The Collector’s Series – Why Dale has so much love for this funky Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph?

The Collector Series moves to Amsterdam this week and interviews Dale Vito. Dale currently work’s as eCommerce manager at Amsterdam-based Ace Jewelers. He has been collecting for 10 years and founded Dezinvanluxe.nl in 2005, which at its height was the biggest watch board in the Netherlands. He sold it a few years later and he tells me that the money generated from the sale was soon invested in vintage watches (which was great to hear!). Dale then started working at Amsterdam Watch Company, a charming boutique in the heart of Amsterdam. Here he gained a wealth of knowledge on vintage watches. He was the one writing the content on their website, creating engaging stories on each and every watch listed. However, the big deal today is to understand what makes a funky Fortis Stratoliner chronograph a watch so important to Dale?

When did you first get into watches?

My watch obsession started a good 12 years ago. I read a lot of car magazines at the time, and they would regularly feature watch ads. What started gently with a watch magazine or two slowly turned into a full blown obsession… and I haven’t looked back since!

What drew you to Fortis as a brand?

It was mostly this watch in particular that I was drawn too. I must admit that I am quite indifferent to Fortis as a brand. I briefly owned another one, many years ago – it was a basic Valjoux 7750 pilot’s chronograph. I didn’t really bond with it so it quickly got sold – which by no means mean that they’re bad watches, they’re just not for me. I do like their funkier Art Editions though, like the black and white board pieces. I love how they play with our conceptions about what a luxury watch should be. They offer a different perspective and ask not to be taken too seriously – which is a good thing in my opinion.

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

Why the Stratoliner?

I usually don’t actively search for specific watches. When browsing watches, it could very well happen that I fall in love with a watch that I come across – one that had never crossed my mind before. If and when the price and time are right, I of course HAVE to snap it up! The same story goes for this watch. I was casually browsing Marktplaats, a Dutch market place type website, when I saw this one listed for sale. I instantly fell in love. To me, it has a bit of a Gerald Genta or Alain Silberstein flair to it. It pairs pop culture with some serious hardware. Yet it is much more affordable than a Genta Disney piece or a proper Alain Silberstein, both of which I love. In other words: a perfect ‘fun’ watch.

Where you aware of the Stratoliner’s history when you bought it? 

Not really. I was aware of its existence but never paid much attention. Of course I did a few quick Google searches and read up before I actually pulled the trigger. My watch is the Stratoliner ‘West in Space’, a limited edition of 200 pieces created in 1992 in honor of a rocket launch of sorts at the Baikonur site. There’s a similar version sans the West logo, which I think is limited to 100 pieces. I believe this to be the first of Fortis’ collaborations with Andora, the Berlin-based pop-art artist. They have done a number of them since.

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

Are you a leather strap of steel bracelet kind of guy?  

All of the above. Leather, NATO, rubber, bracelets – it’s all good. I hardly ever wear the OEM straps though – I find it much more fun to find the right strap for a watch myself, which often is something completely different than what the manufacturer had in mind.

How would you range the following in importance when buying a new watch: Aesthetic / Brand Heritage / Accuracy / Rarity / Resale value? 

First and foremost, a watch has to look good and should preferably have an interesting story to it. Is it rare? That’s a plus. But if it is not, I’ll gladly make it ‘mine’ by adding an unusual strap – like the rubber camouflage NATO on my Legend Diver. Accuracy… I am not too bothered about it, to be honest. Unless it slows from several minutes a day, I probably won’t even notice – it is not something that I measure and I regularly swap watches. I’d love to say that resale value is not a concern, but it is very important. As a big part of the fun is in the hunt and discovery of ‘new’ watches, to me a big part of collecting is buying / trading. Losing money every time a watch has to leave the collection to make room for another one is sadly not a realistic scenario for me at this point.

Can you tell us more about the movement in the Stratoliner? 

