In this review, I’m heading back to Grenchen, at the foot of the Swiss Jura mountains, to look at the latest release from Fortis, the brand that catapulted me into the fantastic world of mechanical watches. For those who have read my review of the B-42 Official Cosmonauts or/and have seen my profiles on social media, know that this brand has a special place in my heart. Little did I know when I bought my first Fortis, the black and orange Flieger Cockpit, that one and a half decades later, I was going to run my own site, presenting timepieces from around the world.
From the early days in 1912, through the mid-twenties, when Fortis and Harwood released the world’s first, mass produced, automatic wristwatch, the thirties and fourthies, when their first chronographs and waterproof watches came to life, the fifties, when Fortis added their alarm watches, the first ever to be waterproof and within C.O.S.C standards, the sixties when Fortis entered the space race with their Spacematic AR, the seventies when Fortis added the battery powered Flipper to their collection, a cheap, reliable, fun watch made popular by stars like Rolling Stones and Roger Moore, the nineties when Fortis, with the Official Cosmonauts, became the official timekeeper of the Russian space program; Roscosmos, the first decade of the new millennium, when the new B-42 Official Cosmonauts saw the light for the first time, making its predecessor a cult watch for today’s collectors, and up to today’s decade, a decade filled with achievements, deep worries and utter joy. In 2012, celebrating one hundred years as one of the finest, innovative brands around, Fortis released their technical masterpiece, the Daybreaker, the first chronograph ever with UTC/GMT functionality and a mechanical alarm. Consisting of over 500 mechanical parts, it’s one of the most complicated wristwatches ever built.
I could keep on mentioning achievements for hours, but the happenings of 2018, when Fortis was close to lock the doors for good, really made an impact on me. As much as I wanted to follow this, up and close, I instead looked away, hoping for some good news coming my way. After some pretty nervy months, the fantastic update arrived, Fortis was not to disappear! Going from Fortis Uhren AG to Fortis Watches AG, the Grenchen heroes had made it, and with a new leadership, the brand directly put their focus forward, expanded and kept on producing their fabulous watches.
This year, the PC-7 TEAM celebrates their 30th anniversary. The crew of twelve, nine of them flying the Pilatus PC-7 aircrafts, are all pilots of the Swiss Air Forces and the job as an acrobat of the skies is an additional activity to the role as a full-time, professional fighter pilot. For over fifteen years, Fortis has been the official timekeeper of the PC-7 TEAM. Being the third release through this partnership, this is the first after the changes last year. Together with the PC-7 crew, Fortis has made two remarkable watches, a three-handed day-date and a chronograph, both based on the fantastic B-42 Aeromaster case. I will almost go as far as saying that this case is the star in every watch from Fortis’ B-42 collection. Sweet details, lovely colors, chronometer precision and top-level durability sometimes feels like a bonus. I would wear the case as rock solid, comfortable and tailored jewelry. I’ve had my share of B-42’s and I wonder if my wrist has evolved and transformed to fit the shape of the case. From lug to lug it measures over 53mm, far beyond my ideal length, but the way it wears is second to almost none.
I’ve tested both watches for a while now and I’m going to start with the Fortis PC-7 TEAM Aeromaster Day-Date. This Royal Blue, classic B-42 Aeromaster is powered by a 25-jewel, Certified C.O.S..C Chronometer ETA 2836-2 with a power reserve of 42 hours. It can be hand wound and has hacking seconds to secure the best accuracy when setting time. The case measures 42mm from nine to three, 53mm from lug to lug, 12,5mm from top to bottom and the lug width is 20mm. In my last Fortis review, of the B-42 Official Cosmonauts, I talked about the narrow gap between the case and the barretts, causing some stress to the screw when using nato straps, which can make it break after a while. When having dozens of straps for each day of the week, it’s sometime hard to acknowledge that many of them are too thick to use. A good thing is that it seems like some producers might have read my last Fortis review and decided to add 1,2mm straps to their collection, a size that’s perfect with the B-42 collection. On the other hand, these two watches are classic, limited editions, celebrating an outstanding crew, making me feel a bit disrespectful adding other straps than the originals.
