Is the improved and downsized Raven Trekker truly a watch to meet all needs?

Raven commands a strong position in the US micro-brand watch community thanks in no small measure to the efforts of lifelong watch enthusiast Steve Laughlin. Based in Kansas with watches currently manufactured in Hong Kong, Raven is very much a US brand and takes its creative inspiration from serious tool watches, with their ultimate designs being based on an ambitious “one watch to meet all needs” philosophy.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Back as far as his childhood Steve was always fascinated by watches. In his teens he grew to love wilderness camping and scuba diving and as a result of these activities his personal watch technical requirements expanded.

By the mid to late 90s he went through the TAG phase (as did we all back then) and found himself drifting into the watch industry by helping already established American companies like Benarus (not to be confused with Benrus) with their website and watch design. Come the 2000s he was working closely with two colleagues who ran multiple small brands focusing on making limited edition runs of watches for US veteran aviation groups who liked bespoke time pieces with their logos on the case backs. One of these brands was Raven.

Raven’s first serious model was a self-acknowledged Rolex Submariner homage titled The Vintage and there are some great images of the original 40 and 42mm models on the history page of the current website. The Vintage was followed by the DEEP 44, a 4000ft diver, and the DEEP TECH, an 8200ft (2500m) specialist unit which sadly went out of production in 2015. This model openly took inspiration from the Rolex DEEPSEA under the philosophy of creating a highly capable deep dive watch at a much more competitive price than the Rolex (note: the DEEP TECH will soon to be re-issued as a 2021 special).

As the Raven brand took off, the sister companies dropped away, and fast forward to the present day Steve’s principal focus is now solely the brand we are here to review today.

The Raven Trekker over the years

The original Raven Trekker was a short lived (2016-17) 40mm stainless diver evolving from The Vintage which eventually re-morphed into the 42mm Venture. The Venture continued sell and the Trekker then briefly reappeared in 2018 with a capable ETA 2824-2 movement. However, by this time Steve sensed that watch design and dimensions were changing so the Trekker II was created which would be released in a much more contemporary 39mm case.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The Trekker II is a quintessential tool watch. It is aesthetically pleasing to look at without being over designed. The current Trekker models available from Raven all have a matt finish which plays down their functionality. The V1 Stainless is equipped with long indices and numerals at the cardinal points and comes without a date.

There is also a V1 Ceramic which is the same watch but with a ceramic bezel. The V2 is externally identical and also has ceramic/stainless combinations but the dial has smaller square indices and a date at 6 o’clock. All four models are classic enough in design to be suitable for daily wear, diving, or hiking. One could argue that it is a brave move to create such a generic watch, but Raven have pulled it off and the V1 and 2 will appeal to the tool watch community.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

However, the model sent to us was the latest edition, the 39mm B2 Trekker with 'no date' dial and a yellow second hand. This model is the very latest evolution of the Trekker name and unfortunately, even though the watch was advertised as pre-order, it sold out extremely fast. We were fortunate enough to secure one for testing! The good news is that the B2’s date-equipped counterparts, the B5, B6, B7 and B8, are still available direct from Raven.

The Raven Trekker II - what it does

The 39mm B2 is a 300m dive tool which can best be described in military/police vernacular as a perfect EDC (Every Day Carry). It is a no-nonsense steel watch which has more than basic water and environmental resistance. The 39mm dial is mid-size yet highly legible and the now ubiquitous blue X1 SuperLuminova gives better than average glow all through the night.

The Raven Trekker II with X1 lume - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The yellow second hand set against the blue dial is new combination for the B2 and this really elevates the earlier mono-chrome V1 design. It adds more purpose and clarity to the watch and provides much needed differentiation for those of us who value counting seconds. The yellow is also matched in the word TREKKER on the dial.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The uni-directional steel bezel is solid without any play and the black engraved markings allow for easy use. The standout element of the B2 is the crown, a critical component of tool watches which is often overlooked in design. This model has a screw down and although it seals tight to the case it has an additional collar which keeps the serrated rim proud of the watch.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

This design makes the crown protrude quite a bit but the flipside is the Trekker has one of the most user-friendly crowns to operate with gloves, be they winter or tactical.

The B2 has a substantial amount of crystal in the lens. It is high but not domed and even though it boasts an anti-reflective coating this is to a degree nullified by the mass of crystal.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Unlike the 2018 Trekker the ETA 2824-2 has been dropped in favour of a Miyota 90s5. Miyota advertise this automatic movement as one of their premium works which is embellished enough to be on display (although you cannot see it on the Trekker). It claims an accuracy of -10/+30 sec per day and a power reserve of 42 hours. It operates at 28800 bph and has 24 jewels.

The Raven Trekker II case back - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The case back is simple on the B2 with an individual issue number out of 100 units and year of manufacture under the dramatic Raven logo. The 20mm steel bracelet which we had on the test model matches the case in finish and was a comfortable multi-link design which reminds in a good way of the sandblasted steel bracelets which came on a 1990s TAG Heuer 1500. The links can be removed with Rolex style screws which is always a welcome design feature. A full 360 of the watch reveals a firm flip lock clasp again with the Raven logo.

