When we draw a relation between watches and space the first brand comes to readers’ minds is Omega and the legendary “Moonwatch” the Speedmaster. We all know the story, I don’t want to bore you with the details. As we could read about it recently on our fellow bloggers’ very educative site NASA still uses the Speedmaster as a backup instrument for astronauts. However NASA is not the only key player in this game. Their – once – arch-nemesis ROSCOSMOS (Russian Federal Space Agency) also uses a Swiss company to produce them watches that they can issue to their astronauts. This relationship is not as old as Omega’s but still stretches out just over 20 years having delivered the first watches in 1994. The company we are talking about is of course Fortis and the watch we are reviewing today is none other than their space watch, the Fortis Monolith Chronograph from their Cosmonautis range.
The Fortis Monolith Chronograph was already featured – among all the other new models – in our overview of the 2015 Basel World Fortis novelties. Further more it also got a place in my Top 5 watches of the fair. After all this fuss I was really eager to see and feel what this watch had to offer. I was lucky enough to get it – with another Fortis chronograph that we will review soon – and have to say I was surprised and kind of impressed how small the box of the watch actually is. I am not a big fan of fancy boxes (apart from the new Speedmaster box) but I always thought it’s OK to have a box for market value’s sake. However, then you will stack it in a drawer and place the watch in your watch roll or box with your other timepieces. This box is nothing fancy but gets the job done; just like the Monolith. The watch is the improved version of the classic Fortis Official Cosmonauts Chronograph and we did a little photo for easier comparison of the two. As you can see below, Fortis kept the DNA but did small improvements, just enough to make the watch look more up-to-date and trendy. Luckily it is still a tool watch and not a fashion statement. It’s big, it’s heavy and it’s something you definitely won’t hide under your shirt cuff. This is exactly what Fortis wants from the owners of these watches, test them, wear them, push yourself to the limit while using their instruments.
As I already mentioned this is a large watch. It measures 42mm in diameter but what’s more important is the thickness of the watch, which is just over 11mm. The weight is also something worth mentioning, as it bulks a whooping 212g. The bracelet is very solid overall, something you need if you want to keep this bad boy on your wrist. The case and the bracelet are PVD coated stainless steel and water resistant up to 200m. The Fortis Monolith Chronograph has a sapphire crystal coated on both sides. The size is so apparent when I took it off and put on the JetPilot watch I constantly kept checking to see of it’s still on my wrist. If I can make one suggestion though, I would love to see a different buckle on the bracelet. It is a deployant with a safety clip but it’s really hard to open up to release the buckle and I almost broke my nails a few times trying. That however, is being compensated by the diver extension that most of us won’t use but in case you want to wear the watch over your jacket or your diving suit (let alone space suit) it’s a great feature to have.
Like all metal bracelets it can be a bit of a hair puller and for that Fortis smartly offers 3 alternatives: You can have the aforementioned PVD coated bracelet, a leather strap, a rubber strap or Fortis’ leather performance strap which is like a sports strap made of leather that does not look or feel like leather at all, if this makes any sense. You can see the exact same strap on the Fortis Pitch Black.
A true space watch needs to have a cool case back and Fortis really did a great job with this one. In the center you see the Fortis logo but what’s interesting are the other 2 logos around it. Above you have the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and below the logo of ROSCOSMOS. Around it you can read the following ”Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph – 20 Bars” with the reference number 6188.8.131.52 visible on the outer rim of the case back.
The heart of the watch is a true workhorse, the automatic ETA/Valjoux 7750. You can gently feel the spin of the rotor (wobble) even through the thick case like the idling of an engine. The word monolith actually means “Something, such as a column or monument, made from one large block of stone.” And the watch indeed looks like a big black block of outer-space material. The only vivid elements are the whites on the dial. The uni-rotating bezel remained the same as the earlier versions, but the dial was simplified a bit. We have the 30-minute counter at 12 the 12-hour counter at 6 and the seconds counter at 9 as in most cases. The typical Valjoux 7750 dial lay-out.
At 3, the day-date display with the brand name above the window and “Chronograph Automatic” below it. The chronograph second hand has a touch of paint since it is red but that corresponds well with the other colors. The indexes for the hours are not marked by numbers but just like the hands, are coated with green SuperLumiNova. The hands are definitely the most important and visible parts of the dial, they are so powerful that they overshadow everything else which makes the watch very easy to read even when while riding a bike or swimming underwater. The pushers are large and easy to press. They don’t have to be forced but sturdy enough that you won’t start the chrono by pushing them accidentally. The crown is pullout, in first position you can set the day and date and in second the time of course.
The Fortis Monolith has a very friendly price tag of €3340. In this range I think it’s a very good price. Fortis has always been known for the producer of great, usable, well-priced sports watches and the Monolith falls into this category as well. It has a great wrist presence, nicely balanced weight distribution between the watch head and the bracelet, a super reliable automatic chronograph movement and a cool updated 21-century design. Fortis’s history with the Russian space agency and the fact that they equip their cosmonauts with these timepieces has to be enough convincing force for any potential buyer that this purchase is a smart one. The price is a firm €1000 below that of that other space watch. You decide!
For more information on the Fortis Monolith Chronograph and other model please visit their site.
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