It's been another big week for Tudor with the launch of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze-yet ANOTHER polarizing Black Bay release-but as I sat in Toronto's Tudor Boutique for a quick press preview another thought crossed my mind. Based on the year's releases, there's little doubt in my mind that Tudor clearly has Omega in the crosshairs this year. I'll get to that in a second, but first some quick impressions of this new bronze release. For many (myself included), the original 43mm Black Bay Bronze was simply too big. The standard 41mm case is already quite chunky, given its slab-sided profile, and at 43mm you had to have substantial wrists in order to pull it off comfortably. Scaled down to 39mm across, the new Fifty-Eight Bronze is much more versatile.

The biggest gripe thus far for those who are interested is the situation of availability, which has been a talking point in a number of threads already. Yes, the Fifty-Eight Bronze is "Boutique Only", which means North Americans can only get it though the Tudor boutique in Canada at this time. There's talk of an NYC boutique coming (though we haven't heard much on the topic as of yet), but that certainly makes life difficult for stateside Tudor fans. That said, you can easily try on a steel-cased Fifty-Eight for size, and just know that the watch will be a touch heavier.

The choice of a full bronze bracelet is an interesting one, and something that's quite scarce in the industry aside from the recent Oris Cotton Candy divers and a couple of releases from Zelos Watches. The Oris bracelet is fully bronze, whereas the Zelos bracelet links are backed with stainless steel in order to prevent any marking from wearing the bracelet on hot/humid days. Many have raised concerns over the risk of leaving "green marks" on the wrist from wearing a bronze bracelet, however I am not especially concerned. First, the Aluminum Bronze composition of Tudor's watches is much slower to patina than other watches which use more copper. Tudor also claims that their bronze is "stabilized", though they have not provided further information on this. Beyond this, I can attest that a good friend of mine has been wearing Oris' bronze bracelet out in the heat and humidity of Charleston, and though the watch itself is showing significant patina, there hasn't been the faintest mark left behind on his wrist.

Back to Tudor's bracelet, they've opted to stick with the rivet-style bracelet on this edition, with a new glide-lock clasp. The clasp is spring loaded, and easily adjusts into one of 5 position without fussing. The hope is that this clasp will migrate into the last of the Black Bay line, however there has been mention that Tudor is in no rush to do this. For a closer look at the clasp operation, have a look at the video we posted on Instagram on Wednesday. At this time the bronze model is only available on bracelet, and is sold with the matching brown fabric strap to swap out to as desired.

On the dial and elsewhere there isn't much new to report, nor is there in terms of its caliber. The new Bronze model doesn't carry the METAS certification that was seen on the Black Bay Ceramic that launched earlier this year. Its dial spots the same 3-6-9 Explorer-style layout, with a subtle dégradé fade to it.

Now, to get back to my opening point, what is Tudor getting at here? In an Olympic year, where Omega remains the official timing partner/sponsor of the Olympics as they have for decades and decades, Tudor goes out of their way to launch new Black Bay models in Gold, Silver, and Bronze? This on its own someone "could" try and pass off as a coincidence, but silver is an extremely obscure material to try to use as a watch case, and I don't think that anyone could argue that there was really any kind of demand for a gold-cased Black Bay enough to justify its release. The two brands are close competitors in many respects, much more than Rolex and Omega compete these days(much to Omega's chagrin). While some Omega and Rolex models go head-to-head in terms of specs, Omega and Tudor compete based on availability/accessibility. Tudor wants to broaden their market appeal, and trying to sneak into the room as the high quality/more affordable alternative to Omega is a smart play, all while leveraging the Rolex connection.

While the gold/silver/bronze logic will smell like conspiracy theory to some, the other factor that plays into this ulterior motive is Tudor's move to get METAS certification for the Black Bay Ceramic. METAS has long been Omega's answer to COSC and Rolex's "Superlative Chronometer" certification, and the news from Tudor really came as a surprise-a quick middle finger to Omega, and independent validation of the capabilities of Tudor's in-house calibers. Given Tudor's connection to Rolex and the notoriety of Superlative Chronometer status, Tudor could have easily spun up its own testing and certification process, but instead they went after the one big independent testing service that has mostly only ever been used by Omega. If that's not a little suspect, I don't know what is.

Whatever the real agenda is, these last few moves from Tudor are interesting to say the least. Will we see the glide-lock clasp trickle down through the model range? Will we see more METAS certified calibers? How is that bizarre silver case actually going to age? Will anyone ever buy a gold Tudor Black Bay? I guess time will tell.

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