Watch Review: Finally A Casual Snorkelling Watch!! The Astor + Banks Sea Ranger

Every watch collection has a set of pre-decided categories that we feel like we need to fill. Dress watch, check. Weekend watch, check. Dive watch, check check check check…. You probably have more than one candidate for most of these slots that jockey for the starting position in your head like it’s the first day of training camp. But what happens when you come across a watch that you know you have to get purely based on aesthetics? How do you justify that to yourself?

That is the dilemma I ran into when I first encountered the Astor + Banks Sea Ranger. It’s an extremely good-looking watch, and I had mentally been in the market for a white sports watch, so it seemed to fit the bill. The dive watch category of my collection is the one with the least need for new members, and that’s where this one would fit, right? Well, I’m not so sure. It certainly looks like a dive watch with its tonneau-ish case shape and contrasting second hand and 200M water resistance and rotating bezel, but wait! Is that a 12-hour bezel instead of the standard diving 60-minute variety? Useless for diving! And with that small detail, I had the answer: create a whole new category.

Casual snorkelling watch? Traveling to Greece seeking Atlantis watch? Water-zorbing watch? The name of the category doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Astor + Banks have created something interesting and unique enough to justify taking up another watch box slot–no small feat in these days of full-on small-brand inundation.

Astor + Banks is a small brand based in Chicago, IL, started by Andrew Perez, a self-professed long-time watch nerd who simply wanted to do something he loved. I had the chance to meet Andrew at the New York WindUp Watch Fair, and a kinder and more gracious watch company owner you’d be hard-pressed to find. I can’t find a lot of backstory about the company but it looks like they have been putting out some small-batch, aviation-style watches for the past few years, though I had not heard the name until the Sea Ranger pre-Kickstarter buzz started up.

Martins of Glasgow Watch Servicing and Repair

The Sea Ranger’s 316L stainless steel case is an interesting asymmetric design that I cannot remember seeing before in a sports watch, but I’m sure there are a few out there. The right side around the screw-down crown sticks out about 2mm further past the bezel than the left side of the case. I’m not sure if this adds any functionality but it’s an interesting design cue and I have grown fond of it. The case finishing is very solid, with some nice chamfered edges. It measures in at 40mm, with a lug-to-lug of 45.5mm, and a thickness of 13.8mm.

The stepped dial has an attractive matte finish, with applied markers with BGW9 Superluminova and an inner 24-hour track. Besides the white “Polar” version that I have here (which is sadly already sold out), it is available in black, a seafoam blue, and a full black DLC treatment. It has a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the underside, which helps out due to the white dial adding some glow. The matching fully lumed sapphire dial is a nice touch and with its 12-hour markers, it makes for some nice, quick GMT functionality.

It comes on Astor + Bank’s first bracelet and I have to say, the build quality is very good for this price point, and it is probably the most comfortable bracelet in my collection, besides maybe the Rolex Oyster. I’m talking to you Seiko… Also included in the package are what feels like a high-quality, seatbelt-type nato strap, and a rubber strap. Nice touches that add to the adventure vibe of the watch.

The movement is the Sellita SW200, the ETA2824 clone that is showing up in more and more watches as the ETAs get harder for companies to obtain. It is an hours/minutes/seconds/date movement, with 26 jewels, beating at 28,800 bph, 4Hz. With a respectable 38 hour power reserve, it’s nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done very nicely. One note: Whoever is regulating these movements out in Chicago is doing a fantastic job. Over 2 weeks of tracking its accuracy, I have lost no more than 2 seconds per day, which would fall well within the COSC standard, if anyone was checking.

This watch has had, for me, one of the longest honeymoon periods in recent memory, wearing it for 2 weeks and counting pretty much every day. It fits right in with my casual workplace button-up shirt sitting at a computer, or a weekend hoodie doing outdoor things, or swim trunks out trying to break the water ski pyramid record. And what else can you ask from a watch? Overall an excellent first sports watch from Astor + Banks and I very much look forward to seeing what they can add to the category next.

SPECS:

SIZE: 40mm, Lug-toLug 45.5mm, H: 13.8mm

CASE: Brushed 316L SS w/ polished chamfers, Screw-Down Crown and Viton Gaskets

CRYSTAL: Domed Sapphire Crystal w/ AR Coating on the underside

DIAL: White w/ applied markers and BGW9 Superluminova

MOVEMENT: Swiss Automatic Movement (Sellilta SW200)

WR: 30ATM

STRAP: 316L SS bracelet w/ double lock folding clasp

$850USD. Now available (except for the polar dial) at astorandbanks.com

 

@forsythjones