Hands-On With The Fortis Flieger Collection

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Fortis hit the reset button on their Flieger family with three new watches that look to set a new tone for the brand as a whole. The 3 watches, which were staggered in their releases last year, include a chronograph, time and date models, and culminated with reveal of the F-43 Triple GMT. These watches feel every bit the tools that they are both in hand and on wrist, and with a few unexpected details worked in along the way, there’s no shortage of that Fortis character we know and love. 

The new Flieger watches range in size, from 39mm to 43mm, yet each could charitably be described as physically imposing. From the lug structure to the design on the bezel, there’s not much in the way of subtlety to be found here. Instead, each feel like precision instruments, machined like a bolt action rifle with nothing but business in mind. These watches serve as an admission that watches need to be seen as tools built for a specific function, and built as robustly as possible around fulfilling that function. If you view watches in this manner, you’ll find a lot to love here.

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$1780

Hands-On With The Fortis Flieger Collection

Case
Stainless Steel; Titanium
Movement
Sellita 200; Sellita 510; WERK 13/Kenissi
Dial
Grain/Textured Matte Black
Lume
Brixtrax, X1 Super-LumiNova
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Block Bracelet; Black Leather
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
36×50; 41×53; 43x54mm
Thickness
13mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1780

Fortis has split the Flieger Collection into 3 sections consisting of the F-43 Bicompax chronograph, The F-39 and F-41 Automatics, and the F-43 Triple GMT. They are all clearly a part of the same family, sharing a similar design language throughout. That means heavy matte black dials, bright Berlac Fluor orange accents (seriously, this orange is hyper-saturated), concave bezels, and lugs that look like they could come with a load bearing certification with a 21mm lug span on each. 

Each is offered on 3-link bracelets that are 21mm from end link to clasp. The clasp itself is a 22mm slab with a slick quick adjustment slider within that is controlled via push button. This allows for about 10mm of adjustment available on the fly. The clasp and bracelet feel substantial on the wrist, and whether it’s the 39mm Automatic or the 43mm Bicompax, the bracelet dimensions are the same. Securing the bracelet to the case are actual screws that go through the lug. Forget the delicate strap change tool, you’ll need a flathead screwdriver to change out the bracelet to the black leather strap option.

One of the more unique features that each of the Flieger watches makes use of is the so-called Synchroline. This appears as two sections of Berlac Fluor orange spanning the edge of the dial between the minutes 55 and 05. Its purpose is to allow for pilot synchronization between planes, giving a +/- 5 second range from the 12 o’clock position. My knowledge of pilots and the demands they’re subjected to is limited to a single viewing of the movie Top Gun many years ago, so I’ll offer no further insight on this particular feature. I will say this, though, it looks pretty cool on the dial. 

Another shared feature among all the Flieger models is the concave bezel. The bezel itself is steel with etched numerals appearing along the inside ring, which is angled downward toward the crystal. This means the two don’t sit flush with one another, and the outside edge of the bezel represents the high point of the case. This leaves quite a bit of surface area along the vertical wall of the bezel, which gets a coin edge texture for easy manipulation. Turning the bezel requires a sure grip, and takes a bit of force to get moving. It slots into each space with force and feels a little like changing gears through an exposed gated shifter on a vintage sports car. That is to say, it’s very satisfying.

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The F-39 & F-41 Automatic

Beginning with the Automatic models, this is the only Flieger offered in 2 sizes. The F-39 measures in at 39mm in diameter while managing a 50mm lug to lug distance. These are substantial lugs that make for a dramatic presence on the wrist. They do curve downward toward the wrist, and while on the long side, they are certainly wearable. 

The F-41 is, you guessed it, 41mm in diameter and 52mm from lug to lug. The appearance otherwise is the same, with Arabic numerals appearing alongside each bar of Brixtrax X1 Super-LumiNova save for the 12 o’clock position, which receives the triangle and two dots motif seen throughout the collection. A date window appears at 3 o’clock, with an orange outline to highlight its position. The seconds hand gets a healthy application of orange as well, and this is hunting coat levels of orange making for high visibility in most lighting conditions, though it’s not lume so focus shifts to the hour and minute hands in the dark. 

