Exploring the world of watches on a budget

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger

Review and photos by Mike Razak

Astor+Banks needs little introduction. The Chicago company—named for the city intersection where it all began—has been in the game since 2012, having released three distinct models since then (the Pilomatic, the AB1405/AB Classico, and the Chrono) All three were well designed and well-received, but are sadly no longer available. Gladly, it's about to put out a new offering: a go anywhere, do anything timekeeper inspired by 1970s dive watches, dubbed the Sea Ranger.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger

My first thought when I opened the Sea Ranger was that it seemed a bit thick. After further examination, this appeared to be a case construction and visual issue. The deep caseback, thin midcase, and tall bezel add up to 14mm, which is on the thicker side of things. But what really does it is the visual (not actual) proportions of the watch. The case itself is an asymmetrical 40mm, which isn’t too shabby. But the dark bezel on the model I received dominates the visual field and is only 38mm. 14mm thick on a 38mm watch is a bit of a doozy. Hence the perceived thickness. All that said, the watch wears quite well, and I never found the watch too thick on the wrist.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger side

The case features drilled lugs for easy strap changes, a very workable screw-down crown that features the A+B logo, and an even more workable, lumed 12-hour bezel (an advantage to the thinner midcase is that it allows for an easy-to-use bezel). And that 14mm case yields 300m of water resistance. I think 200m (or even 150m) would have been sufficient and allowed for a thinner case, which would have been a welcome tradeoff. Two minor features I liked are the stylized "A" logo at 12 on the bezel and the simple “SEA RANGER” on the caseback; case back art is rarely necessary and even more rarely done well.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger caseback

The domed sapphire crystal gives way to a very well done, inky black dial (it's also available in white and blue). At the periphery is a 1/5 seconds track, and moving in, we find baton markers lumed with BGW9 Super-LumiNova. At 3, 6, 9, and 12, just inside the markers are small red hashes, matching the “Sea Ranger” dial text at 6. Then: STEP DOWN! The dial sinks to provide for a 24-hour military time track, then rises back up for the center dial, wherein we find the standard dial text with the brand, model, and depth and automatic indications. I hadn’t seen a watch with depth and movement type on the same line, but the Sea Ranger’s “30ATM / / Automatic” seems to work. The handset is clean and unfussy and fits well with the rest of the dial. The red second hand is a great touch and features a sliver of lume to help you night owls time your cat’s breathing. As you can see from the lume shot below, there are apparently 3 colors of lume: C3, BGW9, and the other one (?). While this was apparently done in aid of distinguishing the minute hand from the second hand, I’d describe it more as a fun but unnecessary quirk of the Sea Ranger. All in all, it’s a well-executed dial with great depth and balance.  

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger

The Sea Ranger runs on the automatic Sellita SW200, which has become standard fare with higher-end microbrands. This is Sellita’s clone of the ETA 2824 and has 26 jewels, a 38-hour power reserve, and a date function. While the Sea Ranger has no date display, the date mechanism remains in the movement, meaning the crown has a dead position when pulled out. I know there are solutions to this issue in this particular movement, and while I can’t speak to A+B’s reasoning here, I always prefer to lose the phantom click, especially on a watch at the Sea Ranger’s price point.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger

Coming standard is a short-link H-link bracelet with solid 20mm end links and a ratcheting clasp. The bracelet is hefty and of good construction, and the ratchet allows for quick sizing. If you need to shorten it up a bit, they’ve gone with single-end screws, making removing a link as easy as possible. While the clasp on the review piece was quite thick, I’ve been informed that the production models will have a thinner version. As I mentioned, the watch features drilled lugs, which are ideal for removing straps and bracelets but do little to aid in installation. The Sea Ranger takes them for granted and comes with Rolex-style [Read: impossible] spring bars. These bars have no flanges and, along with the shorter end links, make for a bit of a challenge when reinstalling the bracelet. Otherwise, I had little issue finding good straps to pair with the watch; I imagine the blue dial may be a bit more challenging, and the all-black near impossible.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger wrist

The Sea Ranger really grew on me. The primary issues I had were the phantom date position and the spring bars that come with the watch; at a retail price of $850, I expect better. Still, I was left with a positive feeling about the watch. If you like what you see, and aren’t bothered by the crown issue or the spring bars (which can likely be swapped), the Kickstarter campaign is already live, and $650 will get you your choice of models (black, blue, or polar white dial, or the all-black ‘S’) plus a seat belt NATO strap, rubber strap, and a watch tool. The watch is well made, and the dial is a winner, so at the preorder price, it's a pretty good deal.

Astor+Banks Sea Ranger lume
Astor+Banks Sea Ranger bracelet

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