One of the great things about the current state of the watch world is that despite the endless onslaught of wait-lists, greedy flippers, and ever-increasing price tags, it’s still a great time to be an entry-level enthusiast. While undoubtedly a challenging era for all those involved, the past few years have solidified something of a proving ground in the sub $1,000 space. Thus, assuming the product is good, fairly priced, and – most importantly – designed for the enthusiast, success remains entirely possible. Last September, I looked at the Sea Ranger from Chicago’s Astor+Banks, and now we have the follow-up. Dubbed the Fortitude, it’s a port of the same functional methodology into a more simplified and accessible format that combines sporty design, wrist-friendly proportions, and an enthusiast-friendly price point.
The Fortitude measures 38.5mm wide, 11.9mm thick, and 46mm lug-to-lug and basically operates like a Sea Ranger without the 12-hour bezel. The dial design is classic in proportion and makes the most of a simple but balanced applied marker design, limited text, a date display at three, and a variety of dial color versions. While three such versions are seen here (navy blue, silver, and mother-of-pearl), Astor+Banks is also producing a version with a mint green dial and a 50-piece limited edition with a navy blue dial and gilt accents for a Chicago clothing brand called BLVDier. With 20mm lug sizing, drilled lugs, a flat anti-reflective sapphire crystal, solid caseback, a screw-down crown, 200-meter water resistance, and considerable anti-magnetic protection, the Fortitude lacks none of the Sea Ranger’s sporting attributes.
The Fortitude is being positioned as a sort of officer’s alternative to the grunt-spec of the toolish Sea Ranger, and Astor+Banks believes this model (especially with the available MOP dial) will also appeal to women. In terms of product planning, if we zoom out just a little, we will see that many microbrands have started to offer smaller, less-complicated models that iterate upon formats established by more sporting models (the Monta Noble and forthcoming Halios Universa come to mind, but are far from the only examples). If we zoom out quite a bit more, we find an established format of offering a sort of simplified expression of the same ethos; the Explorer vs. the Submariner, the Black Bay 36 vs. the Black Bay 41, or even …read more