Sunday Morning Showdown: Twenty-Twenty Tudor — Ranger Vs. Pelagos 39
We’re back again for another Sunday Morning Showdown! Last week pitted the Swiss Tissot against the Japanese Citizen. But today is an internal affair, as Tudor faces off against Tudor. We’re featuring two 2022 watch models from the Rolex sister brand. The grand announcement of the new Ranger in London in July was swiftly usurped by the Pelagos 39 bombshell in Geneva the following month. Despite not being part of Geneva Watch Days (otherwise known as “pulling a Hublot”), Tudor grabbed the headlines with its diminutive dive watch, leaving the Ranger in the shadows. Yet, each watch serves its purpose admirably. Which one is better? That’s for you to decide, so read on and cast your vote.
Firstly, I’ve heard many arguments regarding the pronunciation of Tudor. Some say “Choo-dah,” while others pronounce it “Too-door.” While either is acceptable to understand the reference, both are incorrect. You can argue that the Swiss brand’s representatives may enunciate their brand name as they see fit. But the Tudor name is routed in the historical Royal monarchy. Founder Hans Wilsdorf was a notable Anglophile, hence the Tudor rose logo that later became the shield. Therefore, only the authentic House of Tudor pronunciation should apply. Say it with us — Tyoo-duh. Combing the “T” and “Y” sounds is crucial to nailing the first syllable. Feel free to ignore this, but I’ve heard so many arguments between two incorrect terms that it was time to quash the confusion.
Previously, on Sunday Morning Showdown…
Getting back to the watches, let’s recap last week’s edition of Sunday Morning Showdown. Nacho faced off against Jorg with two cost-of-living-crisis-appropriate sports watches with integrated bracelets. Nacho fought valiantly with the Citizen NJ0150, but even he admits he was the underdog against the wildly popular Tissot PRX. I believe the Tissot has a more substantial design lineage from the ’70s Seastar, whereas the Citizen resembles a Rolex Oysterquartz crossed with an Oyster Perpetual dial and a Day-Date President bracelet. In the end, it’s the reader’s votes that matter. And as predicted, Jorg took the win with 63% of the ballots. Well done to Jorg as he put his watch on the line for this Showdown. Today, though, is merely a thought exercise as neither writer owns the respective Tudors in this fight.
Ben: Tudor Ranger
Backing the Tudor Ranger is a bit left field for me. I’ve kept this to myself for the longest time, but I find field watches the least interesting wristwear category. It’s appropriate they’re called “field watches” as they’re about as exciting as watching grass grow. Typically, I reach for the more technical and intricate dive watch packed with features. This statement alone seemingly consigns my choice as this week’s loser. But for reasons I’ll delve into later, the Pelagos 39 does not set my soul ablaze as some claim in the online forums. As such, taking another look at the Tudor Ranger has me observing its underrated details. Firstly, field watches tend to simplify by removing unnecessary clutter while accentuating core indications. There’s also a preference for flat and non-reflective surfaces.
The brushed stainless steel case of the 39mm Tudor Ranger is perfect for glancing at on a sunny, snowy mountainside. Sure, polished accents are great for catching the light for some visual interest, but when ice and snow are blinding you already, the matte textures are better suited for checking the time. Along with the case and bezel is the gravelly domed black dial that distorts and absorbs light to reduce reflections. For my example, I’m conjuring an icy tundra. Yes, the new Ranger marks 70 years since the British North Greenland Expedition, but I fail to see the relevance or modern-day equivalent activity. The same goes for the Rolex Explorer marketing claim of summiting Mount Everest, which it didn’t. Or the Explorer II, designed exclusively for spelunkers. The Ranger as a model never endured this expedition, although its compatriot Tudor Oyster Prince performed admirably.
Excellence, not excess
So, I think we can establish the Tudor Ranger meets the minimum requirements to define it as a field watch. But even when scaling back functionality, the Ranger is still visually arresting. The bold and illuminating numerals are curvy, and an animated flash of red on the tip of the seconds hand circles the dial. This brings me to the Pelagos 39 that amps up the animation with a sunray brushed finish on the dial and, unusually, on the ceramic bezel. Before this, the Pelagos lived in the shadow of the Black Bay as the more purposeful and capable dive watch. But following the unveiling in Geneva was a wave of praise thanks to the new 39mm diameter. Not only did the dimensions shrink, but the lines of text were also cut down to the essentials with “Pelagos” in red.
The familiar pattern of the COSC and depth rating resembles the Black Bay’s triangular spacing rather than the 42mm Pelagos block of text. And the red line is a not-so-subtle nod to the Rolex “Single Red” Submariners. I was also on board with these changes, but that’s where my appreciation runs dry. By Black Bay’ing the Pelagos, a lot of its identity is gone. The helium escape valve is absent, the spring-loaded clasp is no more, and the block indices sitting raised on the dial no longer cut into the minute chapter ring. While the distinguishing characteristics of the Pelagos are alive and well in the 42mm version, with the 39, the distinction blurs between this range and the Black Bay collection. I haven’t even gotten to my least favorite aspect, but you probably know what that is — the sunburst finishing.
