During Basel World 2016 Mike already gave you a summary of the latest novelties we’ve seen from Fortis this year. It is no secret that we have a soft spot for the brand. Not because we have to, just because in recent years the company completely changed its orientation. And we are loving it. I will be clear with you, Fortis to me has always been an interesting brand, a name that has been around for over 100 years now but I could not keep up with their collections and different watches. It was a bit crowded and overflowing in my opinion.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who felt about the brand that way, the guys at Fortis also thought it was time for a change. Last year we already reported about their transformation and if you remember Mike and I both reviewed a watch from their collection (here and here). It was only logical from us to go back this year and see if they stayed on this path or went back to their old ways. I am happy to say that Fortis kept its word and continued the transformation. If we were impressed about what we saw last year, then this year we actually loved the new models. Like, all of them. So much so that then and there we agreed with Andreas, Fortis’ sales director, that if we get the chance we would like to put our hands on some the new novelties. That time has come and here’s my review of the new Fortis Aeromaster Steel Chronograph from their Aviatis collection.
As you might remember, part of the reconstruction of the brand last year was that they divided their offered models into 4 categories based on the 4 elements; air, water, land and space. The Aeromaster is, as the name indicates, falls under the Aviatis collection which gathers Fortis’ pilots’ watches. Based on Fortis’ legendary B-42, the watch offers the usual functions and features as its predecessor in an up-to-date look. Nothing spectacular just a usable, clean designed, great looking tool watch that can be a companion for the everyday guy as well as a professional.
Let’s be clear; the Aeromaster Steel Chronograph is not a small watch. The case is 42mm in diameter without the crown but as you can see form the photos it is pretty large adding another 3mm to the width. You feel the size however more by the thickness of the piece, which is around 15mm. Don’t get me wrong, I love bigger watches and even with the aforementioned sizes the watch does not feel huge or uncomfortable on the wrist. On the contrary, the leather strap breaks the robustness nicely and since it’s pretty thin melts the size-issue down quickly. The case has no bezel, it is basically the same as Fortis used with the previous B-42 models, with drilled lugs and screws holding the strap in place.
If you turn the watch over, you have a wonderful view of movement with the rotor through the screw-down display case back. Please don’t expect any Cotes de Geneve decorations on the movement though. Fortis told us loud and clear that this is a tool watch and should be treated as such. It would make no sense for them to over-decorate their movements. They look stunning, pure and industrial as it should be. Around the display window you can see the serial number, the reference number and of course the model family: Fortis B-42 Chronograph. Last but not least the water resistance which is 20 bars (200m).
On the rotor you find the famous Fortis logo with the crown and their slogan: World’s first manufacturer of automatic wristwatches. The whole case is brushed as it should be with a pilot’s watch, and the crown sports the redesigned Fortis logo.
The crystal of the Aeromaster Steel Chronogrpah is sapphire with anti-reflecting coating on both sides, which is a plus and something I personally love in a watch. They are much more visible, there is no reflection whatsoever and last but not least, for all your wrist-shooters, easier to photograph. Under the crystal of course is the face of the Fortis Aeromaster Steel Chronograph, the feature with the most character; the dial. The plain and simple design of the case is to be continued on the dial. Matte black base color with white luminescent indexes and a classic Valjoux 7750 dial layout. You find the day-date at 3, the 12-hour chrono indicator at 6, continuous seconds sub dial at 9 and the 30-minute sub dial at 12 o’clock. Above the date window you can see the Fortis logo and below the window the texts “Chronogrpah automatic” as well as the usual Swiss made at the bottom, where it should be. That’s it. Not cluttered, or over-designed at all.
