Tudor Ranger: Right Recipe But Half-Baked
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 is one of those brands that seems to improve on its releases every year. And 2022 undoubtedly lived up to expectations in launching the Black Bay Pro, the Pelagos 39mm and the Ranger. All have been designed for and aimed at both watch collectors and the general consumer.
I think that the new Ranger might be the most interesting of the bunch as it is a whole new model release.
The previous Ranger launched in 2014, but being was on the large side with odd-looking proportions, it never commanded much attention. With the 2022 model, Tudor is hoping to rectify this, but has it achieved what it set out to do?
I cannot give you a full review of the watch as I don’t own one, nor have I had extended time with one. However, I can share my thoughts on how the Ranger seemed to me in person and my reaction now that the launch hype has died down.
Tudor Ranger Background
Looking through the history of watch models, Rolex is traditionally the brand most associated with expeditions. However, Tudor was another name that was also involved. Before even the first summit of Mount Everest in 1953, which brought us the Rolex Explorer I, Tudor participated in the North Greenland Expedition from 1952-1954. 30 explorers were sent to the Great North, Greenland, with the aim of carrying out studies including “glaciology, meteorology, geology and physiology”.
Tudor used this as an opportunity to equip the people going with Tudor Oyster Prince watches ref. 7909, and timing data was logged by each wearer in extreme conditions. In light of the expedition and what Rolex created with the Explorer I using 3-6-9 numerals, Tudor introduced the Ranger in 1965 (ref. 7995). This was when the Ranger aesthetic was born and it remained in the Tudor catalogue until 1988.
Tudor re-launched the Ranger in 2014 with the familiar 12-3-6-9 look, although this watch did not get as much attention as their other models. This can be down to any number of reasons, such as it was 41 mm with a large lug width and too big for a field watch, or the Black Bay was relatively new and exciting. This is all open to debate, but for whatever reason, it was discontinued in 2020.
However, to commemorate 70 years since the North Greenland Expedition, Tudor decided to have another go with the Ranger line and launched a refined, new Tudor Ranger.
The new Ranger sounds perfect on paper – at least for my taste. Tudor has reduced the 316L stainless steel case size to 39 mm compared to 41 mm of the previous Ranger. The case is the same as the one used on the Black Bay Fifty-Eight, and we are all aware of how loved that watch is. The other measurements are also good – 12 mm thick, meaning it is able to fit under a cuff, and a 20 mm lug width allowing for a wide range of straps to be fitted.
The lug width is one of those measurements which led to the previous Ranger feeling just too big as it came in at 22 mm. It felt as though the previous Ranger should have been compared to Pilot’s watches rather than the classic Field watch the Ranger was meant to be. Thankfully, Tudor took notice and reduced things.
With the new Ranger, Tudor has gone for a fully brushed look apart from some small polishing around the bezel, making it extremely subtle and purposeful. Another plus is that the finish hides scratches better than polished surfaces.
The brushed finish continues to the bracelet, which features Tudor’s “T-Fit” clasp, allowing for quick length adjustments. It is a very practical detail giving an instant adjustment of up to 8 mm. Having owned watches that do not have this, I can assure you it is a bigger deal than it sounds on hot summer days! Another area in which the bracelet has been improved is the removal of the faux rivets on the edges of the links.
Those ‘rivets’ has been one of the most commonly brought up negatives of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight given their lack of purpose and sense of over-styling. Tudor should standardize this bracelet across all of their watches. My experience with Tudor’s bracelets has been extremely positive. They are a good weight and comfortable; not many brands get this right.
So now with these further upgrades, Tudor is getting better and better. Plus, I am pleased they managed to include this without a drastic increase in price. The previous Ranger at launch was $2,950 (bracelet), and the new model is ‘only’ $3,050 (bracelet) 8 years later.
Now to where the personality of the watch comes from – the dial. The dial is extremely simple. It is matte black with a minute track around the edge, baton indices, and 12-3-6-9 Arabic numerals. Likewise, they have gone down the simple route with dial text. There is only the logo, “Tudor Geneve”, “Ranger” and “Swiss Made”.
This is a drastic difference compared to some of the watches Tudor makes such as the Tudor Pelagos, which seems to have a short novel written at the bottom of the dial! All the features of the dial are printed in an off-white with abundant lume.
Then there are the unique hands of the Ranger collection. I really like them. This will come down to personal preference, but I think that the hands are a nice balance of being interesting and good-looking.
The dial is very attractive and has a certain charm that the original Ranger had, as well as the early Explorer I. It certainly grabbed my attention when I first saw the press photos, and I believe that when you glance at the dial or see it in photos, they have done a good job.
Not a great job…a good job. We will cover this more in the next section.
