A Belated Hands-On with the 39mm Tudor Ranger

The Tudor Ranger is back in 39mm and features their in-house caliber. I know. You’ve already seen the watch, read the press releases and other posts, and probably about a thousand comments on social media about what’s right and wrong. Well, I’m not going to reiterate all of that. But I am here to give you some general hands-on impressions of the watch, as I had the chance to spend some time with it, address (subjectively) some of the critiques I’ve seen pop up so far, and briefly tell you about the launch.

I was in London for the launch of the Ranger on July 8th. As you’ve likely read, Tudor hosted the event there in order to commemorate the 70th anniversary (to the day) of the beginning of the British North Greenland Expedition, and Tudor’s role in that adventure. It was an elegant event at the Tobacco Dock venue, which started in a reception room with a scaled-down “Weasel” as a welcoming party. No, this wasn’t an angered animal or Pauly Shore, but rather a land tank of sorts that was used on the BNGE exploration, with large treads for use on snow. Think something you’d find on Hoth, but painted bright orange.

The “Weasel”

A quick walk down a tunnel with white fabric cut in arcs to simulate an icy terrain led to the first of two party rooms. The fabric continued up and around the space, diffusing the light and giving the room an ethereal quality. This room was a shrine to the BGNE, with displays around the perimeter of photos and original archival pieces under glass. In the center displayed under a skylight was the only remaining watch from the expedition. Lost for years, it was found only recently to Tudor’s great pleasure. A dress watch by today’s standard but, clearly, a highly capable watch, the Oyster Prince ref. 7909’s slight demeanor belied its significance.

A few speeches were made, including a truly entertaining recount of the mission and its significance by Dr. Alexy Karenowska, an Oxford Historian. This led to the grand reveal and a quick shuffling of bodies into the next room, which had been effectively hidden behind curtains. Here, Christophe Chevalier, from Tudor’s PR arm, announced the new 39mm Tudor Ranger. The size, the movement, the price… all exciting developments after the retirement of the 2014 Tudor Ranger. Watches appeared along the perimeter of the room, and quickly those of us with cameras slipped into the shadows to get our first shots and to get the watches in hand.

The last surviving 7909
Original documents
Dr. Alexy Karenowska
Of course David Beckham joined the party

Before getting to the watch, the obvious question of “why the Ranger?” when there was a different watch on the exploration is worth a little scrutiny. In an Occam’s razor sense, I think the simplest answer is that Tudor wanted to celebrate this anniversary and put a spotlight on their role in an interesting and significant scientific study, and knew that by tying it with a watch launch, the story would get more attention. The whole event I attended simply would not have happened otherwise. Tudor has proven itself adept at taking the spotlight when it wants it.

The other reason, to play into the brand’s lore a bit, is that the Ranger is meant as their non-dive “tool watch.” They literally call it their “tool watch” on their site. As such, they wanted to tie it to the BGNE, as it’s meant to continue that legacy, if in a different skin. Frankly, that seems just fine to me as well. I don’t think they literally needed to bring back the same watch to tell this story. The Ranger is the more unique intellectual property, obviously not sharing the “oyster” terminology with Rolex, as well as a distinctively styled watch.

The Ranger from thr 60s – it’s its own damn thing

To that end, my first thought when finally seeing it was a simple one: the Ranger is a peculiar watch. Tudor’s answer, spiritually at least, to the Rolex Explorer, the large 3, 6, 9, and 12 numerals feel like they are off a Saul Bass movie poster. Particularly the 6 and 9, which have a hand-drawn flair to them. Even in the 60s, when this dial-variation of the Ranger first debuted, they would have stood out. Combined with the arrow/snake’s head hour hand, it really was a unique look. And a charmingly weird one at that.

Fast forward to 2022, it still is. In fact, it is perhaps more so. Keeping the comparison to the Explorer, the numeral-typeface of the post-1016 Explorers lost their humanistic quality. Applied, and polished, they feel borderline “digital” in style and certainly lack the sense of a human hand, rather feeling like they were plotted in CAD. Perhaps I need to reconcile my issues with that typeface in another forum (I’m truly conflicted as the 124270 is also the only modern Rolex that interests me). The Ranger stays very true to that original design, which has already seemed to cause some stir, but more on that later.

Oddness aside, the dial actually plays less significance in this launch than the case, which stepped down in size from 41mm x 48mm x 12mm with a 22mm lug, to 39mm x 47.75mm x 12mm with a 20mm lug. The diameter and the lug width are the factors here that play the biggest role in the new Ranger feeling and looking considerably smaller. Diameter speaks for itself. Sure, it’s only 2mm, but 41mm is large for a simple three-handed watch with a fixed bezel. Given the big dial, it looked more like an aviation watch than an exploration watch (I know the semantics are ridiculous, but this is watch-nerd logic, after all).

The 22mm lugs are significant as well. 22mm straps and bracelets always feel quite wide to me, working better proportionally as a watch gets larger for the sake of contrast to the diameter. A 42mm case is the bare minimum, to my eyes, for a 22mm lug width to work on a traditional case shape (vs barrel, cushion, etc). The result can be a watch that looks and feels even wider than it needs to. 41mm watches aren’t that big, but the 2014 Ranger always felt oversized to me partially because of this.

