Fortis Watches: At Home Among the Stars
Swiss watch manufacturer Fortis is best known for their space-tested tool watches. They offer high-quality timepieces at fair prices. Top models include the Roscosmos-certified Official Cosmonauts Chronograph.
From Earth to Mars
Founded in Grenchen, Switzerland in 1912, Fortis has been closely associated with space exploration since 1962. It all began when the company supplied astronauts from the Gemini program with their then-new Spacematic. This relationship with space flight continues to this day. One of the most memorable moments came in 1992 when Fortis and cigarette manufacturer West collaborated on the "West in Space" marketing campaign.
Today, Fortis works closely with Russia's Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities. This partnership has given birth to the Official-Cosmonauts series, among other achievements. After having passed rigorous testing at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Official Cosmonauts watches are permitted to bear the "Roscosmos" name. The Space collection contains the Classic Cosmonauts, Stratoliner, and Spacematic lines.
Despite initial impressions, Fortis doesn't spend all their time reaching for the stars. The manufacturer introduced their very first pilot's watch, the Jubilee, in 1952. Fortis still produces pilot's watches in their Sky collection. Both the Aeromaster and Pilot Classic models enjoy widespread popularity.
Fortis sources their calibers from Swiss movement manufacturer ETA. They then modify the movements in-house and assign them new names. Select calibers, such as the F-2012, come with chronometer certification from the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
Reasons to Buy a Fortis Watch
- A storied Swiss brand founded in 1912
- High quality at a fair price
- Space-tested models for Roscosmos
- Functional tool watches
Prices for Fortis Watches
|B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph, 638.10.11||3,200 USD||Black dial, day-date display|
|Classic Chronograph, 401.26.11||3,000 USD||Ceramic bezel, day-date display|
|B-42 Black Chronograph, 638.28.71||2,600 USD||Black PVD-coated titanium case and bracelet|
|Flieger Chronograph, 597.11.11||2,100 USD||Black dial, stainless steel bracelet, day-date display|
|B42-Official Cosmonauts, 647.10.11||1,800 USD||Diving bezel, stainless steel bracelet, day-date display|
|B-42 Black Mars 500, 647.28.13 l.13||1,800 USD||Black PVD-coated titanium case, orange numerals and hands|
|Marinemaster, 670.10.41||1,300 USD||Diving bezel, rubber strap, day-date display|
Fortis Official Cosmonauts: For Life in Space
Perhaps the most famous watch in Fortis' entire catalog is the Official Cosmonauts Chronograph. The first model (ref. 630.22.141) debuted in 1994. After surviving a gauntlet of tests at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, it would go on to accompany cosmonauts on their missions to the MIR space station and ISS until the year 2003. However, it wasn't just Russian cosmonauts who relied on this robust timepiece. Legendary German astronaut Ulf Merbold also counted on this reliable Swiss timekeeper. Fortis ceased production of this specific reference in 2003.
Fortis outfitted this space chronograph with the beloved automatic Lemania chronograph caliber 5100. This movement has central hour, minute, and chronograph seconds hands. There's also a day-date display at 3, 12-hour counter at 6, small seconds at 9, and 30-minute counter at 12 o'clock. Tritium Arabic numerals complete the black dial.
The stainless steel case measures a moderate 38 mm in diameter. Its stationary bezel features a tachymeter scale for calculating speed and distance. A unique feature of this timepiece is its screw-down pushers, which allow the chronograph to function underwater. Listings for this watch regularly pop up on Chrono24. Depending on the condition and delivery contents, the Official Cosmonauts Chronograph demands anywhere from 1,200 to 2,200 USD.
The Successor: B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph
Fortis introduced the Official Cosmonauts Chronograph's successor, the ref. 638.10.11, in 2003. Instead of the Lemania 5100, this model uses the proven Fortis UW-50 – a modified version of the ETA 7750. You can still find this watch making trips to the ISS to this day. Its "B-42" affix indicates that this is a 42-mm "Beobachtungsuhr" (German for navigation watch). Thanks to its larger size, this chronograph is easier to operate and offers improved dial readability.