The final point to highlight is the movement. The previous Ranger was fitted with an ETA 2824 movement, whereas this new addition comes with Tudor’s in-house Caliber MT5402. This is not to say the ETA movement was not good – it is a solid movement and relatively easy to repair, but the power reserve was a mere 38 hours and it is generally an off-the-shelf movement.
Now, the new movement brings with it COSC certification (-4/+6 seconds per day), and Tudor claims it is even better than this. Its accuracy is achieved by ia variable inertia balance wheel and free-sprung silicon hairspring, which also makes it non-magnetic.
The movement is constructed with precision in mind, as well as robustness and reliability. And the power reserve has been nearly doubled to ~70 hours. There has been a clear improvement here, and similar to the bracelet upgrades, this has all come with a minimal price increase, and that is the best part.
The 2022 Ranger is lot more watch for the money. Who could argue with that?
Not As Perfect As It Seems
Considering all the positives of the watch above, why is it not a home run? This is the benefit of letting the launch hype die down and being able to see the watch for what it is.
I am going to just get straight to the point. The dial. Yes, the pictures look great, and it is generally aesthetically pleasing, but also looks ‘lazy’. The whole dial is printed with no applications anywhere. This gives it a very flat feeling and the reality is many more affordable watches do a better job of making an interesting dial.
Tudor could have at least used applied luminous ceramic indices similar to the Black Bay Pro and Pelagos 39mm. The price might have been slightly higher, but it would have been worth it.
And then there are the indices. They are off-white as mentioned, but oddly they are a different color to the hands. It is extremely subtle, but take a closer look and it will be something you can’t unsee. The color mismatch seems quite a glaring mistake. I am sure Tudor will resolve this quietly, but it is another reason why the Ranger is not the perfect watch it first seems.
The next issue is the size. It is still too large, and the design details make it look even larger than it is. On paper 39 mm is a good size, but here it is still too much. The smooth bezel, the flatness of the dial, lack of text and 12-3-6-9 lead to vast areas of empty space.
Firstly, they could have added more text. This is a COSC-certified, automatic movement and Tudor has never had a problem advertising this on the dial previously. This might be the only time they went too far the other way.
On my Black Bay 36, it has the curved ‘self-winding’ on the dial similar to the previous Ranger, and even this would have helped. If they were to not add any extra text, at a minimum the “Ranger” text should be larger. For what is meant to be a field watch, on the wrist, the Ranger feels slightly unnatural.
Finally, I love brushed finishes and find them much more versatile and wearable, but in this case, they might have gone too far. It looks good, but when you see the watch in person, the matte adds to its flatness. It does not make any attempt to catch the light apart from the thin polished accent around the bezel. This adds to the no-nonsense legibility and is part of why it has such a tool watch vibe (similar to what we see with the IWC Mark series). However, given the price, it feels a bit boring.
The Ranger tells you the time, but beyond that, you can get much more interesting pieces for much less. It gives me the impression that there was a lack of thought on the design side as the final product is not very complex.
To summarize everything above, Tudor has created a perfect watch on paper, but there are small areas that make it just a few steps away from being actually perfect. I am starting to think this is becoming something Tudor does more often with their releases. This is not a knock on Tudor because I love what they do. I love that they push the boundaries and experiment with new materials and colorways, giving us excitement and something fresh every year.
Another example where they have been close but not quite perfect is the Black Bay Pro. It looks fantastic and takes design cues from one of the coolest watches Rolex made (Explorer II 1655), but after the hype died down, it is clear that the proportions were not ideal and it’s too thick. I don’t necessarily mind this because I would rather have Tudor remain exciting and try new things than copy its big brother, Rolex. It is just worth keeping in mind when the next release comes and looks fantastic at first sight. Take a step back and look a little deeper.
Looking to the future of the Ranger line, there is a lot to be excited about. This release has a lot of positive aspects and has taken a step in the right direction. One of the best things about the new Ranger (and even Pelagos 39mm) is that Tudor is finally working on improving their collections. There has been too much attention on the Black Bay series in my opinion and it is now time to make their other other collections as widely loved.
What could come next for the Ranger collection? They could add various sizes like the Black Bay 36/39, perhaps a GMT complication, or even different dial colors (how good would a white look!).
For now, though, despite the Ranger being a very compelling package, I am not sure it is as good as the images make it appear. The movement, bracelet and vintage looks are all great, but it doesn’t feel as good a watch as it should be for the money. It is, however, a great base to build on for the future. But for now, if you are considering the Ranger, don’t overlook the Black Bay 36/39.
For more information, please visit www.tudorwatch.com/en/watches/ranger
Quick Facts Tudor Ranger
Case: 39 x 12 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5402 with silicon balance spring, power reserve 70 hours, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: $ 3,150
You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at www.thewatchmuse.com.