Piloting His Company: Astor + Banks

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When I asked Andrew what impression does he want people to have about his four-year-old watch company, Astor + Banks, he said, “that I design and build watches out of a love for them.” He’s had a crush on watches ever since the day (or night) he saw his dad’s Timex Indiglo light up. Andrew wants to spread his passion for these tiny timekeepers, which is part of the reason why he got into the business.

And those that buy his creations – or are on the fence – should know they’re watches with an attractiveness and componentry Andrew himself would be drawn to if he were in the market for a new watch. Such as a larger diameter case made of a reliable, durable material like Grade 316L stainless steel, which is used in a lot of diving equipment due to its high resistance to corrosion.

The first time Andrew tinkered with watch assembly, his workbench was the kitchen table in his apartment. After more than a year of umpteen late nights spent taking apart and putting back together an ETA 6497-1 manual movement until he could do it blindfolded, he eventually felt comfortable – and proud – to officially offer custom-made watches with his name printed on each dial.

Although Andrew had success selling his manual wound AB 1405 and Clásico models – as denoted by the layout of the dial – the public and watch enthusiasts really became aware of his company when he launched his second watch: a quartz-powered Chronograph. In conjunction with A+B’s quartz release in 2014, Andrew renamed his company. He registered the name Astor + Banks as a tribute to the address he and his wife lived at – where it all started – the corner of North Astor Street and East Banks Street nestled in Chicago’s Gold Coast. His Swiss quartz models were pre-assembled – still with his own two hands – and sold for a lower retail price than his bespoke collection, a strategy which ultimately helped him grow Astor + Banks.

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Fast forward to present day… Waiting to takeoff is Andrew’s latest wrist device, the Pilomatic, powered by an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement – the third movement type to be encased in an Astor + Banks watch.

Andrew understands, just like consumers have a preference for a certain look, they also have a preference for the type of movement that motors their watch. Andrew told us, “I got a lot of requests for an automatic… I have a lot of clients who buy their [Rolexes] and then they have my Chrono [quartz model] and wear it on weekends because they don’t have to worry about it.” In response to pleas from the market – and frankly just to make his brand more appealing to any and all types of buyers – the Pilomatic (Pilot + Automatic) was born. Now the Astor + Banks’ hangar has a full squadron of watches to pick from.

As for Andrew’s decision to develop a “Pilot” watch, a monumental watch design with roots going all the way back to the birth of flight, he said his primary inspiration was military, German-made watches. Think WWII, German Air Force-issued, A. Lange & Söhne-commissioned, 55mm wrist instruments characterized by traits such as an über legible dial and oversized crown for easy turning if you’re wearing gloves. The fact that Andrew lived in Germany for a year out of high school when he was in the military, also surely played into his fondness for this type of watch.

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The Astor + Banks Pilomatic is a limited production run of 100 individually numbered pieces: 50 with a black matte dial and sky blue BGW9 Superluminova hour markers and 50 with a dark blue “sun ray” finish dial with spearmint-colored C3 Superluminova hour markers. And as a nod to the originally intended purpose of its ancestors, the hour and minute hand on the Pilomatic are shaped like propellors. The Pilomatic will come on a vintage-style, Horween leather strap handmade by Shawn Lewandowski of Alabama-based Strapped Watch Company.

Andrew is as proud to be a member of the greater watch community as he is to be the founder of a watch company. Whenever he gets the chance to engage with fellow watch geeks, such as hosting poker night for his local RedBar chapter, he’s always game. To coincide with the launch of the Pilomatic, Andrew has enlisted Instagrammers to co-pilot a prototype. He thought, “it’s a Pilot watch after all – let’s see if we can get it traveling around.” If you search the hashtags, “follow the red tip” and “Flying Pilomatic,” you’ll see that so far a Pilomatic prototype has departed from Andrew’s hometown of Chicago, had a layover in Michigan before accepting a reservation for a trip to the East Coast. The next destination on this Pilomatic’s itinerary is anybody’s guess…

As the prototype lifts off and touches down across the country, you can place a pre-order for your very own Pilomatic, scheduled for arrival this fall. Visit Astor + Banks’ website for more info about technical specifications and pricing. Also, feel free to reach out to Andrew on Instagram @astorandbanks.

img_7740*All photography courtesy of Andrew Perez

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