Instead of a tachymeter scale, this watch features a countdown bezel with a 60-minute graduation. This enables spacefarers to easily set and keep track of the time on any extravehicular activities (EVAs). Another improvement is the SuperLuminova-filled dot on the chronograph seconds hand, guaranteeing readability even under poor lighting conditions. The final watch is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and comes on a stainless steel bracelet.
You can find mint-condition models on Chrono24 for around 3,100 USD. Pre-owned, the B-42 costs significantly less at about 2,200 USD.
Official Cosmonauts AMADEE-18
Fortis partnered with the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) to create the Official Cosmonauts AMADEE-18 ref. 638.18.91. The OeWF's main focus is researching potential manned missions to Mars. This includes conducting simulations here on Earth. Fortis is the program's official watch supplier, equipping each astronaut with a timepiece for their earthbound experiments. Crew members first wore the ref. 638.18.91 during the Austrian Space Forum's 2018 Oman expedition.
The AMADEE is very similar to the standard edition. Design differences include its black PVD-coated case and matching black textile strap. It also has a special small seconds dial at 9 o'clock, which is decorated with the red and orange hues of sunrises and sunsets on Mars and Earth. The words "Mars Mission Simulation Sultanate of Oman AMADEE-18" also surround the small seconds. This watch is still extremely rare and has a list price of 3,290 CHF (approx. 3,400 USD).
If you prefer three-hand watches, you may enjoy the Official Cosmonauts Day-Date ref. 647.10.11. Its size and materials are identical to those of the B-42 chronograph; however, its power comes from the caliber UW-31, a movement based on the ETA 2836-2. This model features central hour, minute, and second hands, as well as a day-date display at 3 o'clock. You can purchase a mint-condition watch for about 1,300 USD, while pre-owned pieces demand around 860 USD on Chrono24.
Classic Cosmonauts: Elegant Tool Watches
The Classic Cosmonauts sits at the intersection of elegance and functionality. You can choose from among three options: the Steel A.M., Steel LE, and Steel P.M. They all share a 42-mm stainless steel case, a stainless steel bracelet with polished middle links, a tachymeter bezel, and the ETA 7750-based UW-50 caliber. The movement has central hands for the hours, minutes, and chronograph seconds. It also comes with three subdials at 6, 9, and 12 o'clock, as well as a day-date display at 3.
Each Classic Cosmonauts is also water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and features Arabic numerals and screw-down chronograph pushers. The most noticeable differences are the dial and subdial colors: The A.M. has a silver dial and subdials, the P.M. a black dial and subdials, and the LE a white dial and black subdials.
The LE bears the reference number 401.21.72 and is limited to a run of 100 pieces. You can purchase this watch for as little as 3,100 USD new and around 2,500 USD pre-owned. The refs. 401.21.12 (A.M.) and 401.21.11 (P.M.) sell for similar prices. Fortis lists both of the standard editions for 3,690 CHF (approx. 3,800 USD).
Stratoliner Ceramic: Beyond the Stratosphere
The Stratoliner series is home to three models, each pairing the UW-50 caliber with a slightly different design. All three have a 42-mm stainless steel case, stationary ceramic bezel with a tachymeter scale, 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft) of water resistance, and a sapphire crystal case back. Black textile straps hold these timepieces securely on the wrist.
The only difference between these models is their dial colors, which come in white, gray, or black. The color of the SuperLuminova applied to the hands and indices also varies, with beige used on the black and white editions and gray on the gray version. All three models have a red chronograph seconds hand. The Stratoliner ref. 401.26.31 has a black dial and costs roughly 3,100 USD new. Fortis lists the same watch for 3,260 CHF (approx, 3,400 USD). The refs. 401.26.32 (white) and 401.26.37 (gray) demand similar prices.
Aeromaster: Looking Skyward
The Aeromaster series contains a selection of chronographs and three-hand watches. The Aeromaster Stealth Day-Date ref. 655.18.18 belongs to the latter group. Its stainless steel case and textile strap are both black, as is the dial. Beige SuperLuminova fills the indices and hands, offering a nice contrast. The PVD-coated case measures 42 mm in diameter and is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft).