The seconds sub dial even has a white painting that resembles a crosshair of the old fighter planes. This little detail that pays homage to the predecessors and carries on the heritage of the Aeromaster Steel Chronograph can be seen at 12 o’clock with the raised triangle and the 2 dots. This is not Fortis’ own, back in the day on pilot’s watches the 12 o’clock indicators were marked in such way that pilots would be able to clearly determine the time and orientation of the watch and dial even in low lighting conditions. The triangle as well as the dots, the numbers and indices are all raised and covered with Superluminova with a green afterglow. The sword shape of the hour and minute hands are the 3rd homage feature. Something you rarely see on modern watches unless it’s a Fortis. Just think of the Fortis Flieger with their signature sword hands.
As I have already mentioned above, the watch is equipped with the legendary Valjoux 7750, which is a sturdy workhorse of a movement. From Tissot to TAG Heuer, IWC, Franck Müller, Panerai, Breitling, Longines and even Omega use and/or still using this movement. That alone is a testimony that what you have inside will stand the test of time. It has a 48-hour power reserve when fully wound, it’s a 25-jewel automatic chronograph with day-date function. Most of the old Fortis chronographs were equipped with the Valjoux 7750 and they have proven to be the right decision, according to the brand. They told us that they were so happy and satisfied with the movement that they did not for a second thought about changing to another supplier.
The Official Cosmonauts Chronograph that is the watch of the Russian Cosmonauts is also produced with the 7750 so their reason was if that’s enough for them, it must be enough for the Aeromaster Steel Chronograph. There is really not much to say about it, if you have already owned a watch with such a movement you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you have yet to come across one, trust me, you’ll not be disappointed.
Even though the watch is advertised with the brown leather strap, Fortis offers a variety of different options for the Aeromaster Steel Chronograph. You can choose between a crocodile or a rubber strap, a metal bracelet if you fancy a bit of steel on your wrist or even get the leather performance strap Fortis introduced last year. That’s a very sweet option and despite the fact that it’s leather it is water resistant and absolutely feels like a synthetic strap, I mean in a good way. It is black with a checkered surface even if you buy the watch with any other option it can be purchased separately as a second strap option. You can buy it directly from any Fortis retailer (just like all the others straps of course) or by sending Fortis Switzerland an email.
The brown strap I received the watch on comes with a buckle (no deployant, which is optional) and it’s not just your average leather strap. The end is formed to perfectly fit in between the lugs and to the case. Not only is it curved but as it’s the perfect match to the roundness of the case it actually blends with the shape and thickness of the lugs making it look inseparable. The performance strap as well as the crocodile and leather versions are just the same, giving a perfect fit and look to the Fortis Aeromaster Steel Chronograph.
I’ve been wearing this watch pretty much non-stop (except on Speedy Tuesday, sorry Fortis) and I have to say that it has been a blast so far. It was among our favorite novelties this year and I could not wait to put my hands on one. So when the package finally arrived and I unboxed it, it went straight onto my wrist.
I asked my friends and colleagues what they think of the Fortis Aeromaster Steel Chronograph and they loved the watch, even the ones who have a small wrist. As I said in the beginning, this is a tool watch. A nicely designed and manufactured tool for professionals but it can also serve you on a daily basis regardless of your profession. As far as retail prices are concerned this very model with the brown leather strap is 2780 CHF (€2500), on the performance strap it’s a bit more at 2930 CHF (€2650) and this is exactly the same price if you want it on a deployant strap. The silicon and rubber option sets you back at 2990 CHF (€2700). As you would imagine you have to reach the deepest into your pocket if you want it on a metal bracelet, for this you have to leave 3050 CH (€2760) at the retailer. Ok, so once again; a Swiss made, Valjoux 7750 powered, pilot’s chronograph from a reputable old Swiss brand for a little over €2.5k has to be a great deal. Even if you opt for the most expensive option you barely go over €2.75k. This is excellent price/value ratio especially in today’s times when companies (not necessarily only watch companies) try to overprice their items and get in a higher category. Fortis stayed true to their roots of producing great but affordable watches that do not lack quality just because they are cheaper. I hope the company will stay on this route and continue to surprise us with great timepieces like the Fortis Aeromaster Steel Chronograph.
Please don’t forget to pay a visit to the official Fortis website and stay tuned for some more Fortis coverage in the near future.
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