Tudor Pelagos 39 mm Thoughts: Blandly Exciting, or Excitingly Bland?
by Raman Kalra
Raman Kalra is the founder of The Watch Muse blog and has kindly agreed to share some of his articles with us here on Quill & Pad.
Tudor was on a roll in 2022, releasing several new models and variations. And perhaps the most anticipated watch of them all was a smaller, more wearable Pelagos. The Pelagos has been a staple in the Tudor collection since 2012, and it firmly fits the definition of a tool watch.
The Pelagos is a purposeful, modern diver and is often been under-appreciated in my view, given just how much is on offer for the price. A big reason for this comes down to the sheer size of the Pelagos – not necessarily the 42mm case diameter, but rather the 15mm thickness, making it practically in line with the size of the Rolex Sea-Dweller.
This large size is not ideal for everyday wearability, so more people end up with a Black Bay on their wrists. The Tudor Pelagos 39 addresses these issues, and Tudor hopes to capture a broader consumer base at the expense of a few modifications.
Does this now make the Tudor Pelagos 39 THE Tudor to buy? Or has too much been given up in making the watch smaller?
Tudor Pelagos – Brief Summary
Before we can assess the Tudor Pelagos 39, we need to summarise what is actually on offer here and how Tudor has made adjustments to the model. First and foremost, it is a modern diving watch. To hold the Pelagos name it would have to be as that is what the collection has come to represent in the Tudor collection. However, in order to achieve the new proportions they have had to simplify some areas.
In making the Pelagos 39, the case size is now more compact, moving from 42 mm to 39 mm (as the name suggests). Even more impressive, and in my opinion, where the most notable change will be felt, the thickness has been reduced. The original Pelagos is a hefty 15 mm, but this new model brings that down to 11.8 mm.
One criticism of Tudor is that the cases are somewhat slab-sided, and this is made even more noticeable on the thicker models. The 39 addresses this and will now be much more wearable, fitting under a cuff with much more ease. Automatically, it will be more appealing to a wider range of people from this single fact alone. To achieve this, the Helium Escape Valve has been removed and the water resistance has been reduced from 500m to 200m.
There is something cool about a Helium Escape Value on a watch but is it practical? Not particularly. Only you can know whether this will affect you, but for the vast majority 200 m resistance is more than enough. Realistically, if you are diving to these depths you will be looking for a tool to help you and not necessarily an everyday watch.
The case is fully Grade 2 titanium. Grade 2 titanium is a commercially available titanium alloy known for its varied usability and is stronger than Grade 1, but less so than Grade 5. Titanium will obviously feel lighter on the wrist than stainless steel watches, and you do end up with a very attractive shade of grey.
The same titanium is used on the fully brushed bracelet, which is fitted with a diving extension and Tudor’s T-Fit clasp quick adjustment mechanism allowing for flexibility in an 8mm range over 5 positions. I have mentioned this in other posts, but Tudor’s bracelets tend to be great! They are well-constructed, comfortable and most importantly, look good. If the bracelet is not for you, a rubber strap is also included in the purchase of the watch, although there is no quick-release mechanism to change straps quickly.
Moving to the dial, it is a deep black with a subtle sunburst effect and contrasting white snowflake hands and indices. The indices follow from other Tudor models such as the Black Bay Pro in that they are made from luminous, 3D ceramic blocks. There are no borders to the indices, which removes the luxurious touch of polished gold/steel you find on other models and keeps the Pelagos 39 more in line with a pure tool watch.
They just sit on top of the dial and provide an interesting method for giving the watch depth while increasing the overall lume surface area.
One feature that is lost, however, from the larger Pelagos is the rehaut that wrapped around the indices. This is a loved detail by the fans of the model and a feature that, while not initially noticeable, has become defining in the range.
Is the loss of size a big deal?
I don’t think so as it contributes to how Tudor managed to reduce the size of the Pelagos 39 and I would rather have the option of a smaller Pelagos for my wrist than not. This is a similar situation with the date complication. The Pelagos 39 is a time-only piece, and whether this is positive or negative comes down to your tastes, but by removing the date they were able to shed important size from the movement.
