Rolex Submariner VS Tudor Black Bay – Which is Best?

Rolex Submariner VS Tudor Black Bay - Which to Choose?

Rolex Submariner vs Tudor Black Bay – Which is Best?

Which is best? Rolex Submariner or Tudor Black Bay?

The Rolex Submariner and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay both share the same history and background. However, over time, they slowly grew apart. Today, we have a diving watch from both brands, and as the saying goes, our past affects our future.

It’s clear that both brands are affected by their history with the Submariner and the Black Bay respectively but in two different ways.

In this article, we will compare the in-house Heritage Black Bay with the 6-digit reference ceramic Submariner.

Rolex Submariner VS Tudor Black Bay – Background

To understand where these models are coming from, we need to go way back. Tudor, as most know by now, was founded by Hans Wilsdorf, the same man who founded Rolex, in 1926. The idea was to make watches that offered the same quality and reliability as Rolex watches but at a lower price.

Wilsdorf achieved this by making Tudor watches with Rolex parts but fitting them with off-the-shelf movements – not in-house which Rolex used.

Tudor Black Bay vs Tudor submariner
Photo: Monochromewatches

With that said, the history of the design language and Rolex is very similar and close to identical. Of course, this has changed over the years, in particular with the relaunch of the Tudor brand in more recent years, as an effort to make Tudor a brand that is strong enough to stand on its own legs and not have to rely on Rolex.

With that said, choosing between Rolex and Tudor was almost unthinkable back in the day. Tudor had the label ”poor man’s Rolex”, so naturally, the buyers of Rolex watches were not buyers of Tudor watches. They simply targeted different audiences. But to have come to the point where customers are buying both Rolex and Tudor watches – and sometimes weighing between them shows that the brand has succeeded well.

Submariner vs Black Bay

The Submariner and the Heritage Black Bay come from the same background, but they have developed differently.

Rolex Submariner 114060

It’s important to make the distinguishment that the Black Bay is a ”Heritage” model, which means that it has intentionally been made to resemble the vintage watches from Tudor. The Rolex Submariner, on the other hand, is not a heritage model, but instead, a model that has evolved from its heritage into what it is today.

As such, the Rolex Submariner naturally looks more modern and is built with up-to-date and modern materials. The Black Bay cannot use modern materials, and the reason is that it is not what it is about as a heritage model.

The Rolex Submariner may be the most iconic and well-known watch design in the world. And most people will probably not be surprised to hear that they both come from the same background and history.

In recent years, two greatly important updates to the Tudor watch that has made the already competitive Black Bay, even more competitive. This includes warranty and movement. These are two things worth considering when buying a watch, and an easy way you explained the difference between Tudor and Rolex watches back in the day was that Tudor used off-the-shelf movements whilst Rolex used in-house movements.

However, that is not the case anymore since Tudor has invested heavily in developing its own in-house movements. And of course, Tudor has gotten help from Rolex in doing so by using Rolex’s decades-long expertise and knowledge in building calibers. In 2106, Tudor, therefore, released the Black Bay with an in-house movement instead of an ETA. A feat that further bridged the gap between the Submariner and the Black Bay.

Rolex Submariner 114060

Furthermore, from the 1st of January 2020, all Tudor watches get a five-year international warranty. This is huge news for Tudor because it means that Tudor and Rolex offer the same length of their warranty. Despite the fact that Rolex watches are about double the price of Tudor watches.

Rolex Submariner VS Tudor Black Bay: Pricing

Pricing is naturally an important factor when comparing the Submariner and the Black Bay.

Looking at the retail price, the Submariner more or less costs double the Black Bay. However, if you look at the secondhand market, the Black Bay generally decreases in value, whereas the Submariner generally sells above retail price. With that said, if you are buying a pre-owned Black Bay, you can buy one at a price that will be extremely great value for money considering what you are actually getting.

