Tudor Goes Big While Rolex Goes Small
After years of enthusiast requests, Rolex made the Explorer smaller. So, then, why are we so excited about an upsized 39mm Tudor Ranger?
It’s not exactly groundbreaking news that watches have been getting smaller as of late. Most new watch releases tend to fall within the 36-42mm range, and it’s looking more-and-more that the days of 44, 45, and 50mm watches are numbered.
Still, when it comes to certain iconic models, watch enthusiasts have very strong opinions on size.
The Incredible Shrinking Rolex
When the Explorer I (Ref. 6150) was introduced in 1952, it was also 36mm. Currently, the Rolex Explorer I is still a 36mm watch. Then, in 2010, Rolex did the unthinkable and made an Explorer I (Ref. 214270) with a diameter of 39mm.
Here’s the thing: Watches is a game played in millimeters, and while increasing a watch’s case diameter by only three units of measurement may not seem like a big difference, the watch collecting world had some things to say about it.
The watch wore very differently, and early models featured Arabic numerals without lume and short hands that didn’t quite fit the new proportions. It was a very different Explorer I than we had all become accustomed to in the preceding 50-plus year period.
Rolex eventually made a few changes, making the hands fill up the dial better and adding lume to the Arabic numerals, but the world never really learned to love the 39mm Explorer.
Did the brand go up to 39mm in response to consumer trends for larger watches during the early aughts? We will never know. But last year, Rolex gave the enthusiasts what we asked for, a return to 36mm.
Naturally, we cheered for the triumphant return of 36mm goodness!
Enter the Tudor Ranger
Related and similar to the Rolex Explorer I, yet totally different, we have the Tudor Ranger.
The Ranger shares many things with its Rolex counterpart. They were both used on incredible explorations (Rolex went up Everest and Tudor on the North Greenland Expedition). Moreover, both watches have luminous Arabic numerals and a highly waterproof case construction. At a passing glance, they certainly look like relatives.
However, when new in the early 1950s, a Rolex Explorer was still 36mm while a Tudor Ranger was 34mm. Remember what I said about this being a game of millimeters? Just like 3mm enlargement of the Explorer is a big deal, so is being 2mm smaller. It is a very big deal.
Of course, in the early 1950s it was not uncommon for men to wear smaller 34-36mm watches, but in the modern era, the majority of the watch-wearing-public wears a watch over 34mm (say that five times fast, I dare you!). Basically, today’s wrists demand something a little more substantial. And while the first reintroduction of the Ranger came in at 41mm, that proved to be a little too substantial.
That brings us to the Tudor Ranger Ref. M79950, which was released a few weeks ago. At 39mm, it’s the perfect size. While today’s wrists demand more than 34mm, they also prefer less than 41, and we have already established that 2mm is a big deal, so: 41- 2 = 39. Perfect. Right?
I, for one, certainly think so. However, watches rarely boil down to that type of mathematical equation. In truth, it’s far more complicated.
There are many reasons why this new Tudor Ranger has such a winning forumla, and its 39mm case size is merely the tip of the iceberg. The aesthetics are true to the original Tudor Ranger from the 1950s, using lume applied directly onto the dial (no white gold surrounds here) and the unique shield-shaped hour hand. Plus, the tip of the seconds hand adds a nice pop of red to the equation.
Inside the watch is where things get completely modern. The case houses Tudor’s Manufacture Calibre MT5402 with its highly anti-magnetic properties, silicon balance spring, and 70-hour power reserve.
Then there is, in my humble opinion, one of Tudor’s greatest pieces of innovation (and the star of the show): the new bracelet. Why? Because this Tudor steel bracelet integrates a “T-fit” Rapid Adjustment System, which gives you up to 8mm of instant adjustability.
Lastly (and amazingly), Tudor has managed to deliver all of this for only $2,795 on strap or $3,050 on bracelet. And while we have come to expect this incredible value from Tudor, that doesn’t make this pricing any less impressive.
So, what is the right size for a watch? Why do we applaud one model for downsizing and another for upsizing? Proportions, for one. Model history also plays a role for sure. But, at the end of the day, there is no single answer.
What Tudor has managed to do here is right-size a model (that most would agree is an iconic piece from the brand) without looking away from the history that made us all love the Ranger to begin with.
The new 39mm Tudor Ranger could be somebody’s one-watch collection. It’s that good, that robust, that versatile.
So, while most of us can agree that the sweet spot for watches is somewhere between 36-40mm, and we can all agree the Tudor Ranger looks best without a date window. Right? We all agree on the date window thing? Maybe we can broach that topic another time.