At the site of the 2015 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, we attempted to find out if TUDOR's Heritage Ranger could withstand the various elements that the event offered.
There’s a point in any outdoor running session where a person hits that “wall.” For marathon participants, or those brave enough to compete in Ironman-style competitions, it’s usually in the latter stages of the run when the constant slapping of one’s feet on the ground sends a tattarrattat of inflamed shockwaves toward the brain’s pain center. But at the 2015 GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado – where a bevy of skilled men, women (and even dogs) compete in a variety of outdoor activities like kayaking, bouldering, slacklining and more – my own personal “wall” came during a two-mile, mud-filled scamper where the muck had penetrated the lazy defenses of my boxer shorts. On the precise anniversary of D-Day, my masculinity and toughness was being put to the test.
In reality, there were actually two things being put through their paces: my ego, and the strength, reliability and precision of my TUDOR watch – the Heritage Ranger – which is imbued with the pioneering spirit of the far North and epic tales of sled dogs braving solitary, frozen lands.
I had always considered TUDOR to be a luxury brand given its connections to Rolex and the latter’s commitment to guaranteeing the technical, aesthetic and functional characteristics of the watches which are produced today. Despite its deluxe heritage, the Swiss-based company has become the official timepiece of the decidedly rugged and far-from-opulent Mountain Games (and the location of my mud massacre). In addition to a sponsorship arrangement, TUDOR would also be giving away the “ultimate tool watch” – the Pelagos – to the “Ultimate Waterman” and “Ultimate Waterwoman” who had performed best in the Steep Creek Championship, Kayak Freestyle, 8 Ball Kayak Sprint and Down River Kayak Sprint.
If Rolex brings to mind an image of a man in a double-breasted suit in a Rolls-Royce who is asking another man to pass the Grey Poupon, I would come to understand during my time at the Mountain Games that TUDOR definitely does not fall into that category. Luxury doesn’t play well with others; TUDOR is positioning itself as a purveyor of a lifestyle where one can get dirty, wet and still show up at the bar at night looking like a refined gentleman.
To understand why I found myself covered head-to-toe in sludge at the Mountain Games, you have to realize that TUDOR has a storied history of putting its products through arduous testing. In 1952, the Oyster Prince was launched alongside a rather inventive advertising campaign for the era which spoke to the watch’s reliability and toughness. Under headlines like “jarred beyond belief,” the Oyster Prince was worn by a coal miner during 252 hours of excavation by hand; it was subjected to the vibrations of a pneumatic drill for 30 hours; worn by a stonecutter for three months; and raced on the wrist of a motorbike rider over a 1,000 miles. It never cracked and it never faltered. To this day, TUDOR remains one of only two companies (along with Rolex) that can market its products as waterproof as opposed to water-resistant. You may think to yourself, tomato/tomatoe, but when you’re over a mile deep, you don’t want anything malfunctioning.
As the legend grew about TUDOR’s excellence in all facets of testing, the watchmaker decided to further its image of reliability by investigating and recording the terrain and geology of the North Greenland ice cap. It outfitted expedition members from the Britain’s Royal Navy with 26 of its new Oyster Prince watches.
In 2014, Major Des “Roy” Homard – one of the last surviving members of the exhibition – rediscovered the same Oyster Prince that he had used and subsequently lost in a house he had lived in since 1961. Now 93, he recalls of the Greenland expedition, “I didn’t know what I was going to be up to, but I knew it would be very cold, very hard going and very dangerous. But I just said to myself, ‘I can do it.’”
During his military career, Homard became the only British soldier to have explored both the Arctic and the Antarctic, and the only serving soldier to travel completely across the Antarctic by way of the South Pole from coast to coast. While he was away in the Arctic, his wife took to wearing his TUDOR watch. One can only assume that it gave her comfort to have something of his while he was out trekking across the world.
This was why TUDOR was at the Mountain Games. While some companies like to boast about their “heritage,” there’s a huge distinction between being an old brand and being a brand that has actually achieved something during that passage of time.
A common saying associated with replacing a great man is, “they’re tough shoes to fill.” Here I was, a veteran of perhaps only one day of camping in my entire life -- and a city boy through-and through – and I was attempting to continue TUDOR’s testing practices. While I had delusions of putting the Heritage Ranger through some of the more “hardcore” events at the Mountain Games, one lap around the sprawling outdoor festival made it clear to me that I was seemingly only tough enough for something where the distance was short (two miles uphill) and the greatest challenge was Mother Nature’s natural concealer (mud).
When your race bib has the words “kids adventure games” scrawled across it, it tends to have a calming effect on one’s nerves. At the starting line, people outfitted in traditional race attire surrounded me, but as my eyes swept the periphery, I saw others dressed as Mexican luchadores and a pair of identical twins in hospital gowns. When the race starter said “go,” the twins’ first few steps revealed that they had nothing on underneath. TUDOR had promised me that its watch bezel wouldn’t crack, but I reasoned other things like that were out of their control.
After only a few steps, the altitude made my lungs feel like rung out sponges that had seen one too many baths at an assisted living facility. Further uphill, and remnants of winter snow still peppered the ground. Making matters worse was the fact that every single person – whether running or watching – was equipped with a GoPro camera to catch every tumble.
As I Army-crawled underneath a makeshift tunnel, a perfectly delightful woman who resembled the grandmother in “Wedding Crashers” was waiting for me with a handful of hay squeezed between her fingers. “Tarred and feathered,” she cackled as she threw it in my mud-covered face. Surely Major Homard had endured a lot during his expedition, but had an altitude-assisted octogenarian accosted him?
I’ll never serve in the military. I’ll probably never even go on an adventure where coffee can’t be slurped on a daily basis. I didn’t intend to use TUDOR’s challenge to test out its Ranger watch as a time for introspection, but it couldn’t be avoided. Over every obstacle, and through the mud that stuck to the skin like candle wax, I questioned the need for durability in a modern world that is consumed by the digital afterglow from cell phones. That thought quickly evaporated. By the time I had embarked on my second lap of the run, the Ranger was completely covered in mud, with only a brief, Biblical-style cleansing in frigid Gore Creek. Sure, it was just mud and water (maybe even a little blood, too), but the Ranger literally kept on ticking. You never know what life may throw your way. TUDOR understands that.
Words: Alec Banks/Selectism.com