Tudor Black Bay 79230 dial

Black Bay VS Submariner: Quality

When it comes to build quality, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to either. Of course, the Submariner has a slightly nicer finish and details such as white gold indices. But this is said with the fact that the Submariner costs about twice as much. And with this in mind, both watches have impressive quality. This means no rattling, a case and bracelet that feels solid and robust, and a rotating bezel that doesn’t sound like it is made of plastic when winding it, to mention a few.

Tudor Black Bay 79230r

The major differences between them come in the way, and for which purpose they are built. As already mentioned, the Tudor is built as a heritage model, and this means using more traditional parts. For example, the Tudor uses a matte black dial as opposed to the ceramic dial of the Submariner. Furthermore, it has an aluminum bezel insert, whereas the Submariner has a ceramic insert that has the benefit of being very durable and resistant to scratches. The case of the Black Bay is very much inspired by the vintage dive watches from Rolex and Tudor from the 1950s, using bevels on the side of the lugs, which Rolex abandoned many years ago.

Rolex Submariner no-date

One difference between them is that the Submarine has a water resistance of 300m whereas the Black Bay only has a water resistance of 200m. This shows that the Submariner is slightly more robust and tested to more extremes. But if we are going to be honest, the vast majority of the owners of a Submariner or Black Bay won’t come anywhere near those deeps.

Side-by-side, the Black Bay is 41mm whereas the Submariner has a 40mm case. However, the Submariner has slightly squared lugs which makes it appear larger than it may be, unlike the Black Bay with its beveled lugs which appears slightly slimmer and more refined. In terms of how they wear, it’s the height of the Black Bay that brings it down, This is because the Black Bay is more than 2mm thicker than the Submariner. And this is something that we have heard many people complain about. Complaints about the thickness of the Submariner aren’t very common.

With that said, it is interesting to note that as of 1st of September 2020, the Submariner has been revised with the new reference 126610 and 124060, and is now presented in a 41mm case – the same as the Black Bay.

Tudor Black Bay 79230B

The Tudor has an in-house movement, likely backed by Rolex’s expertise in developing it, but the Submariner (Date or no date version) is powered by movements that are tried and true and have been used by Rolex for countless years. The 3130 caliber base is simply a movement that will continue to tick year after year. A utilitarian movement that is simply perfect for the Submariner.

But it’s still safe to say that the Tudor Black Bay as a model has succeeded. Because at its price point, it doesn’t really have many rivals that challenge it. And this must be the best proof of success.

Rolex Submariner 114060


Again, bear in mind that as the Wilsdorf foundation owns both of these brands, they have it very carefully planned out to position these brands in different segments to ensure they do not compete with each other. Rolex will always be Rolex. The classic, prestige, and reputation. Everyone simply” must-have” a Rolex. At least once. But the Tudor is a big challenger if you look beyond the brand. The finish and build quality of the Black Bay is superb, and it is very evident you get great value for money. 

At the end of the day, the decision of Submariner VS Black Bay is a decision that is completely up to you. The price difference is quite frankly rather substantial, but either of them offers great value for money. If you want the original, the legend, the icon, then you simply cannot ever go wrong with a Submariner. However, for less money, you get a vintage-inspired watch that pays tribute to both Roelx’s and Tudor’s common history and combines vintage design details with modern technology and quality.

The answer is that you simply cannot go wrong with either of them. The rest is up to you.

23 thoughts on “Rolex Submariner VS Tudor Black Bay – Which is Best?

  1. The problem that Tudor has always has is that it lives in the shadow of Rolex. When people see someone wearing a Tudor watch, they don’t judge the watch on it’s own merits. The first thing they think is that person really wanted a Rolex, but couldn’t afford it, so they settled for a Tudor. Wearing a Rolex imparts prestige. Wearing a Tudor makes you look like a wannabe. That is going to be a hard image for Tudor to shake off, even if their watches compare favorably to every other brand in their price range, and to Rolex itself.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. That is absolutely correct, and Tudor is doing everything it can to achieve this.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

    2. Personally, I will choose Tudor Heritage Black Bay over Rolex Submariners for the simple reason. There are so many Rolex Submariners replicas on the market and they look like an original watch. Unless Rolex watch match your social status and wealth, people will think you wear the replica watch. On the other hand, I didn’t see Tudor Black Bay replica yet.

