One of the questions I get asked most often is whether the Tudor Black Bay 36 is really a good alternative to the Rolex Explorer 36mm.
First of all, it’s a good idea to make a small disclaimer here saying that there are already a lot of reliable opinion articles that talk about the subject and so what I’m going to do here today is to say my opinion, in a quick and concise way, noting the fact that it’s not and never having owned any of these watches, but both have already been in my mind, in the end, I hope to be able to contribute to clarify some doubts.
Although each person must be aware of their aspirations, as well as their limitations since we are talking about brands for different budgets, it seems to me to establish as a starting point that we must follow our heart, that is, if we are in fact on the looking for a Rolex Explorer and not a Tudor Black Bay 36, then we should always go for the Rolex the same thought applies to the Tudor. By this, I do not mean that we should buy the Rolex if our budget does not allow us to, but rather choose to save a little longer and later buy what we really want, keep in mind, what serves others does not necessarily have to serve us.
As we all know, it is not by chance that the two watches are similar, they belong to the same family and share the same founder, although they are from different brands. So, it is worth remembering that both Rolex and Tudor are excellent brands whose production standards are extremely high, choose one or the other, no one will be harmed. Of course, the market is awash with expendable noises such as “whoever buys a Tudor is because can’t buy a Rolex” which only shows the size of the speaker’s pettiness and which we shouldn’t listen to.
So now let’s talk about what I really like about both watches, first the fact that they are tool watches and at the same time everyday wear, which makes them really versatile pieces, it’s no coincidence that many say they would elect one of them if they had to choose a single watch. Another feature that I like in both watches is the fact that they are low-profile watches within their respective brands, in the case of Rolex, we have much more sought after models such as the Submariner, Datejust, Daytona and GMT Master, the same happens with Tudor, with Black Bay Heritage, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight and the Pelagos lines, which makes these two watches not too hard to find in the brands’ retailer stocks. Another interesting point is their price, which is well below other models mentioned above, which means that we don’t have to break our budget to acquire them and still manage to add a safe value to our collection, currently with the Tudor Black Bay 36 in a steel bracelet costing €2,830 and the new Rolex Explorer in steel costing €6,150.
Tudor Black Bay 36
The Tudor Black Bay 36, which first appeared in 2016, with an internal movement ETA 2824-2, was later powered with the new Caliber T600, which corresponds to the movement Sellita SW200-1, all other features of this watch remain unchanged. But after all, what do I like most and least about the Tudor BB 36? When it appeared in 2016, its main advantage was the fact that it was a new and modern watch compared to the previous alternatives of the Rolex Explorer through the references 14270 and 114270, which today is no longer an advantage with the launch this year of the new Rolex Explorer Ref. 124270, but by far what I have always liked most about the BB36 is undoubtedly its curved “smiley face” on the dial, a feature that it shared a long time with the rest of the Black Bay collection until it was later renamed BB Heritage, another positive point is the 150m of water resistance, which is higher to the 100m offered by the Rolex Explorer. It is also relatively economical and easy to maintain, with a price market below €3,000 which makes it cost less than half of the current Rolex Explorer. As far as the less positive points are concerned, they are a few, starting with the non-In-house movement which will undoubtedly weigh on the watch’s future value and which offers a modest 38 hours of power reserve, this is perhaps the stone in the shoe that drives away many buyers. Another point is the oversized dial with round indices, I must confess that added to the snow-flake hands seems exaggerated to me. Lastly, the crown tube, which is a characteristic of the entire collection, I don’t really like, nor can I see any advantage in it.
Tudor, Black Bay 36, Ref. M79500-0007. Black dial, stainless steel case, 36 mm x 10.5 mm, sapphire glass, solid case back, 150 meters water resistance, stainless steel bracelet. Caliber T600, self-winding mechanical, hour, minutes, seconds, 28,800 Vph, 26 jewels, 38 hours of power reserve. Price € 2,830.
As for the Rolex Explorer, and here I’m going to refer to the last reference released this year, what I like most is without a doubt the 3-6-9 dial, which at the same time can look downright boring in the eyes of its owners. The fact that it comes with the internal movement with a modern 72h power reserve is undoubtedly an important point to remember, as with regard to the less positive points there is not much to say, besides the obvious, such as a higher price, than twice the Tudor, a cost of service naturally also more expensive and the 100m of water resistance, which despite being acceptable not to be a diving watch seems today perhaps a little short.
Rolex, Explorer, Ref. 124270. Black dial, stainless steel case, 36 mm x 11.5 mm, sapphire glass, solid case back, 100 meters water resistance, stainless steel bracelet. Caliber 3230, self-winding mechanical, hour, minutes, seconds, 28,800 Vph, 31 jewels, 70 hours of power reserve. Price € 6,150.
Final verdict, the truth is that there is no right answer, since as I had the opportunity to mention each one should decide what is best for them, also once again to reinforce the idea that we must follow our heart, and if it is with the Explorer, that’s where we must concentrate our energies and efforts, but if he’s with the BB36, that’s where we should focus. Both are excellent watches and although they are separated by a substantial difference in price, they both belong to the same lineage. Not being any recommendation, if it were for me, maybe opt for the BB36 if I was looking for a more versatile piece and had a limited budget, and to the Rolex Explorer if you were looking for a more elegant and classic option.