorporate an aggressive crown guard, and a flat crystal.

In our introductory article I referred to this watch as the Sub we’ve always wanted. That’s because, with a little imagination, it’s not hard to envision this as a modern ‘Snowflake’ Submariner in the vein of 7016 or 9401 references of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Apply the FXD blue colorway and the same color of ceramic lume blocks from the Black Bay Pro to the P39, and boom: you’re looking at a dead ringer for a modern Snowflake. But alas, this is not a throwback watch of any sort, and it’s not likely to head in that direction from here. Though I wouldn’t rule out a blue colorway at some point down the line, at the very least. 

Vintage Tudor ‘Snowflake’ Submariner

So the P39 isn’t exactly cut from the same cloth as the rest of the Pelagos collection, and it’s not quite the return of the Tudor Submariner. If you separate it from those concepts, you’re left with, well, a perfectly fine dive watch. Is there enough here to set it apart in a highly competitive landscape of great dive watches, including from within their own house? 

Tudor Black Bay 58

One watch that’s bound to draw the most comparison is the Black Bay 58, particularly in its blue colorway. These are different watches in many ways, but the package is nearly identical. They share the same 39mm case diameter, the same ~47mm lug to lug measurement, and are both 12mm thick. This is, for all intents and purposes, a Pelagos 58. It brings the Pelagos design DNA into the beloved frame of the 58. This is not a bad thing as the 58 is a real sweetheart on the wrist, and the P39 takes it even further with its titanium construction and full titanium bracelet. One small, but potentially important, difference between the two watches is the lug span. 

Earlier examples of the Pelagos and Pelagos LHD

The Pelagos 39 gets a 21mm lug span, which is slightly out of character for a 39mm watch. It’s a small difference, but it has a visual impact on the overall proportions of the watch on-wrist. It brings a squat, muscular presence befitting of the Pelagos name on the dial. Oh, and a not so insignificant side note, even if you have a drawer full of extra straps, not many of them are likely to be 21mm.

Thankfully, the bracelet that ships on the P39 is fantastic. It’s a three link design that gets the T-fit quick adjusting clasp and even a dive extension to boot. One peculiar detail is the seemingly intentional space left between each of the links. The gaps are slightly larger than what you’d generally expect on a bracelet like this, they create a more dramatic value scale when worn, going from deep black between the links to light gray of titanium at their center. I’m not sure if they lend to the comfort level of the bracelet, but this is one of the better Tudor bracelets I’ve ever experienced. 

The watch also ships with a rubber strap, including an expanding dive extension. The rubber unit uses the same titanium end links from the bracelet, giving it a similar look to Rolex Oysterflex equipped watches, which are only found on precious metal cases at the moment. Unlike those, the end links on this Tudor can be freely removed to make way for any 21mm strap you can find. 

Everything is about as you’d expect from Tudor, until you get to the dial and bezel. There’s nothing extraordinary or even exotic about them, but they have been the subject of most of the consternation about this watch since its release. Tudor labels both the dial and the bezel as “black satin sunray” in their finish. The added visual flair for the sake of aesthetics is responsible for much of the disconnect from other Pelagos watches. Somehow it goes beyond their usual ‘we’ll make a black and a blue version’ to provide options. The P39 has style. The ceramic bezel insert is particularly effective at catching plenty of light in its newly textured surface. It may not be quite as immediately legible as the matte bezels you’ll find in other Pelagos watches, but it’s still perfectly usable, and breaks up the monotony of the black and white scheme going otherwise.

The bezel assembly itself is still all Pelagos, and clearly all business next to something like the Black Bay 58. There are deep cut teeth at its edge, and each of the 60 clicks are firm and unambiguous. Furthermore, all the bezel markings are filled with lume, and it looks fabulous when fully charged. 

The dial is also labeled as satin sunray, but the effect here is far more muted than what we see on the bezel. The sunray texture is difficult to perceive in most lights, but the overall effect lands somewhere between matte and glossy, which is to say: satin. The distortion free, flat crystal offers a great view to the dial, and legibility is as nearly as good as every other matte dialed Pelagos that’s come prior. We’re also treated to the ceramic blocks of lume residing at each hour, which feels like it will become a mainstay with Tudor moving ahead. No complaints here.

One detail about the Pelagos that has endeared it to many of us are of course the square hour markers. To my eye, they just jive that much better with the snowflake hour hand. If those round hour markers had been the only thing holding you back on the Black Bay 58, the P39 will be a welcome sight. Again, this harkens back to a specific era of original Tudor Submariner references. Another slight nod to heritage is the red Pelagos at the bottom of the dial. This red line of text perhaps acknowledges the first Rolex Submariner reference to receive a date complication, the 1680. A variety of executions were seen on Submariners in the 2.07M to 4.0M serial number range before moving to white text. 

The red text looks just as good here, and almost gets lost against the satin black backdrop. It has the added benefit of visually reducing the weight of the 4 lines of text at the bottom of the dial, something that’s been a consistent criticism of in-house Pelagos watches. It’s a welcome touch that adds some much needed hue variety, even if only slightly, to the otherwise black and white affair.

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The red text and the sunray bezel create a unique experience, and to a lesser extent, the finish of the dial. I’m pleased they refrained from a date complication here, however, this is a watch that feels like it should have one. If the intent of this watch is to broaden the appeal of the Pelagos to a bigger audience, the date is a practical consideration that seems to appeal to more people both within and outside of the watch enthusiast community. But, perhaps the dateless approach is fitting to the laid back attitude this watch has compared to other Pelagos watches. 

I will admit, upon first blush, the P39 is not a watch that commanded my attention. Don’t get me wrong, there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but there wasn’t much that grabbed my attention, either. I have plenty of other divers with more character and charm; the P39 was almost too perfect, too vanilla. However, after a week of wear, it has quietly grown on me in ways that aren’t captured in a first impression. 

It’s so easy to wear, easy to read, and just straight up handsome in a tool-ish manner. I found myself enjoying the experience of wearing the watch more than I found myself looking for an excuse to check the time just so I could see it on my wrist. That is, paradoxically, the best thing and the worst thing I can say about this watch.

When Tudor first unveiled the P39 I commented in the introduction that it was a “muddying of the waters… in what had been a crystal clear purpose driven collection”. I stand by that assessment, though perhaps muddy is the wrong word. You could charitably look at this watch as a new complexion of the Pelagos that takes a lifestyle driven approach, rather than a singular purpose driven approach. I can’t help but think of the fire-breathing V-10, manual-only Viper, a car that never compromised on its original thesis, and as a result never found widespread success outside of dedicated enthusiasts, and is, sadly, no longer built. The Pelagos perhaps shared a similar destiny. With the P39, the Pelagos gets that automatic transmission, softer suspension, and fuel efficient hybrid drivetrain. It’s an acknowledgement of the needs desires of the many, over those of the few. 

The Pelagos 39 is an excellent and capable watch. If you’re into dive watches you should absolutely have this one on your radar. That said, if you have a few other divers in your watchbox that you love for all their faults, you might find something strangely lacking in this Tudor. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for that single perfect tool watch to wear every single day, the P39 is a great candidate. 

The Pelagos 39 is priced at $4,400 and is available from Tudor authorized retailers now. Learn more about this watch from Tudor

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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