The automatic caliber UW-31 powers this timepiece. This movement is based on the ETA 2824-2 and features a day-date display at 3 o'clock in addition to its central trio of hands. Fully wound, the UW-31 has a 42-hour power reserve. While this model has a list price of 1,860 CHF (approx. 1,900 USD), you can purchase a mint-condition timepiece on Chrono24 for as little as 1,000 USD.
Other Aeromaster models feature a chronograph function or blue dial. Limited to a run of 300 pieces, the Aeromaster Steel Alarm Chronograph "Paul Gerber" also boasts an alarm function. This timepiece has a list price of 7,450 CHF (approx. 7,700 USD). Listings for this model are few and far between on Chrono24, so keep your eyes peeled. This is also true of the black PVD-coated ref. 657.18.11. Fortis has limited this timepiece's production run to 500 pieces and lists it for 7,850 CHF (approx. 8,100 USD).
Marinemaster: Robust Diving Watches
Like the Aeromaster series, the Marinemaster line is also made up of chronographs and three-hand watches; however, these timepieces are built for life beneath the waves. Each has a 42-mm stainless steel case, which grows to a massive 46 mm with the bezel. Marinemaster watches are all rated to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft).
The ref. 671.24.12 and 670.24.14 stand out from the crowd with their black and yellow color scheme. There are splashes of yellow everywhere from the bezel's diving scale to the dial's Arabic numerals and the small seconds and subdial hands.
The caliber UW-50 ticks away inside each Marinemaster chronograph. You can purchase a never-worn timepiece on a stainless steel bracelet for about 3,100 USD. This version has an official list price of 3,170 CHF (approx. 3,300 USD). Fortis also offers a Marinemaster chronograph with a gray accents instead of yellow. This version demands roughly 3,600 USD. If you prefer three-hand watches with a day-date function, you should take a closer look at the ref. 670.21.14. The color options, shape, and size all correspond to those of their chronograph sister models. The black and yellow edition costs around 1,700 USD, while the black and gray model changes hands for about 1,500 USD. You will also find three-hand models with blue or red accents.
Marinemaster Silver Chronograph Alarm
In 1997, Fortis teamed up with Swiss watchmaker Paul Gerber to develop the in-house caliber F-2001. What makes this movement truly special is its alarm function. They were able to achieve this by adding a second barrel and a chiming mechanism. The alarm is operated with a pusher at 8 o'clock. This movement appears in the Marinemaster Silver Chronograph Alarm ref. 639.10.41.
Like the other watches in the Marinemaster series, this model features a 42-mm stainless steel case. Beyond the caliber F-2001, the only differences between this watch and other Marinemasters are its color scheme and band. It has orange accents on its dial and is mounted on a matching orange strap. On the other hand, its 60-minute dial is classic black and silver. This timepiece is limited to a run of 300 pieces, making it a fantastic choice for collectors and enthusiasts. While you'd be hard-pressed to find this model on any marketplace, Fortis offers it on their website for 6,840 CHF (approx. 7,000 USD).
Fortis: Refined Swiss Watchmaking Since 1912
Watchmaker Walter Vogt founded Fortis in the Swiss town of Grenchen in 1912. Vogt initially teamed up with John Harwood, the inventor of the first automatic watch movement, and focused on mass producing the Harwood Automatic caliber until 1926. The company was also a trailblazer in the field of watches and water sports, releasing the water-resistant Fortissimo in 1940.
The Marinemaster followed in the early 1950s and remains a cornerstone of the Fortis catalog to this day. If you feel like you've heard that name before, you're right. Fortis and Seiko share the rights to this name after both debuted their first Marinemaster nearly simultaneously. Who actually used the name first is still up for debate.
In the early 1960s, the Space Race was in full swing. Walter's son, Rolf Vogt, seized this opportunity by sending NASA Fortis' first timepiece developed for spaceflight: the Spacematic AR (All Risks).
The first Official Cosmonauts appeared in 1994 and was later replaced by the B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph in 2003 – a model that's still part of every Russian cosmonaut's official equipment. Jupp Philipp took over ownership of Fortis Uhren AG in September 2018 and also serves as CEO.