It feels as though Tudor has got their time-only movements right, but they have not managed to slim down their other complications (date, GMT, chronographs) as they still all fall on the thick side.
The movement is the caliber MT5400 and is very similar to other Tudor watches (namely the Black Bay 58) with a 70-hour power reserve, a solid accuracy of -2/+4 seconds per day and a non -magnetic hairspring. All of this adds up to a very good reliable movement.
Finally, the bezel. It is a unidirectional rotating bezel with a ceramic insert and luminous indices. The lume makes it extremely functional and the quality of the operation is as good as we have come to expect from Tudor.
The dial decoration is one of the more dividing aspects of the Pelagos 39. The sunburst finish is also found on the bezel – not something commonly seen. It definitely takes away from the functional matte finish found on the larger Pelagos and will catch the light very easily.
In my eyes, this is better than I first thought. I must admit sunburst is not a finish that appeals to me, but the more I see the Pelagos 39, the more I appreciate the effect. In certain light the bezel can look completely black, but in other situations, it becomes a faded grey. It feels as though Tudor did this to give the watch more visual dynamism to an otherwise relatively understated piece.
Where Does the Pelogos 39 Fit In The Range?
This is a more difficult question than it first seems. So far, Tudor has given us two separate dive watch ranges – Pelagos and Black Bay. Up until now, the Pelagos has been the true divers watch. It has the best depth rating and includes all the technology Tudor has in creating an instrument that can be used. It is no-nonsense and does not compromise on what it has been designed to do. In that sense, the Pelagos, despite not being the most popular range from Tudor, is their flagship model.
Then there’s the Black Bay. This is also a divers watch; however, it is very much designed with everyday wear in mind. There is a tilt towards it being a luxury watch rather than a diving device. It focuses on the design and Tudor does not mind sacrificing dive practicality to manage this. There are various materials (bronze and silver for example), a less practical bezel (smaller size and text), and more polished finishes across the case and dial.
On top of this, the Black Bay has a vintage-inspired design – the clearest indication that the watch is designed with consumer trends in mind. This is not to say that the Black Bay is not capable, rather it finds a balance between capability and fashion. The Pelagos goes all in on capability.
Where does that leave the Pelagos 39? Somewhere very much in the middle. Yes, diving capabilities have been sacrificed on the 39, but it has not got those vintage touches found on the Black Bay. However, that said, the Pelagos 39 is extremely wearable and proportionally smaller than the majority of the Black Bay line (excluding the BB58). It takes the better size and versatility of the BB58, but maintains the modernity of the Pelagos.
It’s Good, But How Good?
Reading the above and on the first reflection this is a solid addition to the Tudor collection, but it is rather uninspiring. Reading the technical specifications and the small changes made to the dial and bezel makes it sound not hugely exciting. Although, in reality, that is not the case. Tudor has given us another model that can be considered a one-watch collection. It is no secret that dive watches tend to be some of the most popular styles, and here we have a very well-proportioned, neutral-color watch that is great quality and relatively affordable.
Further to this, Tudor has created a watch that fans have been requesting for a while. By doing this, they have captured the loyal Tudor consumer base, but have broadened their potential to one of the widest consumer sets possible. Those who know what this watch is will know its significance, and those who don’t will just see a fantastic watch for all occasions.
It is appealing to all groups and that is not something achieved easily. Look at Panerai – they faced criticism from the Paneristi (their loyal fan base) with the launch of the Panerai Luminor Due as it lost the core of what Panerai is meant to be about: water resistance.
There is an even larger discussion to be had with the Pelagos 39 – is this the Tudor Submariner of today? Obviously, this whole thought process relies on Tudor not actually launching a new Submariner!
Ever since the recent rise of the brand, there has been one question on the minds of collectors. Are we going to see an updated Tudor Submariner? Many have argued for the Black Bay or Pelagos to be this coveted reintroduction but both were missing certain elements. The Pelagos was too large and modern, and the Black Bay was close with a softer look but had modern dimensions.