The new 39mm Tudor Ranger essentially has the same footprint as the Black Bay 58, which has been fairly universally praised (including by yours truly) for its fit. It’s compact and well-proportioned. The fixed steel bezel also makes it appear perhaps even a touch more compact, as the dial feels more compressed. But, yes, it’s 39mm, not 36mm or 34mm (like the original). This seems to be one of the larger points of contention amongst the ever-hard-to-please watch community.

Well, to be honest, I’m a bit split too. I think, in a vacuum, 39mm is a great size for an all-purpose sports/adventure watch, which is what the Tudor Ranger is meant to be. The issue for me, particularly as an owner of a Black Bay Pro, is that for BBPro/58 owners, it’s not much of a difference. Sure, it looks different, but the movement and fit will be so similar, that it’s a bit redundant. For me, a 37mm, perhaps, with 19mm lugs, would be an ideal companion.

The 41mm Ranger – Photo by @watchclicker / watchclicker.com

And then, it occurred to me that I was being quite selfish with my thinking, as for the last several years, Tudor has made and sold 43mm Pelagos and 41mm Black Bay models around the world. For those owners, who did likely come first, tbh, a bezel-less 39mm is a sensible additional purchase. This is the Tudor Ranger they should have made originally, for the same reason. Then there’s also the factor that in-store, to the general public, larger watches are still more popular. 39mm will likely sell better than a 36mm (the current Explorer isn’t necessarily a good counterpoint because it’s still a steel Rolex, so will sell regardless).

Size aside, something I find very intriguing about the 39mm Ranger is that it’s fully brushed (the 41mm was as well). This might seem like a silly thing to focus on, but all of the steel Black Bay models, to my knowledge, have polished sides and bevels, with brushed tops. There is a quality to Tudor’s brushing that is very appealing, more so than a simple polished surface. Brushing is also more fitting of a tool watch as it’s less likely to show minor scratches. Similarly, a highly reflective surface doesn’t seem like a beneficial detail in the great outdoors, perhaps attracting birds of prey to your location (j/k but bling doesn’t seem to fit a purpose in the field).

If there was one thing on the Black Bay Pro I would change (and one thing I’d like to see on a future BB58 model), it would be to make the sides brushed, as I think that’s more fitting for its purpose as well (ok, I’d also like it in titanium). Though a perhaps insignificant detail overall, the Ranger being a fully brushed steel Tudor is exciting. Oddly, Tudor’s silver and gold options are mostly brushed as well.

Back to the dial, Tudor returned the Ranger to a flat, pad-printed style. The 41mm version was similar, but the lume was built up in such a watch that it made the larger numerals and markers look outlined. Combined with a matte black surface, they’ve made the new Ranger look closer to the original, though perhaps at the risk of looking “simpler.” I noticed many comments on this, which initially took me by surprise.


There is a conflict between those looking for accuracy in vintage-inspired watches and those looking for upscale details expected on a $3k watch, which often suggests marker surrounds, dial texture, and more complexity. I understand both sides, though I lean towards the accuracy argument in this instance given the style of the watch and the numerals, specifically. Polished surrounds would have changed the watch entirely, making it seem too much like a modern Explorer, and dial graining, like a sunburst, wouldn’t have fit the tool concept quite as well as matte either (similar situation as polished sides).

That all said, it also occurs to me that Tudor has a nice in-between that would have been a potentially good solution – the molded ceramic-lume markers found on the Black Bay Pro. Now, I can’t speak to the limitations of that material, perhaps curvy numerals are too complicated, but the molded markers add depth and texture, thus some “detail” (and they glow from the side!), while also appearing like pad printing from above as there’s no outline. Perhaps that would have satisfied both parties, but I guess we’ll never know.

A surprising feature, or perhaps lack-there-of, is the minimal dial text. “Tudor Geneve” up top with the shield logo, “Ranger” down at six. The 41mm version had the smiling “Rotor Self-Winding” text at six. Considering the watch features their in-house chronometer movement, and that Tudor isn’t afraid of the occasional dial-paragraph (…Pelagos, ahem), the lack of text here is quite unexpected. This was a good move as the complexity of the large numerals would have made that text all the more bothersome.

While I didn’t get a ton of time on the wrist as I was busy getting shots and other people needed to see the watches too, I did try to stop for a moment and take the watch in. Part of the appeal of the BB58 and BBPro is that they “just feel right” on the wrist. The Ranger is no different, it’s like it clicks into place. On the nylon strap in particular (the bracelets weren’t sized), it suited my wrist ideally. The large numerals on the dial do, however, give it a fairly different presence from the BB models. They are huge compared to the markers found on those watches, so the whole thing looks magnified. Certainly a good watch for those who strain with small details. This also made it feel very different from a military-inspired field watch, which I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to. Apples and oranges.

No launch by Tudor would be complete without some controversy, but I do think, overall, they have a very successful new model with the 39mm Ranger. I know the 41mm version has its fans, but the 39mm has been refined in basically every way, and all for the same price, topping out on a bracelet (which includes the T-Fit clasp, which is excellent) at just over $3k, making it currently their least expensive watch with their in-house caliber. That’s really a great price, particularly compared to similar offerings, like an Omega Railmaster, which starts closer to $5k. For Tudor fans with larger Black Bay and Pelagos models, those who miss the 39mm Rolex Explorer, or simply those who have been looking to get into to Tudor and wanted the in-house movement, the Ranger is quite worthy of consideration. Tudor

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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