    3. I don’t think that really stands now. Those who don’t know their watches will still think “that person really wanted a Rolex, but couldn’t afford it”, but in 2023 those that know their watches, and of Tudor are likely to hold them in better esteem.
      As a Tudor owner, I wanted a Rolex but didn’t want to pay 3-4k more on the grey market, the Black Bay was more appealing on the eye and equally capable for half the price. Apart from paying double and having a watch on my wrist that most will think is fake, the only thing I have lost is the investment/flipping potential.
      However, the Wilsdorf foundation had a plan. An incredible business model of “lists” that moves Rolex into another tier of exclusivity akin to Patek or AP and suddenly Tudor takes the accessible tool watch crown knowing that those who don’t want to pay over the odds will, in fact end up buying a Tudor. It’s a win win for them.

      1. That’s a perfectly accurate description! Thanks for your input! And yes, it’s really a win-win and a carefully thought-out strategy.

        Kind regards,
        Millenary Watches

  2. I just spent good money for a Steel and Gold Black Bay after not wanting to wait any longer for Rolex to release their watches. For me, I was always looking at a price range so I was comparing how much watch I could get in a particular price range. My Black Bay S&G looks similar to the Submariner Oystersteel and Yellow Gold but is priced like the OP36. I am very happy with my watch, not because I save $9000 but because I have a very nice looking watch.

    Having someone say “. . . you spent $5500 for a Tudor because you couldn’t afford a Rolex” sounds weird to me. I started out looking at Tudor watches in the $3700 range because I liked them but switched to looking at the Rolex OPs in the $5600 to $5900. Once I lost my patience with Rolex I came back to Tudor and got more watch for the dollar over what I could get from Rolex.

    I have 14 watches and only once has someone commented on what I was wearing and I am ok with that. I like watches and don’t care if people think I can or can’t afford a certain brand.

    1. Hi Bill,
      Thank you for sharing! Those who say that you can’t afford a Rolex by buying a Tudor clearly do not know anything about watches and do not understand the concept behind them.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

    2. I have been waiting a year for a Sub Mariner- I already own a really collectable Oyster Perpetual – I am fed up with Rolex and this ‘elitist’ rubbish. All they are doing is fuelling a black market in watches. They need to up their game in this respect! With this in mind I am going to buy a Black Bay. It is a lovely watch, I would have preferred the styling and size of the Pelgas but that titanium is awful and just feels like a cheap 200 quid watch! So, a blue/black 41mm Tudor is in my future!

  3. Hi,

    Tudor vs Rolex ? Any better question to testify how the BB 58 is a terrific watch ? Any better marketing strategy ? Becoming it’s own direct competitor is a brilliant idea.
    And, if Tudor datejust and explorer « homage » are just ugly, dials of booth blue BB and 925 are just amazing, and incomparably better looking than sub’s one.

    Of course, BB, like its gran-sister Tudor « snowflake », will always be the « poor man’s » submariners, but who really cares if they’re nice ? Those who already own a Sub have their grail and may be tempted to buy an understated watch as a real alternative to the black dial. Those who’d like to earn a sub ? Most of them are willing to benefit from the Rolex Submariner’s aura and are probably missing the point. You don’t choose a brand but a watch. If you really want a sub but can’t afford it, you can go for a BB and you will appreciate it but you should also consider other brands and models.

    From my experience, I’m 50 years old, beautiful Rolex Submariner were the 16800 and 1680 models with painted index. Recent ones are just iterations of those hits, such as modern explorers vs 1016.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Very interesting!