It’s the Lemania 5100: an automatic chronograph movement with central minute counter. It was very popular some in military and pilot’s watches. It’s a bit of a cult movement, although interest nowadays seems to be much less than it was 10 years ago. After its discontinuation, the Swatch Group took a large part of its design to create its low-cost automatic chronograph movement – the C01.211. The latter is found in Tissot, Certina and Swatch watches.

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

What is the case material?

It’s stainless steel. The leather strap pictured I added myself. It’s fitted with the original pin buckle.

How much wrist time does it get? 

Quite a lot, but hardly on my own wrist! My girlfriend wears it most of the time. Daily wear for me is mostly a Datejust or one of my Speedies. The Legend Diver is a favorite as well.

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

What sort of day/event do you find yourself strapping it on? 

Any event that asks for a fun conversation piece. I’d have to ask her permission first though!

Do you listen to the advice of anyone before buying?

Listen to advice?… Like asking if it is this a good deal? Never! I however read everything I can, both offline and online: books, magazines, forums, blogs, websites and whatever else. Yet at the end, I buy what I like and I trust my own judgement.

What (if anything) have you got your eye on next? 

Nothing in particular, but I’m really starting to feel the itch for a new watch! I’m curious to see which one will come to me. I do have a list of watches that I keep an eye on and that I consider to be “realistic” in the near future. It includes watches in four categories – I only realized this since your question… Now I’m thinking about it a bit more attentively than I usually do.

  • All-time evergreens like the Speedmaster Professional and Datejust. These would have to be in the right configuration to really catch my interest – having a rarer dial for example.
  • Vintage tool watches. Lately my interest has shifted from Rolex to vintage high-quality chronographs and dive watches from brands such as Longines, Movado, Enicar, Eberhard, Mido – but also lesser known brands that used the same case (or case-makers) and movements.
  • Fun watches like the Alain Silberstein Krono Bauhaus, Gerald Genta Fantasy and Breitling Emergency (gen 1).
  • Neo-Vintage like early nineties Breitling Chronomat (has to be all stainless steel and fitted with the iconic Rouleaux), IWC Da Vinci 3570, IWC 3705. I find the late eighties / early nineties an interesting period, with many brands getting back on their feet and re-introducing the models that we now consider classics –  yet often in a purer and simpler form compared to their offspring on offer today.

And yet in the end, the purchase will likely be something completely different…

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

Can a collector ever be fully satisfied with his/her collection? 

Tough question. A part of me says no: collecting is a never-ending journey. By reading, talking, feeling and wearing one acquires knowledge and insights throughout the years, which in turn will create new objects of desire. There’s always the next one… But then again, getting rid of the desire for more and better would arguably be a better and nobler feat.

Other than Fortis, which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?

I think Nomos is doing a great job at producing interesting watches at a good price point. I particularly love the Ahoi and Minimatik. I dig the image that their creating for themselves with their photography and overall design language very much as well. Tudor seems to be doing great these days as well and I’m curious to see how this will work out for them in the longer term. Jaeger-LeCoultre rarely disappoints – most of their watches to me seem very well balanced and well-priced. On another level, Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne have been long favorites of mine. When it comes to independents, I love Laurent Ferrier and FP Journe. Not so much space age, but classic round cases with wonderful movements.

Fortis Stratoliner Chronograph

What piece of advice would you give to someone considering starting a collection? 

Read as much as you can. Visit trade fairs when possible and talk to collectors. Make an account on a few watch boards. Create a Facebook account and join a few watch groups. And subsequently save up and buy a Speedmaster Professional.

When collecting do you think it’s important to stick to a brand or a category (Patek/IWC or aviation/dive)

Yes! In the words of The Rock: ‘FOCUS!!!!’. But seriously: a focused collection is really something to be admired as usually it takes a lot of dedication and its curator will likely have a lot of deep knowledge on the subject. That’s cool – I appreciate that a lot. But most of us men are just too easily distracted and love too many watches – myself included.

Is this Fortis Stratoliner a keeper or can you see it leaving your collection one day? 

A number of people have asked me about this watch. For now, I’m keeping it though. My girlfriend loves it and I’m not sure what I would be replacing it with.

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