Cost is always the first consideration when buying a watch. Is it worth the money? Is the price justifiable for what I’m getting? Value proposition isn’t always a straightforward thing, no matter where you’re at in your watch collecting journey. For this discussion, we look at two dive watches at two different price point.
Here we have the Gnomon Exclusive Steinhart Ocean Thirty-Nine Explorer and the Tudor Black Bay M79230N.
The reason why I’m comparing these two watches is because of their reference to popular vintage dive watches. Both the Steinhart and Tudor are homage watches based on the the Rolex ref. 5513 Explorer dial and the Tudor Snowflake No-Date Submariner ref. 7016/0 respectively.
The Steinhart Ocean 39 Explorer can be had for US$500 while Tudor is asking seven times more at around US$3,500 for the Black Bay. Let’s look at the two watches from various angles.
First impression: Bezel
Placing the watches side by side, they look pretty much similar. Aluminium insert bezel with diving markers and lume pip – nothing out of the ordinary for a dive watch. Intuitively, the first thing to do with a dive watch is to turn the bezel. You can tell the difference between the two just by doing that.
Unlike the Black Bay, the Ocean 39 doesn’t give you that firm clicking as you turn it. Stopping the bezel back at 12 o’clock isn’t as satisfying compare to the Black Bay, plus there’s a little bit of free play which allows the bezel is wriggle ever so slightly.
Both watches use sapphire crystal but it’s fairly obvious that the Black Bay has a superior anti-reflective (AR) coating. I noticed the difference very clearly when taking photos of the watches from the top – the Steinhart can clearly see my reflection.
Dial and Hands
On closer inspection of the dial and hands, they are quite evenly matched. At US$500, the Steinhart offers a lightly textured dial with painted ‘old radium’ super-luminova to imitate the aged look of the Rolex ref. 5513 Submariner. The gilt hands are surprisingly well finished too. As compared to the Black Bay, it is quite evenly matched. Although I will have to say that the Tudor has sharper text and a better looking matte textured dial.
In the department of case practicality, I will have to give it to Steinhart. The Black Bay is 14.8mm thick while the Steinhart is just slightly slimmer at 13mm – not much difference in day to day wear. However, the Ocean 39 Explorer case profile is clearly sectioned into three parts: bezel, case and case back. The case back kind of sinks into your wrist when worn, making it seemed way slimmer than the Black Bay which has a chunky case profile. The Black Bay has really well-defined beveling on the lugs though.
Both watches offer 200m of water resistance even though the Steinhart has 100m written on the dial to reference the Rolex ref. 5513. That’s more than enough for regular use.
The Ocean 39 Explorer doesn’t have great lume. It isn’t as bright or long lasting compared to the Black Bay. 100% win for the Tudor.
For some collectors, the movement of the watch plays a big part in their purchasing decision. The Ocean 39 uses an ETA2824-2 or SW200 (Selitta) élaboré grade calibre, meaning it has been adjusted in three positions and regulated to an average of +/-7 seconds per day. It’s a self-winding movement with a power reserve of about 40 hours.
ETA used to be rather common movement but supply has been halted by the Swatch Group since Jan 2020. Hence the SW200 is a decent replacement in case Steinhart doesn’t have enough ETA2824-2 movements.
That’s also one of the reasons why Tudor decided to make their own movement. The MT5602 replaces the ETA2824-2 found in earlier Black Bays with rose logo. It has been almost four years since the launch of their in-house movement but it still couldn’t compare to ETA calibres in term of reliability and serviceability.
If you’re one who doesn’t care for in-house movement, the Steinhart would be as good as the Tudor for daily wear. It might be much easier to find someone to service and cheaper to maintain for sure.
Tudor is the clear winner in terms of prestige. Its brand association with Rolex and highly sought-after vintage pieces, like the Big Block chronographs, makes Tudor a much bigger brand name than Steinhart. Without relying on Rolex, the brand has seen a strong resurgence in the last decade.
Compared to Tudor, Steinhart is a small brand from Germany. It is often closely associated with homage watches and a handful of originally designed timepieces. The brand has a cult following as we have seen over the past years with some popular models like the Ocean 39 Explorer and Ocean Vintage Military going out of stock a couple of times.
Value for money?
At this point, it is fair to say that the Black Bay is a better watch than the Ocean 39 Explorer. Go for the Black Bay if you want a watch that has a lasting legacy and is easy to indulge in. The Ocean 39 Explorer is for the budget conscious but does not compromise on quality and function.
When it comes to value proposition, it really depends on what you’re most inclined towards. Steinhart makes great watches at a price point that’s highly accessible, while it might not be fitting for people who want an original design or a better brand name.
Would I say that the Black Bay is seven times better than the Ocean 39? Probably not.
Do both watches present good value proposition? A resounding yes.