Hands-on thoughts

Wearing the Trekker 39mm B2 it has a solid and reliable feel. You know it is not going to let you down and its subdued design equally is not going to have people looking over your shoulder to steal a glance at your Raven. But that’s good thing! In a world where the ostentatious still has a market this Trekker is the polar opposite and that will appeal greatly to a certain demographic of user.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

It feels heavy, maybe too heavy, but the new 39mm size is a design gem. The numbers on the dial are slightly elongated and this is a clever characteristic which was surely deliberate. They serve to make the dial look longer than it is, so you feel you are looking at a larger watch.

Watch straps for the Raven Trekker II

Depending on what your activity with the Trekker there are many 20mm strap options. This selection is bearing in mind we were testing a B2 with a blue dial.

ZULUDIVER Desert Patrol Horween Leather Watch Strap

We have taken the popular military NATO watch strap and turned it into a standard style two-piece leather strap complete with our "Swiss style" stainless steel hardware.

It is made from 100% genuine American Horween® leather for a quality durable finish. The Horween Leather Company, one of the oldest continuously running tanneries in the United States of America and offers an unparalleled blend of quality, consistency, responsiveness, and innovation. The leathers are still made by hand, the same way as generations ago. Perfect if you are taking your Raven Trekker across the Kalahari Desert.

ZULUDIVER Quick Release Sailcloth Waterproof Divers Watch Strap with Blue Stitching

The Raven Trekker II on Zuludiver Quick-Release Sailcloth Strap With Contrasting Stitching - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

Sailcloth material is renowned for its strong and durable properties, making it hard wearing and resilient for water based and adventure activities. This strap is made from water resistant Sailcloth print PVC rubber material and is a perfect complimentary choice for the Raven Trekker. It features padding for extra comfort but remains lightweight and flexible on the wrist.

Whether you chose the brushed or brushed/ polished combination the Warrington will give the Trekker an alternative look for evening wear. This watch strap is made of 316L stainless steel. This has a strong resistance to corrosion and seawater making it an ideal partner to any dive watch. For the Classic Warrington, we have used a profile that is 3.6mm high. The watch strap is fitted with discrete fold-over push-button clasp with two micro-adjustment positions.

The E-NATO

The Raven Trekker II on a Zuludiver E-NATO - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The E-NATO by ZULUDIVER is made from elasticated woven webbing material and would be the perfect partner to take the Raven Trekker on an exploration across an arid desert. This is a very useful watch strap to have in your collection and will fit a wide range of wrist sizes. The straps a comfortable to wear in all conditions, and very easy to adjust being made from a combination of nylon and elastic rubber webbing material woven together. Fitted with stainless steel brushed fittings and etched with the ZULUDIVER logo.

Things we would change

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

As mentioned before there is a lot of glass on the Trekker. Now we fully understand that certain design characteristics are obligatory for 300m watches to cope with crushing depths but if this heavy lens is indeed critical to surviving 300m then perhaps the watch should have been pitched at 200 or even 100m to allow for a thinner design.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

And talking of thin, the hands could perhaps do with looking to shave a few microns from their width. They fill the gap entirely between minute markers and when hovering over hour indices they seem to swamp them. Its like they have been lifted from a 42mm watch and when fitted to the 39mm trekker were not slimmed accordingly.

Some final thoughts

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

I confess it took me a little while to get into the Trekker. As a keen hiker I was looking forward to taking the watch for an explore - it had me on the name - yet when I opened the box, I seemed to be holding a diver watch. Through living with it I now realise the B2 Trekker II is a different creature from its predecessors which lends itself well to outdoor activities. I could see it in a jungle or desert, and it would become a thoroughly reassuring part of your essential equipment.

When we test watches, we are always mindful not to expose them to environments where they could be scratched or damaged, so I removed the Raven bracelet on hike day and replaced it with a Sailcloth. This was immediately a wonderful combination and I much preferred the watch off the steel, it just felt more balanced, and it translated to leather also. Raven offers well priced propriety leather or caoutchouc rubber straps as alternatives so they would definitely be my choice.

The Raven Trekker II - Image Credit: WatchGecko Online Magazine

The raven Trekker II B2 is a very competent watch however it is not cheap at $750 US (discounted to $700 on the website at the moment). None of us take lightly the huge amount of work that goes into the design of a watch, but this price does seem a little high. In that price bracket you could also consider a Hamilton Khaki Field, Seiko Prospex Diver, or a good used TAG Heuer. However, if the Raven Trekker speaks to you (and it most certainly will to many buyers) then grab one while you can and for sure you will gain a worthy partner for any adventure.

Many thanks to Steve for the loan of the Trekker and his advice. Although the Trekker II is currently sold out, you can find other models still for sale and find out about upcoming releases from the Raven website.