Hands-on with the Fortis Tycoon Chronograph
One afternoon at Baselworld this past year, Blaise and I left the bright lights of the “Messe” and walked down side streets for roughly 10 minutes to a rather nondescript hotel. Our purpose was to go see the “new” Fortis. The brand was undergoing a rebirth in its marketing strategy and chose a large hotel conference room as its display setting. Apparently, the space was more conducive to private discussions and allowed the brand more flexibility in arranging its wares. It was during this discussion that Fortis rolled out its debut pieces from their “Terrestis” collection – see more here on the meaning – and we had the chance to handle all of them. Included within the collection are some nice 3-hand pieces and a chronograph model called the “Tycoon”. As you know, I am a chronograph person, so these naturally intrigued me. I immediately asked to be at the top of the list for testing such a piece when production watches arrived. So, fast-forward to today and I’ve been fortunate to obtain a Fortis Tycoon. Let’s go hands-on…
Fortis Tycoon Specifications
First, though, let’s talk a little about the specification found on the Fortis Tycoon, as it will set the stage for some of my thoughts and experiences with the watch. This version of the Tycoon is Ref. 904.21.12 and has a domed silver dial with rose gold plated hands. The watch is also available in an anthracite dial that is probably a bit more in my wheelhouse. The stainless steel case comes in at 41mm, has 20mm lugs and a height of 13.59mm. The watch has a sapphire crystal and, interestingly, a mineral glass display back but maintains a useful water resistance of 5 Bar. The watch you see today came on a brown leather strap – more on that later – and is also available on black or medium brown leather. The movement inside the Tycoon is a Dubois-Depraz 2020, 3-register automatic with 47 jewels and a power reserve of 42 hours. Got it? Good.
The Aesthetics of the Fortis Tycoon
So, yes, now that you understand the specifications on the watch, let’s drift into a breakdown on some of the design elements of the Fortis Tycoon. On the whole, this watch “looks” dressy, but is it truly a dress chronograph? Quite frankly, I’m not sure and it will lead me to some recommendations for the brand should they wish to further develop this line. For now, though, I am comfortable in saying that the watch is very well finished in all aspects. The synthesis of some of these aspects is where I have a touch of confusion.
First, let’s discuss the dial. The silver domed (downwards at the edges) dial is finished very nicely and there is actually a fair bit going on when you’re viewing this watch in the pictures. You can see that there’s a lovely minutes track around the edge of the dial in a font that matches the insides of each sub register. The font, by the way, is reminiscent of a lot of vintage chronographs that I own. The dial has creates some visual separation around the hour markers track by adding a ridged surface. Again, on the pictures, this looks fantastic and it is very well done. The center space on the dial has a smooth surface and once again transitions to a ridged surface within each of the sub registers. So, we essentially have an alternating set of surfaces. All seems right and interesting, yes? Well, it is but only in specific lighting.
I think the issue stems from a rather tall crystal and what seems like a very large separation between the underside of said crystal and the dial surface. So, yes the dial surface itself is very well done, but I think the details are lost to the casual eye due to an overly tall bezel and crystal. Thankfully, though, the dial doesn’t look sparse, so the designers did achieve nice balance and thankfully – really, thank you – decided to eschew a date function.
Some things I really love on the dial of the Fortis Tycoon are the non-lumed hands and hour indices. The rose gold hands look great and are really well sized. Oh, and look there, as the central chrono hand, minutes register at 9:00 and hours register at 6:00 contain blued hands in lieu of gold. Also, the gold sub register hand is of a different shape than the blued hands – really nice details here. Yes, the choice of different hands and colors provides subtle contrasting that also harkens back to vintage chronographs. Of course, the majority of chronographs I’ve seen with mismatching register hands tend to be on the sporty side, so let’s address this a little further.
When one views the case of the Fortis Tycoon, they are met with a completely brushed finish aside from the polished bezel. It’s a beefy case and wouldn’t look out of place on a sports chronograph. But, this isn’t really trying to be a sports chronograph in my opinion. Again, there’s no lume on the dial at all, no tachymeter ring, etc. So, to me, the finishing and the bulk, while good and solid, feel more appropriate for a watch with sportier intentions. Perhaps a slimmer bezel would be helpful?
By the way, the pushers are lovely capped units and the crown is nicely signed and appropriately sized.
So, looks-wise, I like the Fortis Tycoon because it feels like a high quality piece and contains a lot of nice details. I’d like a little more clarity on whether it’s a dress watch or a sports chronograph, but perhaps the utility is useful for most who are looking for one good watch. Plus, for those looking for a bigger watch that dresses up well but could take the proverbial beating, it would certainly fill the task.
As an aside, what I think Fortis could do with very little effort – using the same case and movement – is the following:
- Why not introduce a great new version – maybe not with wild colors like the 70’s or recent reissue – of the Marinemaster 8001 complete with rotating bezel?
- Introduce a true dress chronograph with a slimmer bezel, smaller crystal, and perhaps some polishing on the case sides?
- Think about a sporty chronograph with an internal tachymeter bezel using the existing case format?
These are just some ideas as I actually see the Fortis Tycoon as a great introduction that could spawn some seriously competitive additions to the line. Ok, so the aesthetics have been discussed, it’s now time to talk about the engine inside of the watch.
