Fortis Cosmonautis AM Ceramic Chronograph Review

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The Fortis Cosmonautis Classic Chronographs were one of the highlights of Baselworld 2016. An update to as iconic a watch as the brand makes, the Cosmonautis Classic Chronographs were clean, bold and refreshing. Available in four styles mixing black and silver dials with steel and ceramic bezels, not to mention leather and bracelet options, there seemed to be a version that would suit most chronograph fans. The only downside was that they were a bit pricey, starting at just over 3,000 CHF. Well, that all changed last year when WatchBuys, their exclusive US retailer, implemented “direct pricing” and brought them down significantly, starting at $1,680. This made them not just a great looking watch, but also a solid value.

Before getting into the new watches it’s worth brushing up on the history of this watch. While Fortis might not be the first brand to jump to mind when thinking of watches that have been to space, they have spent as much if not more time among the stars than others. Starting in 1994, Fortis have been part of the standard equipment for cosmonauts, racking in over 100,000 orbits over the years. The first Cosmonautis watch, which is a collectible today, was an awesome Lemania 5100 powered 40mm chronograph. That watch served as the inspiration for the one we have here today.

For this review, we’ll be taking a look at the Fortis Cosmonautis Classic AM Ceramic model on the leather strap. This version comes in at $1,790 with some of the additional cost coming from the bezel. AM refers to the silver dial. For the most “traditional” version, you’d want to go for the steel bezel PM model.

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$1790

Fortis Cosmonautis AM Ceramic Chronograph Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
Valjoux 7750
Dial
Silver
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
100M
Dimensions
42 x 51mm
Thickness
15mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Push-Pull
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1790

The case of the Cosmonautis is a masculine 42mm x 51mm x 15mm. It’s not too big, though it’s getting there, still wearing well on my seven-inch wrist. It is a tall watch, but the height is dealt with through undercuts, a case back that dips into your wrist, rounded sides, and a domed crystal. Overall the design is pretty simple and well-finished, featuring thick tapering lugs with brushing; flowing sides finished in a full polish; and pushers, a crown and crown guards on the right side of the case. The real standout is the black ceramic tachymeter bezel. Being ceramic, it has a certain dull sheen and light texture to it that is very appealing. The white fill isn’t too bright, almost coming off a little aged.

My one issue with the case is actually a detail that admittedly appears to stay true to the original Cosmonautis from the ’90s; the watch features screw down pushers. It’s hardly the only watch to do so, and they do work and actually look pretty nice when screwed down, but they are annoying, especially so when you’re trying to manipulate them on the wrist. That, and the fact that the crown doesn’t screw down makes me wonder about their real utility on this watch.

Flipping the watch over, you’ll find a display case back showing off the Valjoux 7750 movement. It’s relatively undecorated as far as 7750s go; it has a custom rotor, but not much else. That said, it’s a chronograph, so there’s always something to look at. The rotor features some blue-filled etching including the Fortis logo, some stars and text that reads “World’s First Manufacturer of Automatic Wristwatches.” I wonder if a closed case back with art that told a bit about Fortis’ role with the Russian space program could have added to the overall package.

The dial is the star of the show with this watch. Not only in design—showing great balance, legibility and a good use of color—but also in quality. This is a dial to take a loupe to. Everything is perfect and sharp and exudes quality. One can’t always say that, especially at this price point, so it’s worthy of note here. Every detail is sharp, printing is exact, and textures and finishing are top-notch. It’s a dial you’d expect on something north of $5,000.

While the black version is classic, tried and true, the silver dial is a unique spin on a pilot (well, a space pilot) chronograph. The dial consists of two areas and three sub-dials separated by graining. The center area is sunburst, and contains the primary index of applied numerals for each hour, save three, six, nine and 12, which feature rectangular markers and a triangle, respectively. The applied markers are gorgeous, standing tall enough off the dial to add some nice depth, and they feature black borders with minty green lume fill.

Around the sunburst area is a grained surface with concentric circles, on which a minute/chronograph-seconds index is printed. The contrast of the two textures looks great, and it helps balance the width of the dial. One nice touch is that the rectangular and triangular applied markers break the line between the two areas. Moving back in, the circular graining is also used to separate out the sub-dials at six, nine and 12. Staying true to the 7750 mold, these sub-dials give you chronograph-hours, active seconds and chronograph-minutes, each with clear black numerals and lines for legibility.

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At three, you’ll find the expected day-date window for the 7750 movement with the Fortis logo above and “chronograph automatic” below—details that are all well-executed and balanced. One bit of text that is unexpected, but a nice aesthetic detail, is the “classic cosmonauts” in orange arcing above the chronograph-hour counter at six.

For hands, Fortis went with classic, straight swords in black with lume filling for the hour and minute. They are thin, but clear and they look good. For the chronograph-seconds hand, they chose a tapering stick with a lumed arrow that’s half black, half orange. The sub-dials are then all sticks, with the chronograph functions in orange and the seconds in black. The color-coding with orange for the chronograph hands is something I always like to see. The orange here also looks especially good, playing off of the minty lume in a nice, almost mid-century pairing that pops off of the silver dial.

At 42mm, the Cosmonautis is a sizable watch, but it’s still tolerable on my seven-inc wrist. The bezel and the various textures and elements of the dial help the watch look a bit smaller and more compact. That said, at a 51mm lug-to-lug, it might over stretch some wrists that are smaller. I would love to see this watch at 40mm, as I think that would be a sweet spot for the design. Regardless, it looks incredible. The mix of silver, minty green, orange and black ceramic is spot on and different from any other watch I’ve worn. The watch came mounted on a 22mm tan leather strap that worked well with the orange highlights.

With a starting price of $1,680 ($1,790 as pictured), the Fortis Cosmonautis Chronographs are easily one of the best values for a new Swiss-made chronograph, and they’re truly gorgeous watches as well. Sure, there is some competition at around $2,000, but the Fortis stands apart with its blend of classic and unique elements and expert finish. I’d say the only thing that might hold one back is the size, which, while tolerable, verges on large for the design.


To purchase the Fortis Cosmonautis Chronograph, head here.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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