Chicago based Astor+Banks brings their demure military aesthetic to a new collection announced today dubbed the Fortitude. The new watch joins the Sea Ranger family, and offers a familiar look in a tidy new 38.5mm package. Offered in 5 colorways, the Fortitude offers a refreshing take on the tried and true 3-hander. We spent some time with three of the available Fortitude variants, including a MoP dial, and found a lot to like about the new watches, even if they remain firmly in the brand’s comfort zone. Here are our takeaways.
Introducing the Astor+Banks Fortitude
The Fortitude is a continuation of the military themes at work within the Astor+Banks design language and nomenclature, with this watch slotting into the ‘officer’ theme to the Sea Ranger’s ‘grunt’ theme. In hand and on the wrist, you’d be hard pressed to tie this watch to such hardcore themes, as the watch offers a relatively neutral and straightforward tone in its execution. The Fortitude is bright and non-ambiguous with practically designed features that could be called minimal in style, but there’s enough boldness where it counts. In that regard, there is a certain military feel in terms of clean efficiency, without wandering into tactical territory.
Astor+Banks are using the same classic case design as we saw on the Sea Ranger, only it’s been sized down to a 38.5mm diameter with a 46mm lug to lug measurement. The lugs and case walls are brushed with a polished chamfer running the length of the case from lug tip to lug tip. Likewise, the bezel offers a vertical brush with a polished chamfer leading down to the case. The resulting dome is mirrored on the underside of the case, which does factor into the wearability, more on that later. The bracelet is also similar to what was offered on the Sea Ranger, with single interlocking links that taper from 20mm at the lug to 16mm at the clasp. Fit and finish here is adequate and certainly nothing to scoff at in this price range. The lugs are drilled for easy access to strap changes should you desire, which should appeal to owners a great deal as this one will look good across a wide range of options, from fabric to rubber, or even suede as is included with the watch.
The dial provides just enough depth where it matters. The hands and hour markers all have a sense of purpose, and are clearly designed around legibility. Each is filled with C3 X1 grade Super LumiNova but there are clear boundaries within which the lume is applied. The hour markers stand tall and receive thick outlines for maximum contrast with the dial. The hands also strike a nice balance between the lumed areas and the metal so they jump off the dial at a glance for easy use even at a distance. There are hashes for the seconds hand and a date aperture at 6 o’clock, but there’s nothing that gets in the way of clean legibility. Even the remnants of an hour baton under the date aperture receive its own lume and outline.
The branding is minimal with lightweight typography used in the logo as well as the signage at 6 o’clock, clearly a secondary priority to the hands and hour markers. The name of the watch is scripted in red regardless of dial choice, with “20ATM // AUTOMATIC” appearing underneath.
The Sea Ranger used a Selitta SW200 automatic movement, and while the Fortitude does gain a date complication, it opts instead for a Miyota 9015 unit that’s adjusted in house prior to shipping. The Miyota provides 42 hours of reserve and is granted a level of anti-magnetism thanks to a pair of soft iron plates that sit above and below it. The plates are rated to 20,000A/m, far outpacing the 4,800A/m required for ISO 764. The plates are the prime suspect in what is the only wearability issue with the Fortitude.
On the wrist, the Fortitude sits neatly and easily thanks to its sweet spot dimensions, however there is some added heft hiding under the case, that raises the entire watch up a mm or so north of where you expect it to sit. The result is a case that can look like it’s floating on the wrist from certain angles, which isn’t so bad on its own, but the resulting extra work for the bracelet to make up the distance from wrist to lugs mean the end link is often positioned more vertically than feels appropriate. This creates a humpback appearance and I often found myself pushing down on the head of the watch, thinking it needed re-adjusting. There’s nothing uncomfortable about this situation, but it does alter the otherwise clean appearance on the wrist, and prohibits the watch from ‘sitting flat’.
Overall this is a very pleasant watch to wear throughout the day. It’s easy to use and offers a lot of practicality in a well thought out, minimal design. The Fortitude is not a dramatic departure from the Sea Ranger, and that’s not a bad thing as we loved the aesthetic put forth by Astor+Banks. We’d love to see that aesthetic make its way into more clearly differentiated models in the future, and the Fortitude is a small step in the right direction.
Astor+Banks is offering the Fortitude with 5 different dial options: silver; mint green; navy; mother of pearl; and Gilt Navy, which is an exclusive limited (50pc) colorway to BLVDier, a custom clothier in Chicago. Pre-order pricing is set at $525 and $550 for the MoP dial, with full MSRP being $650 and $695 respectively. You can pre-order yours from Astor+Banks right here, with deliveries expected to begin in December of this year or January of next. More from Astor+Banks.