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

    2. Haha the thought that one has a Rolex submariner but buys a Tudor to actually get wet with is really funny. Love it.

  4. Poor mans Rolex? I own a GMT BLRO, A Sea dweller 16600 and a DD 118239 yet I can’t help but be drawn to my Tudor Pepsi. Additionally, I am here because I a looking to purchase a BB Heritage. I am also 50, work in Tech and folders are a dime a dozen. Mostly worn by wanna be’s who used their first big commission check on them. Anyway, I love them both but again, consistently wear the Tudor.

    1. Thanks for sharing! We completely agree with you. Few brands that can compete with Tudor in its price range.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  5. I just bought a Black Bay Heritage. After 1 week it is 0.6 seconds fast. I have never owned a mechanical watch this accurate and I have 4 Rolex watches.

    1. That sounds like a great performance! Yes, Tudor watches have proven to offer exceptional accuracy, which is impressive especially considering their relatively affordable price.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  6. Hi and thanks great read but I was hoping to get to know why the Sub is 300m and the Blsck Bay is 200m yet the Tudor has a thicker case? I see that Tudor now sponsors some big wave surfing event and surf watches are recommended to be at least 300m rated as wave pressure for exceeds depth pressure.
    So my guess is that Rolex is purposefully underrating the Black Bay from a marketing perspective and it can actually withstand grater pressure than advertised. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. Hi Edie,
      Yes, that is the main reason. The Tudor can withstand more than the specified 200m but Rolex is very thoughtful in creating a clear distinction between Rolex and Tudor.
      If Tudor wanted to specify it to 200m, they could easily do some with some adjusting and testing.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  7. Personally, I will choose Tudor over Rolex for the simple reason. There are so many Rolex replicas on the market that looks almost original Rolex. Unless Rolex match your social status people will think you have replica watch. On the other hand, I didn’t see Tudor Black Bay replica yet.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Frank. Reasonable point!

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  8. I am also in my 50’s and I remember back in the late 1980’s when you could buy a Rolex Sub for somewhere around $1500 (give or take a little). Even factoring in inflation for today’s money, what a deal it was back then to get a Sub!! So much more affordable! And of course, you could actually walk into any authorized dealer and buy one! No waitlists, no fuss or anything. Regretfully, I never bought one back in those days in my early 20’s.

    Fast forward to today, and I keep wondering if I’ll ever own a Rolex Sub. Yes, they are still timeless watches that look so great! That’s never changed. But what has changed is the baggage!!! They are SO expensive now (even at retail – if you could even buy at retail). And I keep asking myself over and over again. Does it make sense to buy a Rolex Sub in the year 2022??

    I make decent money for what I do for a living, but I am not rich. And when I look at my Black Bay 58, I keep thinking that perhaps that is all I need. It may not be a Rolex, but the BB 58 is still an awesome looking watch. And I can own it without second guessing myself about spending an absolute fortune for a Sub or putting any financial stress on myself. There’s just a lot of negative connotations with Rolex now days that one cannot deny. And it feels the baggage associated with Rolex now days takes away part of the joy in owning one in the first place. Sure, they are still famous watches. But if the average person (that doesn’t follow watches) knew what someone had paid for a Rolex now days, they might ask you, “are you crazy?”

    I am starting to believe it’s never going to make sense for me to invest in a Sub at today’s prices. But i can continue to enjoy my BB58 and other watches in my collection for years to come. And I do like that Tudor has borrowed a lot of the attributes of Rolex in their line of watches.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You certainly have several valid points! The good news is that we have Tudor which is essentially in the same position that Rolex was in many years ago in many ways. Eventually, Tudor may become just like Rolex and a lot of people will ask themselves why they didn’t buy Tudor when they were “affordable”. Tudor is increasing their prices every year and will continue to do so moving forward.

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

  9. i bought BB black dial blue bezel 2700 in usd converted and its a great watch. personally i dont mind its some thicker than submariner as i em very big guy so on my hand it fits great. this is a watch i will never sell and i have owned big collection of watches. iwc,AP,rolex FM and many more. that collection saved me when economy just crashed. i can say with Tudor BB you cant go wrong

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! The BB is indeed a great watch!

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

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