Astor + Banks had a sleeper hit last year with the Sea Ranger. The dive watch seemed to slip under the radar of most microbrand dive watch fans. I thought the Sea Ranger would give the brand the bump it needed to make it to the big time. While it didn’t quite launch them into the stratosphere with other microbrand royalty, it did raise the brand up the ladder a few rungs.
Astor + Banks is back again with a different take on the Sea Ranger. The Astor + Banks Fortitude carries over some of what made the Sea Ranger great and changes a few things which make it an even better watch. Astor + Banks have always had a strong value proposition with their watches and the Fortitude appears to be no exception. Will the Fortitude push Astor + Banks further and give them the notoriety they deserve? Let’s find out.
On the Wrist
2020 seems to have transitioned from the year of GMTs to the year of fixed-bezel sport watches. The Fortitude is the latest in this trend and it hits in all the right places. I’ll say it up front: it’s a great sports watch. While the Fortitude shares a few things with its older brother, the Sea Ranger, Astor + Banks have changed a few things that improve upon the overall design and comfort.
While I loved the asymmetrical case shape of the Sea Ranger, I’m glad to see a symmetrical case for the Fortitude. It gives the watch a more refined look and makes the watch feel more elegant. This also helps the Fortitude wear slightly smaller than the Sea Ranger. This is something Astor + Banks did intentionally and for good reason.
The Fortitude is the first watch from Astor + Banks aimed towards women. There is no law written that says women can’t buy any other watch “made for men” but it is refreshing to see a brand take an intentional and deliberate approach to this. They are one of the first (if not the first) microbrands I am aware of that have made a watch for women. There is nothing about the Fortitude that screams male or female. The mother of pearl dial variant is perhaps the only dial color you could say leans toward the female column, but it was my favorite dial color after the navy blue. Astor + Banks have done a fantastic job creating a truly unisex watch and I’m hopeful other brands will follow suit.
One of the complaints I had about the Sea Ranger has found its way over to the Fortitude. The watch can wear a little tall, especially if the top of your wrist is bony. The caseback can push the watch off your wrist slightly. With that said, it isn’t uncomfortable, and it certainly doesn’t wear tall. It will wear true to its case height of 11.9mm. The Fortitude more than compensates for this with fantastic proportions elsewhere. The 38.5mm width is matched with a modest 46mm lug-to-lug. Further aiding comfort is the amazingly comfortable bracelet that tapers from 20mm to 16mm at the clasp.
Astor + Banks Fortitude Video Review
Dials for Every Preference
Normally when I review a watch, I usually have one variant of the watch to look at. Astor + Banks were kind enough to lend three of the dial colors for this review. I was able to look at the navy blue, silver, and mother of pearl dial variants. Each one has its own character and there are subtle differences between each one.
No matter which dial color you choose, there are going to be similarities between them. The Fortitude’s dial features thick applied markers filled with plenty of lume and the same handset that was featured on the Sea Ranger. The dials have a sector look to them thanks to a ring that separates the markers from the inner part of the dial. A date is present at 6 o’clock and the usual text from Astor + Banks is also printed on the dial.
The navy blue dial was my favorite of the bunch. I’m a sucker for a blue dial so this shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone. With polished hands and markers, the navy is also the most classic-looking. If you’re looking for a classic sport watch, it’s hard to go wrong with the navy dial.
The mother of pearl dial surprised me the most. I’m not a huge fan of white and silver dials so I was shocked when the mother of pearl dial jumped out at me as being so beautiful. Perhaps it was the blued steel hands that got me. Everything works well together, and the hands pick up the various colors that come from the mother of pearl.
Last but certainly not least is the silver dial. The silver has a texture like iced-over snow and glistens when the light hits the dial directly. It also features blued hands and markers. The silver dial was the most legible dial to me; the contrast created by the blue against the silver allowed it to be readable quickly.
Astor + Banks also offer two other dial colors that I did not have the opportunity to check out. There is a mint green dial and a limited edition blue/gilt dial. Based on my experience with the three dial colors I was able to see, I have no doubt these other two will be amazing in their own way.
Case & Bracelet
The major change from the Sea Ranger is the removal of the asymmetrical case. The case no longer has the crown guards and it helps the Sea Ranger feel a little slimmer. While it makes it feel truer to the 38.5mm size, it doesn’t feel small.
Another obvious change from the Sea Ranger is the fixed bezel. The flat bezel features a brushed surface with a smooth, polished chamfer. It is executed well and dresses up the Fortitude slightly while still keeping it sporty.
Astor + Banks have carried over the Y-link bracelet from the Sea Ranger to the Fortitude and it still fits the watch perfectly. The gentle taper from 20mm to 16mm at the clasp is just right and adds comfort and balance to the watch.
While the Monta Noble costs more than twice as much as the Fortitude, consumers looking into the microbrand sport watch segment are bound to come across it. There is certainly a higher level of finishing on the Noble but that is part of what you’re paying for. However, I believe the Fortitude can hold its own here and the Fortitude is a great option for breaking into the fixed-bezel sport watch segment without breaking the bank.
Swiss Watch Company Sport
The SWC Sport is a newer entry into the sport watch segment and while it has more contemporary styling, the comparisons are easy to make between it and the Fortitude. A fixed bezel, slim profile, and a dial with depth are what these two watches have in common. The SWC Sport is available with a quartz movement for those looking to save some cash.
Seiko Alpinist (non-compass versions)
Seiko has launched a new line of the Seiko Alpinist that are simplified and don’t include the compass many are used to seeing. Featuring applied markers, a slim 38mm case, and Seiko’s 6R35 movement, the Alpinist brings solid competition for the Fortitude. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with faux aged lume on the Seiko.
Astor + Banks have been on the precipice of breaking out for a while now and the Fortitude may be the watch to launch them to the next tier of microbrand greats. The Fortitude is bringing a solid offering to the sport watch segment.
I’m also happy to see a microbrand offer a watch geared towards women. It is a subject that has been brought up multiple times over the past couple years by a variety of microbrands and no one seems to do it. Astor + Banks have taken the leap with the Fortitude and I applaud them for it. Hopefully, we will see more brands follow suit.
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Astor + Banks Fortitude Specs