Peering inside the Fortis Tycoon
As mentioned, the Fortis Tycoon uses a Dubois-Depraz automatic. For those who aren’t familiar with these movements, they’re modular and, in this case the chronograph sits on top of the automatic movement. The automatic movement, by the way, is an ETA 2824 or clone. This modular setup explains why the jewel count is so high at 47.
Finally, the fact that the chronograph module sits atop of the automatic movement is also why, from a side view, the pushers sit above the crown. To be clearer, the 3 protrusions are not in line. It’s something that is also present on numerous other chronographs such as the Tudor Heritage Chronograph, but it’s less noticeable on the Tudor due to a chunky crown guard and bulky, screw-down pushers. It’s not a big deal, especially while being worn, but it is worth mentioning when we come to the display back.
The movement employed within the Fortis Tycoon is interesting versus the tri-compax layout chronographs that I own because the running seconds actually sits at 3:00 versus the traditional 9:00. 9:00 is the minute counter up to 30 and 6:00 counts up to 12 hours. Pusher action is nice and while not as crisp an mechanical as an old manual winding column wheel, it’s a positive feeling. The interesting thing to note while the chronograph is in use is that minutes and hour needles actually advance while the central chronograph is moving around the dial. In other words, there’s no sudden “click” when the central hand hits 12:00. It’s certainly different.
Flipping the Fortis Tycoon over reveals some rather strong detailing. The case back is actually held in place by 8 flat head screws. It’s interesting and certainly looks expensive. The rear bezel is inscribed with fairly basic writing and I actually think that something in script would be a little more appropriate, but either way, it’s nicely done. Coming to the view of the movement through the mineral glass display back, I really enjoy the engine-turned look and engraving. Likewise, there is some beautiful finishing on the outer edges of the movement. However, you’re basically looking at a normal ETA or ETA clone 3-hand automatic movement and can’t see any of the inner workings of the chronograph due to its top mounting. So, in the end, I’ll pull a “Robert-Jan” and express some ambivalence about the display back.
The Fortis Tycoon goes to work…
Here I go again with my concerns on the strap. I always have to give a view on the strap of a watch simply because it’s the major determinant of whether or not I can wear the piece right away. In this case, despite the Fortis Tycoon being a sizeable watch, it fit, but I really did not like the look of the strap. To me, the leather looked thick and, honestly, a bit inexpensive for the watch.
It does contain a nice Fortis signed pin buckle, though. Thankfully, in my seemingly endless bag of misfit straps, I found a black crocodile-look strap. In my mind, this looks 100% better and more befitting of a watch that retails for 3350 Euros. So, my first recommendation is to stay away from the light tan strap and go darker.
Once on the wrist, the Fortis Tycoon found itself accompanying me to the office for business and business casual occasions. It looked nice and worked well in a more formal environment. For some reason, though, I never had the desire to place it on a more casual strap as the black crocodile looked great. I noticed colleagues looking at it and had a couple remarks on it because, due to the high level of finishing, it does catch the eye.
I found that the size of the watch was never an issue for my small wrists and it paired really well with a dress shirt. I had no issues with the watch sliding underneath a slim fit shirt. Also, despite the staggered crown and pusher setup, nothing dug into the top of my wrist.
Conclusions on the Fortis Tycoon
I get a lot of questions from first-time watch buyers about the type of watch that they should buy. Most aren’t fussed about buying multiple pieces, but many seem to want to stay away from buying the same exact things as their colleagues, and in a place like Germany, that usually means staying away from the big brands. I also find that many want a chronograph and that usually leads me down the path of suggesting the Omega Speedmaster Professional, but its anachronistic qualities of having a hesalite crystal and a manual wind movement often scare newbies away. People do really want automatics and something that can be worn to work and on casual Fridays with jeans and a nice shirt. This is where Longines often enters the picture and their massive sales numbers certainly prove that they employ a successful formula. Here is where I think the Fortis Tycoon lines up well.
At 3350 Euros, the Fortis Tycoon makes a really nice suggestion for the watch buyer looking for a piece that fits the criteria I mention above and it’s certainly not a brand you’ll see on everyone’s wrist. That being said, I took a look and Fortis really does have a large, global network of authorized dealers so servicing should be very easy and convenient. It has an interesting movement in the DD that is one of the few options for an “off the shelf” 3/6/9 tri-compax layout if you’re a watch company trying to avoid the Swatch Group’s stranglehold. By the way, coming back to the price, I find it very reasonable when you take into consideration other brands that use DD modules such as TAG Heuer on its Carrera Cal. 18 Telemeter piece (it’s a 2-register movement with date but almost double the price!!!).
Overall, I think that the styling employed on the Fortis Tycoon, despite my niggles, is well thought out, shows that the brand put a lot of effort into its rebirth, and is intent on thoughtfully paying homage to chronographs of the past. Seriously, I like the watch and I do hope that they use it as a basis for more variants. For now, though, the Tycoon, as it stands, is certainly competitive and should be on your list if you’re looking for a new mid-range chronograph. Let us know what you think about this watch and if you’ve managed to buy one!