Fortis

Swiss independent watch manufacturer

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.

Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph

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.

History of Fortis

1912
Company is founded by Walter Vogt in Grenchen, Switzerland
1926
Vogt partners with John Harwood, inventor of the automatic movement, and releases the Harwood Automatic
1940
The company launches the Fortissimo, one of the world's first water resistant watches
1956
Fortis wins the leading chronometer award for the Manager, the first water resistant watch with a mechanical alarm
1962
The company founder's son, Rolf Vogt, delivers a Spacematic AR wristwatch to NASA, designed to withstand the rigors of space
1967
The Flipper models start a trend with affordable, colorful plastic watches (forerunner of Swatch)
1987
Fortis creates the new Flieger automatic collection for its 75th anniversary
1992
Fortis launches the Official Cosmonauts Chronograph into space to the Russian Mir space station
1994
Fortis becomes the exclusive supplier to the Russian Federal Space Agency
2001
The B-42 chronograph case is presented at the Basel watch fair and the first in-house movement is produced, the F-2001 calibre
2003
The Official Cosmonauts Chronograph becomes publicly available
2012
The F-43 Pilot Chronograph Alarm GMT Chronometer is introduced for the company's 100th anniversary
2018
Longtime company fan Jupp Philipp takes ownership of the company, changing the name to Fortis Watches AG
2020
Reopening the Atelier where the first automatic wristwatches were built