May 5, 2023
I recently wrote about Boldr in my column, Actually Affordable, and while the specific model I chose to feature was the titanium Venture Automatic, that only represents one small slice of the brand’s outdoor-oriented offerings. Released last year in 2022, the Boldr Safari series is a collection of rugged outdoor models that are defined by their bold and stylized California dials. While the lineup also includes both a diver and a GMT model, the Ranger variant is a classic three-handed field watch, and the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje is the black dial version that offers the most traditional and straightforward overall appearance.
Crafted from a single piece of 316L stainless steel, the case of the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje features a matte bead-blasted finish, and it offers a similar overall profile to models such as the CWC G10 or Marathon Officer’s Watch. The overall dimensions of the case come in at 40mm in diameter by 12mm thick, with an overall lug-to-lug profile of 48mm, and this makes it slightly larger than the versions of this case made by either CWC or Marathon. However, just like other watches that feature this same design, the bezel is simply a raised lip that extends from the middle case, and the Safari Ranger has standard 20mm lugs (with drilled springbar holes), which significantly expands the number of comparable third-party strap options.
Protecting the dial is a flat sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, while the reverse side of the case is fitted with a screw-down caseback that features a sapphire display window. The caseback window is adorned with randomized animal artwork (in this case a stylized lion), and all relevant text is printed on the underside surface of the crystal, leaving the stainless steel rim of the caseback completely smooth. While the animal artwork is fun and leans into the “Safari” name of the watch, I would have personally preferred to have either an unadorned display window or a solid caseback with an engraving, as putting a design on top of a window somewhat defeats the purpose of having a display window in the first place. Additionally, despite being a field watch, the signed winding crown on the Boldr Safari Ranger screws down to help create a fairly generous 200 meters of water resistance, meaning that it is more than capable of standing up to outdoor activities, even if they end up being deep underwater.
At the time of writing, the Boldr Safari Ranger is available with the choice of either a black or khaki dial, with the black variant known as the Kopje edition. Located in the Serengeti, kopjes are piles of ancient rocks that were formed more than 500 million years ago by debris from the Ngorongoro volcano, and it is these geological formations that lend themselves to the name of the black dial version of the Safari Ranger, while the khaki dial model is known as the Upepo (meaning “wind” in Swahili). Other than their colors, the two dials offer an identical overall design, with a time-only configuration and the California dial’s signature layout of having Roman numeral markers on the upper half, combined with Arabic numerals on the lower portion, which is done as a way to help provide a clear orientation of the time, regardless of the viewing angle.
The dial fitted to the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje features a flat structure with a matte black surface and tan-colored printing. Similar to many California dials, baton-shaped markers sit at the cardinal points, while an inverted triangle takes the place of the 12 o’clock marker, with all of it surrounded by a railroad-style minute track. The Super-LumiNova used for the hour markers is almost the exact same color as the text on the dial, creating a cohesive tan-on-black colorway and giving the watch a bit of a vintage-leaning overall appearance. At the center of the dial are a trio of hands, with the hour and minute hand appearing as wide swords, while the seconds hand is a thin needle with a counterweight that is shaped like Boldr’s logo. All three of the hands are luminous to aid with low-light visibility and despite appearing as a golden brown color in the daylight, all of the lume glows green in the dark.
Regardless of dial color, both Boldr Safari Ranger watches are powered by the familiar Seiko NH35A automatic movement, which sits visible (although partially obscured by animal-themed artwork) through the sapphire display window in the caseback. Running at a rate of 21,600vph (3 Hz) and offering users a power reserve of approximately 41 hours, the NH35 is a solid and proven option, although due to the fact that the Seiko NH35A is a date-displaying movement and the Safari Ranger is a time-only watch, the crown has a “ghost position” that can be felt when you pull out the crown to set the time. While I don’t think anyone is a fan of vestigial crown positions, they really don’t impact functionality, and the Safari Ranger is hardly the worst offender, especially at its budget-friendly price point.
Completing the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje is a black nylon NATO strap with matching matte bead-blasted hardware and a signed pin buckle. The black fabric used for its construction is slightly shiny, along with being quite soft and comfortable right out of the box, and since the signed buckle is secured by a springbar, it can always be transplanted onto another strap, provided that both ends are 20mm. As far as NATO straps go, the ones Boldr uses are pretty decent, and other than to satisfy an urge for variety, there isn’t any real need to look into alternatives. However, with drilled holes in the lugs, changing out the strap is a quick and easy process, plus shoulderless spring bars can also be used for those who wish to have the added security when using pass-through-style straps.
While the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje offers an overall case design that is nearly identical to certain military field watches, its bold California dial gives it a different aesthetic flair that almost reminds me of the various Panerai models that feature a similar colorway and are also paired with California dials. Additionally, with an official retail price of $299 USD (and currently on sale for $249 USD), the Safari Ranger is quite a bit less expensive than any of the CWC or Marathon models that feature mechanical movements fitted to this highly utilitarian case shape. When it comes to functioning as a rugged and carefree field watch, the Boldr Safari Ranger certainly delivers, and it also represents a compelling offering for those who want to add a California dial to their collections for a very reasonable price. For more information on the Boldr Safari Ranger Kopje, please visit the brand’s website.