Fortis enthusiasts out there might wonder why we did not cover the brand as extensively as we did the previous years. Well, on the one hand many new and interesting things happened and on the other hand Fortis just recently supplied us with some of their novelties. After this hands-on review of the Fortis Pilot Classic chronograph, Mike Stockton will take a look at something cool too. Like every year in March, Mike and I paid Fortis a visit during the busy week of BaselWorld. We pointed out the ones we liked most and as soon as production allowed it, the Grenchen brand provided us with the timepieces for review.
First of all, we would like to set the record straight on some on-going rumors about Fortis. The company had to deal with some administrative ‘heritage’ but is fully operational and in good hands as we speak. Last month when I visited Fortis, I managed to sit down with Mr. Spitzy, CEO of Fortis. He explained the situation and assured me – and our readers – that whatever is going on with the company, it will not affect daily operation. I even got a sneak peek into their 2018 Basel collection.
A little while ago, Fortis also launched a used watch section on their online shop. Their Certified Pre-Owned Factory Collection consist of watches Fortis used for display purposes or samples they handed out to journalists for reviews. These timepieces might have some scratches or other signs of wear hence they cannot be sold as “new” anymore. Brands often use these models for parts, training purposes or after a while simply destroy them. Every watch that comes back to the manufacture will receive a full service. Just as it was a warranty watch coming back from an end consumer. Parts will be changed; pressure and time accuracy testing will be performed, and the watch will be repacked. These watches then go to a designated section on the site for sale. These watches – like the new ones – also comes with a 2-year Fortis warranty.
Let’s get back to our topic; the Fortis Pilot Classic Chronograph. The stainless steel case might look familiar since the Pilot Classic Chronograph shares it with the Tycoon Chronograph from the Terrestis collection. We reviewed that watch a while ago. We’re talking about a 41mm case with a thickness of 13.59mm that has polished (bezel, case back, underside) and brushed (case sides, lugs) parts and a display back. Don’t let the numbers scare you; the watch actually sits comfortably though it might be a bit too big for someone with a smaller wrist. One thing I realized is that even though the pushers are tall I sometimes felt the crown, for instance when I was biking with the watch on. Not a big deal at all. The pump pushers were actually never in the way. I like their look, it adds to the vintage feel of the watch.
The display back on the Fortis Pilot Classic Chronograph is not screw or press in. It’s solid steel with 8 screws holding it to the back of the watch. As with most Fortis watches not much text is going on back there. Around the display window you can find the model name, reference and serial numbers and water resistance (50m). The window lets you adore the nicely decorated ETA/Dubois-Depraz chronograph movement. The rotor has the usual Fortis name and logo in blue, a nice detail on the back. The pushers and the crown are polished, like the back of the case. Fortis’s logo, as always, is on the crown.
At first glance the dial looks a tad bit busy, but actually it is a very easy to read. Just like you’d expect from a pilot’s watch the most apparent elements are the large luminous numbers and the vintage-style flieger hands. Every number other than 3-6-9-12 is visible with the 12-hour sub dial at 6, the 30-minutes sub at 9 and the continuous seconds register at 3 o’clock. Another great little touch is the blue seconds hand. While the hands connected to the chronograph function are all white. At 12 you can find the large flieger triangle with “Fortis Chronograph Automatic” placed under it. The overall design of the dial falls in the same category as the case. Such a well-balanced mix of modern and vintage it is. If I could have one comment it’s maybe the fact that I’m missing a bit of depth, maybe a stepped sub dials.
Fortis chronographs often use the legendary ETA-7750 calibers. Nevertheless, the Fortis Pilot Classic Chronograph is not in this path. As I mentioned it above, the movement inside is the ETA-2892 base with the Dubois-Depraz’s DD2020 chronograph module. For those of you who are not familiar with this caliber; it consists of a time-only ETA base caliber (2892) added with the chronograph module by Dubois-Depraz (DD2020). It is a 47-jewel (this large number is due to the module movement) Swiss made, automatic chronograph movement with hacking seconds and 42 hours of power reserve. Having the module on top of the base caliber makes the movement rather dense, hence the almost 14mm case thickness. Many brands use this combination, a trusted alternative in the watch world. During my time with the watch everything went smooth. The pushers were easy to operate; the top is softer while the bottom-reset pusher is a bit harder. Not a flaw at all.
The Fortis Pilot Classic Chronograph comes on 3 types of straps. The one in the photos is the black leather strap with white stitching and brushed Fortis buckle. It’s a plain and simple soft leather strap with padding, a great and classic alternative. If you fancy a sportier look you can choose a nato or the Fortis performance leather strap in black. That one is water resistant and actually my favorite of all the strap and bracelet options the brand has to offer. If you don’t know how it looks, check out my review of the Fortis Dornier GMT, that timepiece comes on the performance strap. One hint to Fortis for the future; I’d love see their watches on a bud or flieger style strap in the future.
The Fortis Pilot Classic Chronograph is a bit different from all the previous sports chronographs the brand had to offer us in the past. It has Fortis DNA written all over it, yet the design is somewhat distinctive. If you order directly from Fortis (here’s the link), you’d have to pay CHF 2,695.- Swiss Francs which in my opinion is a rather decent price for what you are getting. Compared to other brands’ offers in similar range and models and you see that Fortis is offering a lot of watch here for the money.
Balázs joined Fratello Watches in 2014 and he has been a fan of watches as long as he can remember. His passion for watches really took off in 2007 when he purchased his first fine Swiss timepiece. From 2007 up... read more