The “Flieger” watch – “flieger” means “aviator” in German – was born from the German Air Force’s need for an aerial navigation tool that was both incredibly precise and supremely legible. A military-grade specification was standardized and led to the creation of the B-uhren watch. In modern times, the designation as a “flieger” watch is often used to describe a watch that’s an interpretation of this B-uhren design. But there is another design that often enters the mix when discussing modern flieger watches, and that’s the Fliegerchronograph. This chronograph design usually features a bi-compax subregister layout.
And now, there’s a new take on the Flieger by Switzerland’s Fortis. It takes elements of the B-uhren and Fliegerchronograph and adds an interesting twist with a bevy of technologies and designs specifically patented by Fortis, like SYNCHROLINE, a five-second visual indicator at 12 o’clock that theoretically helps pilots sync up in flight. Additionally, the watch features a design that Fortis calls BRIXTRACK. Indices are fashioned from a luminous compound that takes the shape of a “brick,” lending a dimensionality that creates higher contrast for better legibility at a quick glance.
Of course, there are a number of familiar flieger design elements, like the luminous triangle flanked by two dots at 12 o’clock and the bi-compax layout of the chronograph. At nine o’clock, there’s a permanent small seconds counter, and at three o’clock, a thirty-minutes elapsed time register. A 12-hour GMT bezel is also present.
A monochromatic scheme is accentuated by Berlac Fluor Orange, a color that Fortis has experimented with before that’s become a bit of a signature for the brand. While other manufacturers have certainly dominated the narrative when it comes to watches in space, it’s important to note that Fortis has been thoughtfully producing spacefaring watches since 1994, when the company was awarded the contract for supplying ROSCOSMOS with chronographs for training and eventually spaceflight. The watch was called The Official Cosmonaut’s Chronograph, aptly, and it flew on plenty of missions to Space Station Mir and the International Space Station during its tenure from 1994 to 2003, before being replaced by the B-42 Official Cosmonaut’s Chronograph.
And there are some visual through-lines present in this watch as well: fonts, general design language, and, of course, Berlac Fluor Orange. But there’s something different, and it doesn’t only have to do with the watch.
Fortis was acquired by Jupp Philipp in 2018, and for the past two years, Fortis has gone radio silent while he’s been rejigging the storied brand to his liking. Philipp is a fourth-generation business owner of a company that processes fruit into concentrate and coloring, and he still owns and operates that company, but these days, Fortis has his full attention. The Flieger is one of the first watches released under the company’s new ownership, and it looks very much like the old Fortis, and that’s a good thing. There’s plenty of history that’s gone mostly unnoticed by the watch world, and hopefully the “new” Fortis will be able to explore that a little more.
In an interview with Monochrome, Philipp chronicled how he arrived at the helm of Fortis, saying that “a couple of years ago, I read in the newspaper that Fortis had cash problems and said to my wife as a joke, ‘let’s buy Fortis.’ She answered, ‘it is your favorite brand, why don’t you?'”
So he did. And he has big aspirations, noting that he hopes the company will be compared to the likes of Breitling, Tudor, and IWC in the coming years. And it’s not purely an aspiration. Fortis has been working with Kenissi on a manufacture movement, which will find its way into future Fortis models. The Flieger uses the UW-51, in other words, a SW510 by Sellita. It’s a tried and true movement that fits in with the Fortis ethos of functionality above all else.
If the new Fortis Flieger is anything to go on, the brand is just as charming and tuned-in as the old Fortis in terms of aesthetics and functionality. And looking at the course they’ve charted, Forts is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Model: Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax
Reference Number: 843.10.11 M(metal bracelet), 843.10.11 L (leather strap)
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Dial Color: Black
Indexes: Proprietary “BRIXTRACK”
Water Resistance: 200m
Strap/Bracelet: Available on both
Caliber: Fortis UW-51
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, 30-minute counter chronograph
Power Reserve: 48 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Pricing & Availability
Price: €3,300 on the leather strap, €3,800 on the metal bracelet.
Limited Edition: No, standard production.
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