Fortis is using the automatic UW-30 movement in each of the Automatic models, which is a base SW-200 Sellita caliber with date complication. The F-39 and F-41 are priced at $1,780 on  a strap, and $2,230 on a bracelet.

The F-43 Bicompax 

The F-43 Chronograph was the first Flieger to be revealed and caught our attention right out of the gates thanks to the modern design that captures much of the Fortis charm of old. This is a dual register chronograph with a 30 minute totalizer at the 3 o’clock position that gets an orange outline at its edge. The date is positioned at 6 o’clock, again outlined in orange, creating a symmetrical dial design. 

The 43mm case gives the dial plenty of space for the well proportioned design, and creates a highly legible dial in the process. The same bright green X1 lume is used here with Brixtrax bars at each hour. The pump pushers are set within guards, and get a concave end point with a cross hatched texture inside. The execution here feels tightly machined and using the pushers is a satisfying experience as a result, not to mention they look the absolute business. 

The Bicompax is 43mm in diameter and 55mm from lug to lug, with a case thickness of ~15mm as measured to the top of the bezel. This is a substantial watch on the wrist, and it feels very much like that was the intent with this one. 

The Bicompax uses the automatic UW-51 movement, which again is a base Sellita 510 caliber with 48 hours of reserve. The Bicompax is priced from $3,120 on a strap, to $3,570 on bracelet.

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The F-43 Triple GMT

The F-43 Triple GMT differs from the other Flieger models in a few important ways. The first of which is noticeable upon picking it up, as its titanium case and bracelet weigh a good deal less than the others (did I mention how heavy these things are?). The Triple GMT shares the same dimensions as the Bicompax, but feels far different on the wrist thanks to the weight savings realized with the use of titanium. 

The GMT complications referenced in the name come via the short 24 hour hand that reads the hours against an inner ring with each hour represented save for the 6 o’clock (3 o’clock) position which makes way for the date aperture. This, coupled with the local time, and rotating 12 hour bezel, make it possible to track three time zones, hence the Triple GMT name. 

This complication comes courtesy the WERK 13 movement inside the Triple GMT, which is not a Sellita base caliber, but rather is built by Kenissi, the movement manufacturing arm of Tudor (and Chanel). The movement allows the hour hand to be set independently making adjustments on the go a breeze. Using Kenissi here adds a layer of interest to this particular model and raises questions about what may be around the corner this year from Fortis. 

The Triple GMT enjoys the same level of extreme legibility as the others, though the lume appears white rather than green on the dial and glows blue after a charge. The use of titanium feels fitting within this collection, as it mitigates much of the mass and feels more tech-forward than steel, and it’s an option we’d have welcomed across the range. 

The Triple GMT is priced at $3,970 on its titanium bracelet, making it the most expensive of this bunch. For reference, the Tudor GMT is $4,050 on a bracelet, and the Norqain Freedom 60 GMT, which also uses a Kenissi movement, is $3,860 on a bracelet. The Fortis is quite different in look and feel from the Tudor or Norqain, so if you’re looking at this movement you’ll have plenty of options all in the same ballpark on price.

Conclusions

The new Fortis Flieger collection of watches are formidable in the presence and precise in their execution. What they lack in everyday wearability they make up for in brute tool-ish appeal. These feel very much like watches you put on to do a specific job, whether that’s buzzing the tower in a MiG-28 or merely hiking through the backcountry near your home, these watches will inspire confidence in whatever they’re doing. 

Fortis has developed a strong visual identity with the new Flieger collection and I’d call it successful overall. These are fun watches to wear and play with, and they beg to be used. That is to say, they are Fortis through and through. Fortis.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.
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