Things have been moving fast at Fortis. Under the lead of Jupp Philipp, the man who acquired the company about three years ago, most collections have been revamped or revived, and new models launched. Following an entirely refreshed Flieger collection, the return of the Marinemaster, and the introduction of the Stratoliner with a space-tested movement, some thought the brand had come full circle. But one important watch was missing, a model once known as the B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph. And if the name has changed – for obvious reasons – it is time for this cult classic to be revamped with the new Fortis N-42 Novonaut Space Chronograph collection.
The name Fortis in itself makes a powerful statement and means ‘strong’ in Latin. And strong watches they are… Besides the aforementioned collections, the watch that most of us probably associate with the brand is a space chronograph known as the B-42 Official Cosmonauts. With this chronograph, Fortis became part of the standard equipment for Cosmonauts, cooperating with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency (note: the word Cosmonaut is used by the Russian Space Agency; at NASA, it is Astronaut). The first Fortis Cosmonaut watch flew into space in 1994 as Russia was operating the MIR space station. A second version – again for Roscosmos, specifically as the ISS followed MIR – was designed some 10 years later. Now, for the reasons we all know, Fortis is not cooperating with Roscosmos anymore. However, the Official Cosmonauts watch remains a true classic for the brand, and it is back…Get ready for the Novonaut.
In short, with the Fortis N-42 Novonaut, we’re looking at a watch that mixes the best of the old B-42 with recent developments introduced in the Flieger and Stratoliner collection. It still has the same overall look but with all-new features in and out. If you’re looking for elegance and refinement, this is the wrong address. If you’re into instruments meant to be used and abused and watches with more than just a design to justify their existence, you’re at the right place. Looking at the new Novonaut, the connection with the older Official Cosmonauts watch is clear. There are, however, multiple evolutions to explain, apart from the name.
What has changed? Well, almost everything, but in a way that retains all the traditional elements of the previous generation. It’s an evolution, not a revolution, and that’s for the best. Basically, Fortis is using the same recipe that it applied to its Flieger collection on its space chronograph. While the case retains the classic look of the B-42, it has been beefed up and modernised. Made of recycled stainless steel, it measures 42mm in diameter and about 15mm in thickness and is entirely brushed. The lugs are short and feature screws on the side to help remove the strap/bracelet. In the (recycled) metal, it leaves no doubt as to the watch’s vocation. It’s a tool, an instrument ready for action.
The design and case, with a solid 200m water-resistance and a screw-down crown, are instrumental and in line with the previous generation. Contrary to the Stratoliner, the Novonaut features a bi-directional bezel that frames the AR-coated sapphire crystal. Equipped with an entirely luminous 60-minute scale, named “Sirius Bezel” by the brand, it’s now made of ceramic (matte or polished, black or blue, depending on the edition).
The dial of the N-42 Novonaut is busy, but it retains instant legibility and an intuitive display. A classic 6-9-12 and day-date chronograph display is complemented by an inner flange with a precision minutes/seconds track and applied Lumicast numerals (these are not coated in SLN but made from blocks of SLN) and straight, functional luminous hands. Surprising half-hour markers are also printed on the dial, and two small arrows next to the day-date window indicate which direction you should rotate the crown to adjust the functions – a signature detail that was also found in the B-42 but has been reduced in size here.
The Fortis N-42 Novonaut is launched in three different versions. There’s a so-called First Edition, which is limited to 100 pieces and comes with an array of orange details on its black sunray-brushed dial. The bezel is polished black ceramic, the watch is only available on a steel bracelet, and the back features a tinted sapphire crystal. The Legacy Edition, as its name indicates, is the most classic of them all, with its matte black dial and ceramic bezel. It features a closed caseback and is available on a rubber/textile strap and a steel bracelet. Finally, there’s the Cobalt Blue Edition, a more modern take on the concept with a sunray-brushed blue dial and a polished blue ceramic bezel. Featuring a tinted sapphire back, it’s available on a blue rubber/textile strap or a steel bracelet.
The heart of the Novonaut Space Chronograph is the same as the Stratoliner, meaning the proprietary calibre Werk 17 developed by La Joux-Perret for Fortis. Tested in the stratosphere, this upgraded 7750 has been conceived with shock-resistance in mind (bridges have been redesigned and reinforced, and a tangential micro-screw regulation has been added). It also features a column wheel and boasts a comfortable 60-hour power reserve.
Fortis N-42 Novonaut is now available from the brand’s website and retailers. Only the First Edition is limited to 100 pieces. The Legacy and Cobalt Blue editions are part of the permanent collection and can be ordered on an FKM rubber and textile strap or a 3-link full-brushed steel bracelet closed by a folding clasp with a micro-adjustment system. Prices range from EUR 4,600 to EUR 5,200. For more details, please visit www.fortis-swiss.com.