December 2, 2014
by James Stacey
A few thoughts before our review of the Tudor Heritage Ranger watch. I think that deep down, under all of the elements that make up our individual tastes and preferences, we all want an honest watch that is built to last. We may obsess over, seek out, and pay dearly for more features, but in reality, few of us are divers, perhaps fewer pilots, and do you really need a chronograph, worldtimer, or moonphase? If we take the sport watch and distill it down to its essential elements we are left with a solid steel case, a reliable automatic movement and a legible dial with ample lume for when it’s dark.
Combine these elements, and you essentially have a field watch, a longstanding design with ties to the military, where gear is designed for maximum practicality, functionality, and longevity. Despite my admitted proclivity for dive watches, I’ve always had a fondness for the honest simplicity and practicality of a field watch. Tudor announced the Ranger, their very own field watch, at Baselworld this year, and since then, I’ve looked forward to giving it a proper shake down.
The Tudor Heritage Ranger ref. 79910 is based most closely to the Ranger that Tudor was producing in the late ’60s, though the 2014 Ranger has been updated to a 41mm steel case. Including the domed sapphire crystal, thickness comes in at 12.2 mm, and weight is a nearly unnoticeable 85g on the included fabric strap. With a lug to lug measurement of 48mm and 22mm lug width, the Ranger fits beautifully and is quite comfortable. Furthermore, the lugs are drilled and make for breezy strap changes that are well supported by a total of four factory available mounts, from fabric to leather, bund-style, and even a vintage-styled steel bracelet.
The Tudor Heritage Ranger essentially fills the same function as the Rolex Explorer. Tudor’s methodology is to offer a case made with Rolex along with a third party movement, so the Ranger gets the ubiquitous ETA 2824 (employed to great effect without a date display). Surrounding this perfectly capable and acceptable movement is an outstanding case with sharp edges, lovely satin finishing and excellent proportions. The crystal sits high above the chamfer of the bezel and bestows a vintage charm on the Tudor Heritage Ranger, one that is completed by the warm faux-aged lume used on the markers and hands. The case is completed by a signed screw-down crown that ensures the Tudor Heritage Rangers 150m water resistance.
The crown, while sturdy, well threaded and quite grippy, is a bit of a sore point among some Rolex and Tudor enthusiasts. As with both versions of the Black Bay, the Tudor Heritage Ranger’s crown does not screw flush against the case side; instead, it sits about one millimetre from the case edge, atop an exposed segment of the crown tube.
On either version of the Black Bay, this element of the crown design is covered by a color-matched ring. The Tudor Heritage Ranger, in all of its functional charm, forgoes such ornamentation. I have to admit that for the first day or so of the few weeks that I had the Ranger, the crown gap did bother me. That said, after a bit more time on wrist, I barely noticed the crowns unconventional position. In use, the crown is wonderfully solid and very well executed.
The dial design, which is lifted directly from the Tudor Heritage Ranger’s late 60’s inspiration, is simple, legible and entirely classic in its appeal. While it may lack the detail and refinement of the beautiful dial found on on the Black Bay, the Tudor Heritage Ranger’s dial speaks to the values of a field watch and exudes a rugged simplicity similar to that of a chukka boot. If you want some shine and ornamentation, get something else. I love the darker red tone used for the seconds hand, I adore the lack of a date display, and the antique lume is both bright and long-lasting at night, while offering an entirely different look to that of the current Rolex Explorer.
It must also be said that while the current Rolex Explorer 214270 suffers from some proportion problems, specifically a woefully short minute hand, the Tudor Heritage Ranger nails its proportions and offers an expansive and legible view of its dial. Aesthetically, the dial is flat with a matte black base that helps to manage reflections from the domed sapphire crystal.
While 41mm is essentially ideal for a dive watch, it actually makes for a fairly large-wearing field watch. With no dive bezel to surround and pad the dial, the Ranger’s margins are far wider than that of the similarly sized Black Bay. In many ways, this aids overall legibility, but it also makes for a watch that can feel as though it’s all dial. This is not inherently a good or bad aspect of note, simply something that took first hand experience with the Tudor Heritage Ranger for me to nail down. I really like the proportions, and again, feel that a big dial suits the ethos of a field watch.
My sample Tudor Heritage Ranger came with both the leather strap (see video) and the camo-style fabric strap. The Tudor Heritage Ranger can also be had on a leather bund strap or a steel bracelet, replete with straight bar-style end links that mirror those of vintage Ranger models. The leather strap, a sort of medium tan with contrast stitching, is soft and comfy and comes with a fold-over buckle with a safety clasp. While I am not at all a fan of camo, I am surprisingly fond of the camo fabric strap included with the Tudor Heritage Ranger. Like the fabric strap that comes with the Black Bay, this strap is all kinds of overkill as an OEM spin on a G10 or Zulu. The spring bars are sewn in place, so the Tudor Heritage Ranger can’t accidentally slide free of the strap, and no additional “keeper” layer of fabric is needed to secure the strap. Additionally, Tudor has fitted upgraded hardware with a higher quality buckle and even metal strap keepers with beveled edges.
Many of you will be familiar with nylon-style single piece straps commonly known as G10s, NATOs, or Zulus, and I’m sure a few of you have seen the NATO-style strap that Blancpain offers with the Bathyscaphe. Imagine a strap somewhere in the continuum between these two extremes and you’ll have the Tudor fabric strap, a huge upgrade from the dozen $10 nylon straps I have in my watch drawer.
On wrist, especially with the fabric strap, the Tudor Heritage Ranger is so comfy you might forget it’s even there. On the leather strap, it takes on the vibe of a pilot’s watch, thanks not only to the look of the strap, but also how the simple balanced design of the Tudor Heritage Ranger seems to be something of a shapeshifter. Much to that effect, though I only saw it briefly at Baselworld, the Ranger has an entirely different feel on its bracelet. With excellent proportions and a design that works on just about any strap, I think the Ranger has to be worn to be fully appreciated.
To recap, the Tudor Heritage Ranger is a nicely made, no frills, honest watch. At its price point there is little competition in terms of case quality and finishing but heavy competition in features, sizing and movement. The Tudor Heritage Ranger starts at $2,825 USD and tops out at $2,950 with the steel bracelet, placing it in competition with many brands, including Tag Heuer, Maurice Lacroix, Baume et Mercier, Longines and Oris. Oddly enough, I think a main source of competition for the Tudor Heritage Ranger will come from the Black Bay (hands-on here), which starts at just $3100. Regardless of the competition, I really like the Ranger and it’s a great example of a successful “modern vintage” design. The case is beautifully made and nicely sized, the dial is bright and legible, and you get a reliable automatic movement and drilled lugs. Furthermore, the Tudor Heritage Ranger feels just right for a field watch – no nonsense, no decoration, just a quietly confident watch. tudorwatch.com
>Model: Heritage Ranger 79910
>Price: $2825 – $2950 USD
>Size: 41 mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone wanting a tough, honest and nicely made watch. Zero pretence.
>Best characteristic of watch: Case proportions and quality.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Somewhat awkward gap between the case and the crown.