Over the past recent years, Fortis has been through a complete restructuring, renewing some of its collections, creating some new ones, and mostly going back to the roots of what the company stands for. Known for its pilots and space-related watches, the brand even recently subjected its new movement, the Calibre Werk 17, to a field test in space, launching them in the Stratosphere (you can hardly do better than that…) And we now know more about the watch that will be equipped with this space-tested engine. It’s named the Fortis Stratoliner, it looks rather cool and it’s custom-built for space travelers.
Fortis was founded in 1912 by Walter Vogt. Vogt’s idea was to design watches of outstanding qualities that would deserve the name Fortis or strong in Latin. Since then, the brand is known for its rugged, functional watches and for its long-lasting connection with aviation and space exploration. In particular, Fortis watches became part of the standard equipment for Cosmonauts, cooperating with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency (Editor’s note, the word Cosmonaut is used by the Russian Space Agency, for NASA it is Astronaut). The first Fortis Cosmonaut watch flew into space in 1994 as Russia was operating the MIR space station. A second version – again for Roscosmos, specifically as the ISS followed MIR – was designed some 10 years later. Just to say that, with all these space-related watches (and not just designed to look like space-inspired items, but properly made for this purpose), the brand has a quite serious background in this field.
In recent years, under the direction of its new owner Jupp Philipp, the brand underwent a serious transformation, developing new watches, revamping older collections, but always with a very instrumental vocation. Following the Flieger collection and the Marinemaster watches, it’s time for the brand to refocus on its bread and butter, space watches. And for that, Fortis went a bit further than usual regarding testing and development… Because, what’s best to test a watch made for space than to test it… in space!
The new Calibre Werk 17, tested in space
A month ago, Fortis announced something quite impressive and obviously very cool, its new movement, the Calibre Werk 17 made in collaboration with La Joux-Perret, and the fact that they sent this new manufacture movement into the stratosphere to see how the watches hold up. About six months ago, Fortis and SSC strapped 13 encased movements to a special gondola. The gondola was equipped with all sorts of sensors and cameras to monitor the movements during flight. The gondola was then suspended underneath a helium balloon calculated to reach a peak altitude of 30kms. The ride up looks fairly calm, but temperatures can plummet to -60°C.
Upon first inspection, everything seemed fine, with just two of the thirteen movements performing below expectations. The others still performed perfectly. The movements were then taken back to Grenchen, Switzerland, to be taken apart, checked and tested for accuracy once more. But the story of the Werk 17 and its space-flight doesn’t end there. Jupp Philipp is planning to send the Werk 17 into open space on a rocket in 2022 and even has ideas beyond that as well.
What do we know about the Calibre Werk 17? In short, it’s a new so-called manufacture movement developed and upgraded by La Joux-Perret. LPJ took its classic integrated column-wheel automatic chronograph, which is a strong evolution over the 7750 architecture, and then upgraded it according to Fortis’ requirements. In order to offer better resistance and higher accuracy for every environment, including the harsh conditions of space travel, the bridges have been redesigned and reinforced and a tangential micro screw regulation has been added for ultimate robustness. Also, the decoration is unique to Fortis, with brushed and matte parts all around – for an obvious instrumental look.
The movement itself is a solid, powerful chronograph with day-date function, actuated by a column wheel and wound by a central rotor on ball bearings. Running at a 4Hz frequency, it also brings a comfortable power reserve of 60 hours.
The new Fortis Stratoliner, The Space Travelers’ instrument
Now that we know more about the movement and its space tests, it was fair to expect a space-related watch to be equipped with it. And here it is, the new Fortis Stratoliner Collection, a watch made for space travelers… even though when it comes to travelling in space, we’re not really there yet! But at least, you can already build your gear package, including the perfect watch for the job.
The Fortis Stratoliner is a typical no-nonsense, instrument-like chronograph, perfectly in line with the recent launches of the brand. Solid, clean and ultra-focused, it also brings some very cool design elements – not just for the sake of being designed, as they do serve specific functions. The case, which measures a rather reasonable 41mm in diameter, is built like a rock, like most watches of the brand. Made of recycled stainless steel, it’s entirely brushed and comes with sharp, tool-like shapes. The pushers, for instance, are highly mechanical in their design. Same goes for the shape of the lugs, which are voluntarily blocky and undecorated.
The Fortis Stratoliner features a smooth bezel with a rubber insert and is equipped with all the refinements you’d expect from an instrumental watch: sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, screw-down crown, screwed caseback and a solid 200m water-resistance. On the wrist, the compactness of the case is pleasant, as well as the short lugs. Yet, the robustness can be immediately felt. It is a tool made for action…
Then comes the dial, and it truly is unique in its design. First of all, it is available in three different colours; White Dust, Cool Gray, and Cosmic Gray. Then, it features a specific light-absorbing grained texture – named Dust Dial by the brand – to enhance legibility in all conditions. The dial is, otherwise, extremely clean with minimal literature and markings, focusing on the essential. It has a sort of prototype-like design that fits perfectly the overall concept of the watch. It is rather surprising, but also appealing and… yes, quite cool!
Besides the classic sub-dials for the small seconds and the chronograph counters, as well as the day-date indication, this Stratoliner has something rather unusual… During the day, these indications are space-blue. During the night, these are luminous. The reason behind these highlighted durations has to do with Virgin Galactic‘s stratospheric flight and the duration of the different steps of the flight – 1.5 hours of climb phase, up to 15 minutes in zero gravity and 90 seconds of boost phase. This explains for instance the unusual, and possibly disturbing (if your brain is all about symmetry) cut blue track on the seconds’ ring. A cool detail, the ring that frames the dial is engraved with the sentence “Der Himmel ist nicht das Ende der Welt” which can be translated as “Sky is no limit” in English.
The Fortis Stratoliner is offered either on the brand’s classic, ultra-robust Stainless steel Block bracelet, equipped with a folding clasp and micro-adjustment device. It can also be ordered on a black aviator leather strap, made from olive leaf tanned genuine cow leather from sustainable production, and closed by a folding clasp.
Availability & Price
The Fortis Stratoliner Collection is now available from the brand’s website. Prices are EUR 5,300 (incl. taxes) or USD 5,150 (excl. taxes) on steel bracelet and EUR 4,950 (incl. taxes) or USD 4,800 (excl. taxes) on leather strap. For more details and orders, please visit www.fortis-swiss.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.