Introducing the Tudor Ranger
Rolex’s sister company celebrates a big anniversary with a brand new field watch
Exactly 70 years ago, on July 8th, 1952, 30 men set out from Deptford, on the banks of the Thames in London, for a two-year adventure in Greenland. Their mission? To further the collective scientific knowledge of that mysterious, icy place, studying its seismology, glaciology, meteorology, physiology and more. A combined military-and-civilian crew were equipped with 86 tons of equipment — most of which was air-dropped to them on-site from two RAF Handley Page Hastings aircraft — and a special consignment of watches from Tudor. Two years later, in August of 1954, the expedition concluded, having endured temperatures as low as -86 degrees Fahrenheit.
For years, Tudor sought to obtain one of these original expedition reference 7808 watches — 34mm Oyster Perpetual models — to no avail. Finally, it came to the brand’s attention that an ex-expedition member, then in his early 90s, had an original BNGE watch. Having rediscovered it in his kitchen junk drawer — yes, these things do happen! — he subsequently donated it to Tudor, who now proudly house it in their archives along with the watch’s original log books. Tudor asked that its loaned watches be cared for to the best of the expedition members’ abilities, and that the members record their watches’ chronometric performance during their time in Greenland. Luckily, the reference 7808s performed splendidly, as is evidenced by a letter one of the scientists wrote to Tudor confirming that his watch “was maintaining a remarkable accuracy.”
In seeking to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the BNGE’s sailing, Tudor struck upon an idea: Rather than reissue the 7808, they sought inspiration in the similarly adventurous Ranger 7995 — a watch that, while it informed the design of the 2014-2020 Tudor Heritage Ranger, didn’t have a direct analog in the current catalog. The Ranger name had been used in Tudor watches as early as 1929, at a time when Rolex and Tudor founder Hans Wilsdorf used it to denote a timepiece earmarked for adventure. In the 1960s, Tudor codified this approach into a specific model, the Ranger ref. 7995, a 34mm, time-only tool watch with a black dial, large, luminescent Arabic numerals and dash indices, and a special, highly legible handset. It was available both with and without a date, and saw several iterations throughout its lifetime — including a model from 1973 with a funky, integrated bracelet.
The brand-new Ranger reference 79950 calls upon these 1960s and 1970s models for inspiration, updating the original specs for modern wearability and comfort. Housed in a 316L satin-brushed steel case measuring 39mm in diameter by roughly 12mm tall, it features a grained, matte black domed dial with painted Arabic hour and dash indices. Both the indices and the matching “Ranger” handset are coated liberally in Grade A Super-LumiNova, in a particular shade that gives the impression of a vintage aesthetic and slight patina. A red-tipped seconds hand makes for quick registering of the time against an outer, open minute/seconds track, while a domed sapphire crystal protects the dial.
Via its screw-down crown with the Tudor rose logo executed in relief, the new Ranger is capable of 100m of water resistance — which is more than ample for a time-only field watch. Even more impressive is the in-house Tudor MT5402 automatic movement powering the watch: COSC-certified, it features an impressive 70-hour power reserve and a non-magnetic silicon balance spring, and accuracy of -2 to +4 seconds per day.
The 79950 is available on one of three bracelet options — an olive green Jacquard fabric strap with red and beige stripes; a hybrid rubber and leather mode; or a 316L stainless steel bracelet with Tudor’s “T-fit” rapid-adjustment clasp. The Jacquard strap is particularly notable: Used by Tudor since 2010, it’s produced using a classic 19th-century weaving method by the Julien Faure company, a French firm based in St-Étienne known for its exquisite craftsmanship. For those who prefer a bracelet, well, this one is pretty darn great — the “T-fit” system allows for quick length adjustment of up to 8mm without the need for tools.
A simple, inelegant tool watch the Ranger is most decidedly not. Considered and sophisticated, it requires the wearer to look closely and consider its materials and capabilities. The case is large and satin-brushed to provide a matte, non-reflective surface, but polished elements — such as the inner edge of the bezel — provide a welcome, subtle flair that strengthens the overall design. The choice of lume color recalls vintage models without being overly stuck in the past, while the manufacture movement is technologically very much a product of today, with its “weekend-proof” power reserve and anti-magnetic elements.
Of course, the diameter of the watch at 39mm is a far cry from that of the original 34mm Ranger models, and though certain die-hard enthusiasts would no doubt have welcomed a 36mm “sweet spot” size, 39-40mm is what sells best. One can hardly fault a watch company for wanting to sell watches, and all the more so considering 39mm is versatile, highly wearable and comfortable.
All three versions of the new Ranger are indeed comfortable, well sized, and handsome, though the bracelet, with its “T-fit” clasp, seems a particular win. Pricing across the range — $2,725 for strap models and $3,050 for the bracelet, confirms Tudor’s place in the modern anthology of “value” brands: After all, where else is one going to find a robust modern field watch with a chronometer-certified, manufacture movement on a matching, adjustable bracelet for this kind of money? Not very many places, to be sure.
Will the new ref. 79950 have its detractors? No doubt. Some, including the author, will wish it were slightly smaller. Some will be dismissive of the entire “vintage reissue” concept in its entirety. Some highly dedicated Tudor fans will no doubt wonder why the brand didn’t simply reissue the ref. 7808. (Said watch is highly attractive, for the record, but put it side by side with the Ranger, and there’s little doubt as to which has more sales potential.)
Overall, however, the Ranger is a win, and a significant win, at that. Tudor’s relatively short-lived North Flag didn’t quite scratch the field watch itch — it was a bit too left-field in its aesthetics relative to the maison’s often conservative fare. (And I say “conservative” lovingly, as a long-time Tudor fan!) The Black Bay 31/36/39/41 models, it should be remembered, do somewhat scratch the 7808’s itch, with a design reminiscent of various 34mm Tudors from the 1950s and the 1960s. And though a contemporary Tudor Heritage Ranger was introduced in 2014, it was discontinued in 2020, leaving a hole in the catalog for a solid, versatile, black-dialed field watch.
Ultimately, this is a watch that, like any other, is best tried on in person before one makes a judgment. But there’s no doubt about it: With its historical inspiration, tactical-looking dial, assortment of wearing options, and comfortable feel, the new Tudor Ranger ref. 79950 is cool as all hell.
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