Tudor is a brand on the up. And the key strength of the brand (aside from the production/design/marketing clout that being Rolex’s little brother brings) is the Heritage collection. This vintage inspired family is a hit machine, the Heritage Chronograph, the Black Bay, and the latest catchy #1 – the Tudor Heritage Ranger.
On the surface the Ranger is a simple enough watch; black face, three hands, steel case. No bells, no whistles. But as designers and creative types everywhere – and the late Steve Jobs – will tell you, “simple is harder than complex”. Read on to find out a little bit more about the small details that make the Heritage Ranger such a thoughtful and well-executed watch.
Students of history will tell you that to know where you’re going – you have to look back at where you’ve been. Watch design is no different. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Tudor Ranger. Of course all the Heritage collection watches draw on Tudor’s back catalogue to a greater or lesser extent, but the Ranger is a particularly faithful reissue. And here’s where is gets a little Inception. The current Heritage Ranger is inspired by the original Tudor Ranger, produced in the various forms from the 1960s to the 1980s (though it has the most similarities with the 1967 model) This watch was in itself inspired by the Rolex Explorer – one of the greatest understated tool watches out there. It’s a bit of a convoluted family tree – but the resemblance is very much there. The Heritage Ranger respects the purpose and aesthetic of the original Ranger, a simple, robust timepiece that can handle any adventure life could throw it, and it does it with an understated, vintage aesthetic. It’s a watch that honours the past yet is unmistakably made for now.
The most obvious indicator that this watch is made for a 2014 market is the size. At 41mm wide this is a decidedly contemporary sized watch. And depending which side of the heritage inspiration/faithful reissue fence you sit on this size is either the watches greatest strength or biggest failing. If you like the aesthetic but the conveniences of a contemporary watch it’s a perfect size, but if you’re a purist there’s a good chance you’d be happier if the watch was closer to the original 36mm.
But let’s be real for a second here. Tudor is in the business of making commercially minded watches at a fairly accessible (for luxury watches) price point. And they’ve done (as usual) a remarkable job in this case. For the modern market this watch at 41mm is the perfect Goldilocks size.
The most interesting things about this case for me are not the width, but rather the overall design. Tudor have done a very good job of referencing the iconic Oyster case design of the original watches without it looking too much like an Oyster, which would be straying a bit to close to Rolex brand identity for modern Tudor. The bezel is thinner, the lugs are more slender and the case is thicker and quite slab like. In pictures the family resemblance is clearly there, while on the wrist it feels like a different, less staid beast than a Rolex.
While the case of this watch is interesting and has some great heritage elements (Hello drilled lugs! Hello domed sapphire that does a very good job of impersonating acrylic crystal!) the dial is where it’s at aesthetically speaking. And while it’s not identical to its predecessors it’s an impressively faithful interpretation.
It’s a matte black dial with an almost eggshell finish. This gives it subtle texture and richness. The dial, with its emphasis on legibility and clarity is a direct reference to the Rolex Explorer dial with 12-3-6-9 layout. These numerals and the other indices are hand-painted with luminous material– leaving a little edge of the non-luminous white base paint exposed, a nice tip of the hat to vintage fans. Though on the lume front – if you’re expecting searchlight bright dive watch levels of luminous materials, you’ll be disappointed, it’s legible, but it didn’t blow me away. The Tudor rose is nicely printed too, very much in the style of the watches of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The dial text is not a carbon copy of the original Tudors, but this only further emphasizes that this watch is inspired by rather than duplicated from the past. The handset closely matches the original too – though the hands are less tapered, the instantly recognizable broad arrow of the hour hand is still very much the star of the show, along with the trapezoidal luminous insert of the red second hand, which adds a welcome touch of colour to this potentially spartan watch. I also really like that Tudor didn’t put a date on this watch, as it would have marred the symmetry of the dial and isn’t in keeping with the rugged, tool ethos Tudor is going for in this piece.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the movement of the Tudor Heritage Ranger – it’s the ETA 2824/2 – a rock solid movement that’s found in countless modern mechanical watches. It’s reliable and ubiquitous, and if this watch had an in-house movement you could at least double the price. And that’s not what Tudor is about. The crown is quite interesting on this watch however. It’s a screw down crown (rated for 150m water resistance you shouldn’t be afraid to get this watch a little wet) that’s quite chunky, eschewing crown guards for a very solid, exposed stem. It is well machined, and signed with a Tudor rose. It feels robust and thoroughly modern, in keeping with the rest of the watch.
Perhaps the one feature of this watch (and indeed the whole Heritage collection) that’s been most talked about is the straps. Tudor have really picked up that people who like watches enjoy changing straps and having options. The result, with the Ranger is a surprisingly chameleonic watch – depending on the strap. It goes from sporty, to casual to semi-dressy; depending on whether it’s on a bracelet, woven camo strap or (like the model I reviewed) brown leather strap. Tudor have nailed the little details on the straps. The end pieces on the bracelet are straight tubes – just like a vintage watch. The woven camo strap is really a cut above, and I liked that the spring bars are sewn in, meaning the watch isn’t free to slide around on the strap. And the leather strap that I got familiar with over my time with the piece features a Tudor shield shaped single fold deployant and on point contrasting stitching. Though I have to say I did find some sharp edges on the deployant that I didn’t love. That Tudor have offered four different straps might seem like a small thing, but it shows that they understand what their customers want, and the variety only serves to highlight the versatility of the Ranger.