Matte over sunburst finishing
With all the other features becoming pedestrianized, it possibly made sense to add a luxury twist with sunray brushing. In reality, the effect is hardly appealing, with the black tones being washed out with gray due to the reflections. I said earlier how important it was for the Ranger to target matte surfaces for professional use, and the Pelagos 39 goes in the complete opposite direction. But it doesn’t even go the whole hog to include an applied lume pip. Ultimately, that’s why I prefer the new Ranger. The Ranger is an improvement on its prior incarnation with the upgraded Tudor MT5402 movement, clean dial, and T-Fit steel clasp. In contrast, the Pelagos feels like a back step into a conflicted position in the Tudor catalog. Thomas, try and convince me otherwise.
Thomas: Tudor Pelagos 39
Thank you, Ben. This is a tough one since both releases seem to be orchestrated by marketing departments rather than watch aficionados. More on that later. As we indicated, neither of us owns either watch. The Pelagos 39, however, is a watch that I could spend my own money on. I think the concept is flawed, but I still like it enough to see myself wearing one. And I guess that is what it is all about in the end.
The Ranger, not so much. Although it is very well made and perfectly capable, I think it has some serious aesthetic issues — for starters, its size. This is personal, I know, but I feel that 39mm is too large for a watch of this style. It wears considerably larger than the Pelagos, while the rotating bezel and smaller dial optically shrink the latter. Sometimes I wish I had 8″ wrists because it would save me the constant disappointment when brands do this. This size feels like a compromise brought about by market research rather than an aim to make a watch as good as possible.
And then there is the Ranger’s dial. The ratios seem off. There is something odd about the negative space here. I am not a fan of the font of the numerals, and I find the tone of faux patina a bit sickly. Also, please accept my apologies for the following, but the hour hand has been likened to a certain adult toy. I cannot unsee it.
Ben: Get your mind out of the gutter, Thomas.
Thomas: Sorry if I now did that to you too. It is an image that — once in your head — you cannot push out the back door.
An exercise in marketing
So yes, my dislike for the Ranger is a matter of taste. Your mileage may vary. Before I start heaping praise on the Pelagos, let me criticize that a little as well. Nacho already touched upon this in his review, but there is a positioning issue here. Let me elaborate.
The whole concept of the Pelagos line is to be the serious, purposeful dive watch. The Black Bay is the lifestyle line. While I believe the original Pelagos is loved among actual divers, it also speaks to aficionados in general. We all love the idea of something rugged and no-nonsense, even if we only wear it around the house or in urban settings.
I would be surprised if Tudor’s own marketing department came up with the campaign around the new 39. I would assume they would know us well enough to consider the above. It feels like some external agency was hired to create something slick and “current” without knowing a thing about the watch community. Positioning the Pelagos 39 as a pool party watch for urban lifestyle characters is such a massive turn-off, even if the majority of us look more like that than like some Navy SEAL taking the thing into murky, hostile waters. I, for one, do not enjoy being approached this way. It feels cheap and shallow.
Liking the Tudor Pelagos 39
Okay, so I feel the new Pelagos 39 has been ruined by marketeers. But I actually really like the watch as a product. I have worn the Black Bay Fifty-Eight on several occasions. I think it has one of the best fits and proportions in the dive-watch category. It strikes a perfect balance between sportiness and a classical stance on the wrist. The Pelagos 39 is a hair slimmer, making it even better.
The Pelagos 39 harks back to the old “Snowflake” Submariner, a fan-favorite diver from the late ’60s and ’70s. In that, it solves an issue that many had with the Tudor catalog. I heard many people wanting a smaller diver from the brand, without the mix of circular indices and snowflake hands. Well, here it is!
The Pelagos 39 has an attractive simplicity to it. It feels a little less gimmicky than some of the Black Bay models (or the Ranger, for that matter). It is the classical no-date Submariner look with the Tudor twist. I am pretty sure this watch will look as good and current in twenty years time as it does today.
The Pelagos dial
Ben is right about the sunburst dial. It feels like it is part of that previously mentioned marketing campaign. No watch designer in his right mind would come up with this idea on his own. It is indeed out of place. By giving it a somewhat subtle finish, it seems like Tudor tried to make it less offensive. The result is neither fish nor foul. Again, Tudor, please put your marketing department in a separate building from your designers.
But this is speaking on a conceptual level. When you just look at the Pelagos 39 as if it had no history or context, it is a beautiful watch. Unless, like our colleague Gerard, you are principally opposed to anything but matte dials in tool watches, that is. I am not, and I quite like the aesthetic here.
Time to vote
There you have it — two very well-made watches that owners will likely enjoy for years to come. Both, however, have some controversy surrounding them and cannot exist outside of the context of their own heritage. This triggers us to be more critical, perhaps overly so sometimes.
Which do you prefer? If you could pick either one as a gift today, which would go on your wrist? Vote for your pick below, and let us know why in the comments.