Fortis is arguably best known for its "space watches" supplied to Russian cosmonauts, but the brand goes back to 1912 when founded by 29-year-old Walter Vogt in Grenchen, Switzerland. In 1924, Vogt partnered with John Harwood, inventor of the automatic wristwatch, and the brand released the Harwood Automatic in 1926 - the first mass produced automatic wristwatch. For its 25th anniversary, Fortis introduced its first chronographs, one of which was also designed by Harwood, the Autorist. It was in 1992, however, when the company's work on space-ready watches came to fruition with an Official Cosmonauts Chronograph flying to the Russian Mir space station. Two years later, Fortis became the exclusive supplier to the Russian Federal Space Agency.
In addition to watches certified for space travel, Fortis has supplied military squadrons around the world, including the Swiss 11 Fighters, Greek Hellenic Tigers, Hungary NATO forces and German Immelmann 51. Pilot’s watches and chronographs comprise much of the brand’s portfolio and in 1998, Fortis developed the first automatic chronograph with a mechanical alarm in cooperation with watch engineer Paul Gerber. In 2012, Fortis and Gerber teamed up again for the 100th anniversary, producing the F-2012 chronograph automatic movement that was among the most complicated in the world.
In 2017, the company struggled financially and was granted a debt restructuring agreement to remain solvent, and was acquired by investor and longtime fan Jupp Philipp in 2018 (current owner and CEO). Philipp has since put the brand on a more successful footing with three main collections – Space, Sky and Sea. These include space-ready pieces like the certified Official Cosmonauts Chronograph, pilot’s watches and diving chronographs in the Marinemaster line. Prices are generally mid-range and accessible.