Then the BB58 was released, and finally, Tudor gave the world a smaller divers watch and came closer than ever before. For the last 5 years, this has been accepted, but now we have the Pelagos 39 in the equation. Your views may differ here, but to me, the Pelagos 39 is the true Tudor Submariner of the modern day.
It may not look like the Submariner, and it may not have the same aesthetic, but the Tudor Submariner was all about being true to itself (I know…Rolex Submariner but you get the idea), capable, wearable and modern for the time.
This is exactly what the Pelagos 39 is. It is not trying to be something else. The aesthetic is the modern Tudor look, created for now. The watch ticks all the same boxes as the original Submariner and in the future, I see this as being looked upon as the watch that was it. Where the BB58 is closer to a homage watch, the Pelagos 39 has the potential to be the watch inspiring future homage watches.
So Which Tudor Do You Buy?
This leaves us with the most important question – is this the Tudor to buy? It is clear that if you are an avid diver or someone with larger wrists, then the 42mm Pelagos or larger 41mm Black Bay is the way to go. The challenge is whether your money should be spent on the BB58 or the Pelagos 39. They are both great and trust me when I say, you cannot go wrong with either.
The majority of the decision comes down to aesthetics and that is highly subjective. To help you answer this question, I want to focus on whether or not the Pelagos 39 is bland. It is easy to see why you can associate bland with this watch, especially when you compare it to the number of vintage-inspired, colorful watches now on offer.
The Pelagos is extremely subtle and inoffensive. It can be even described as cold. It is logical to see why some might find this watch lacks emotion, and I can’t disagree with that train of thought. If you are purchasing a watch with your heart alone, it is easy to see how the warmth of the black BB58 or the charm of the navy BB58 would be appealing.
What the Pelagos does offer though is that contemporary look. Again, this is subjective, but not everyone likes homage watches despite what the watch media tells us. Fashion may move slower in the watch world compared to clothing or sneakers, but the vintage style is just that, a fashion. The Pelagos in that respect has a more timeless nature. That’s why the Rolex Submariner and Omega Speedmaster are so popular. I won’t answer the question for you, but I lean towards the Pelagos for this very idea. What about you?
The Pelagos 39 is the watch many (myself included) have been waiting for. The Pelagos line has long sat at the top of the Tudor collection, and by being so focused it has not found the same success as the Black Bay line. With the release of the Pelagos 39, Tudor finally addresses this. It takes the best of the Pelagos 42mm and repackages it into a very versatile and appealing watch. By striking a balance between diving capability and everyday usability, Tudor may have removed some aspects that defined the Pelagos, but ultimately, it is worth it if it opens the door to the Pelagos collection for more customers.
There are some areas that might not be perfect – the brushed bezel divides people, the titanium case might be too light for some and the design could be considered a bit too safe. Whatever your feelings towards this watch, there should be no doubt that this is a great base now for Tudor to start expanding, and no one should be unhappy with that!
For more information, please visit www.tudorwatch.com/en/pelagos-39.
You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at www.thewatchmuse.com.
Quick facts: Tudor Pelagos 39
Indications: hours, minutes and seconds
Case: 39 mm diameter x 11.8 mm high, Grade 2 titanium, unidirectional rotating bezel
Bracelet: titanium three-link bracelet with Tudor T-fit folding clasp, safety catch and diver’s extension, plus black rubber strap with pin buckle and diver’s extension
Movement: automatic winding Manufacture Caliber MT5400, COSC certified, bi-directional rotor, silicon balance spring
Water resistance: 200 meters
Price: 3,880 euros
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The Black Bay series is very nice. The ‘58 in particular has an old-school charm sadly gone from a certain other brand’s portfolio.
But the Pelagos lets us see what might have been. A Rolex without pomposity or the need to justify a bloated price-point.
Thanks Tam – happy you enjoyed the article.
Great watch. But it should have a date. The best Pelagos is still LHD