There is a lot of very good marketing in the new Flieger collection by Fortis. First, the choice of the name Flieger, which over the years has been used to describe Type B Beobachtungsuhr watches, bi-compax Flieger chronographs, various other aviation watch designs, and Fortis’s own pilot’s watches. F-39 and F-41 sound like U.S. aircraft designations but the numbers are simply the case diameters. The watches have some technical features such as Synchroline, an orange strip marking five seconds on either side of 12 o’clock, supposedly useful for synchronizing the watch with those of other pilots, and Brixtrack, used to describe the rectangular blocks of luminescent paint, more three-dimensional than the usual painted lume. A lot of watch companies invent new technical features, but only a few – most notably, Rolex – actually give them names. Then there is Berlac Fluor Orange, used for the fluorescent seconds hand, the Synchroline strip, and the date window frame.
The new Fortis Flieger
Fortis have been making their Flieger professional aviation watches for a long time. A comparison with the 2016 version of the Fortist Flieger Automatic shows that the new Fortis Flieger F-39 and F-41 Automatics retain a lot of the heritage. But there is a lot of new content. The numerals are smaller and no longer lume-coated. This gives a lot of space in the centre of the dial creating a pleasing design. The date window is outlined in orange, and the word “Automatic” is also orange. Some of the classic pilot’s watch features are also present, such as the reference triangle at 12 o’clock neatly incorporated into the seconds track, the two dots underneath it, and the sword-shaped hands.
Rotating bezel for an extra time zone
The most notable change is the rotating bezel. It slopes inwards, and it is marked with the hours. It is bidirectional, but there are just 24 possible positions, at the hour and half-hour. So it can be used to read the time in another time-zone, including the half-hour time zones, in case you want to reference places like India, Iran, Afghanistan and Australia. The fluted vertical sides of the bezel, which match the crown, give the watch a unique and distinctive appearance. The 24 clicks restrict its functionality to the extra time-zone, in other words it can’t really be used for timing events using the minute hand.
New look, new ownership
Fortis was purchased by Jupp Philipp in 2018, and these new watches – there are also chronograph and GMT versions – reveal his plans for the brand. In addition to the technical features mentioned above, his work with aviators such as Marc Rollier shows that he is paying careful attention to brands such as IWC and Breitling.
The idea of launching the same watch in two different sizes, 39 and 41 mm, is user-friendly as it gives customers the possibility of choosing their preferred size. The watches have a solid caseback and a screw-down crown, and they are water-resistance-rated at 20 atm, 200 metres, so that can even be used when swimming. They are tough and focused timepieces, and this is Jupp Philipp’s approach: high-quality, no-nonsense tool watches for everyday use.
The same movement is used for both the F-39 and F-41. The UW-30 is a Swiss-made automatic movement, 26 jewels, running at 4 Hertz, and providing 38 hours power reserve. The excellent dedicated page on the Fortis website doesn’t say much about the movement so I would guess that it’s probably a Sellita SW200. In interviews, Jupp Philipp has said that the brand is working with Geneva-based movement manufacturer Kenissi on “manufacture movements”, and so undoubtedly there will be new developments in Fortis calibres over the next few years.
Strap or bracelet
The Fortis Flieger F-39 and F-41 are available with a stainless steel bracelet, with slide system for easy size adjustment, or a grey leather strap.
Fortis Flieger F-39 and F-41, prices
The F-39 and F-41 watches cost €1,950 on a leather strap, €2,400 on a stainless steel bracelet (prices inclusive of 22% VAT). They have a 5-year warranty. The phrase on the caseback “Ohne Flieger wäre der Himmel nur Luft” means “Without an aircraft, the sky would be just air”. Read more about the Fortis Flieger Automatic on the Fortis website.