As a proper pilot’s watch, every part of the stainless-steel case is brushed to keep reflections to a minimum. From the caseback, with the PC-7 TEAM embossing, to the crown, the limited-edition plaque at nine, the barretts and screws, there aren’t a polished surface to be found. The matte, non-reflecting, Royal Blue dial, the same color found in the PC-7 TEAM logo, is quite intriguing as it changes from grey to a deep and saturated blue, depending on the surrounding lights. On the sapphire crystal, the fantastic dual layered, anti-reflective coating Fortis is known for, adds even more to keep reflections away. The applied metallic indexes and numerals are filled with Superluminova glowing green when the light fades away.
For a lot of watch enthusiasts, the lume is an important feature to a watch, and the glow on both the PC-7’s is a bit weak. It’ll do the job in the dark, but especially the indexes and numerals could have been given some more paint. Instead, they have a grainy, fainted glow, reminding me a bit of emeralds.
The dial’s classic B-42 layout is divided into four sections, where the Fortis logo is at twelve, day and date at three, specifications at six and the applied metallic Pilatus PC-7 planes at nine. The central second hand is bright red, a great contrast to the blue background.
The Fortis PC-7 TEAM Aeromaster Chronograph uses the same B-42 as the Day-Date, and the only difference in measurements is the height at 15,3mm. Inside, Fortis has used a Certified C.O.S.C. Chronometer Valjoux 7750 with 25 jewels and a power reserve of 48 hours. As the Day-Date, the Chronograph can be hand wound and has hacking seconds.
Having the classic Valjoux 7750 layout, a twelve-hour counter is placed at six, small seconds at nine, on top of the Pilatus PC-7 planes, and a 30-minute counter at twelve. At three you’ll find the day-date indication. The chronograph’s central second counter shares the same, bright red color as the hand on the Day-Date, a color you’ll also find when the seventh day of the month shows, a nice tribute to the PC-7 TEAM.
Along with the case, colors and chronometer standards, the two models shares the same level of water resistance, set to 20 atmospheres. Using a classic push/pull crown, Fortis has fitted it with their “In-crown-double-gasket-system” to secure the watches from failing at depths. As much as I appreciate a proper screw-down crown, such as the ones found on the classic Spacematics from early 00’s, operating this crown is a joy, both for me and professional pilots in more challenging environments. When winding and setting the time, day and date, you’ll notice how firm, solid and smooth the crowns feel. Compared to the B-42 Official Cosmonauts, with rotating bezel covering parts of the crown, the B-42 Aeromaster case allows you to grab the entire crown, making it easier to operate.
Both watches are fitted with a three-link, stainless-steel bracelet with a folding buckle, embossed and engraved with the Fortis and PC-7 TEAM logos. The sliding micro adjuster lets you find the perfect fit without removing the watch from your wrist. An adjustment of up to 8mm doesn’t seem like a lot, but I can assure you that’s more than enough when you have sized the bracelet to fit your wrist. An additional blue Cordura Performance strap with red stitching follows each watch, a solid and durable strap that highlights the colors and details found on the dials.
The PC-7 watches are delivered in a very fine, blue box with read details and the nine PC-7 planes stamped on the lid. Inside you’ll also find the additional Cordura, a travel pouch, the PC-7 TEAM 30th anniversary patch, tools for changing/adjusting the straps, a chronometer certificate and a brochure with information about this release.
So, it’s time to switch off the “specs-filter” and enter the passion zone. Fortis has been through some changes over the last year and has entered a new era. From the nervy months one year ago until today, it’s a real pleasure to see the brand I dearly admire, heading forward in style. One thing that never has to change, is the fabulous B-42 case, being the perfect base for any robust, stylish and classic model to come. The PC-7 TEAM Aeromaster Edition is another proof that this innovative Grenchen giant produces high-quality watches with a purpose. Through the years, I’ve owned over twenty of their watches, mostly Fliegers and B-42’s, and none of them have ever failed me. Combining the strength of these cases with the looks we’ve seen with the Cosmonauts, Marinemasters, limited editions and special collaborations, I understand why I love this brand more than most others. Then again, as the watches have small issues, just as every watch has, these little details, the narrow gap between case and barretts, the lack of glow compared to other lume-torches, the fact that the former boxes disintegrated at early age, is part of my relationship with my Fortis collection, a long term relationship filled with passion, admiration, joy and sometimes tiny headaches. If you look at it from the B-42’s view, how tiring must it be, having to go through countless of strap changes every day, be left inside while I’m gardening, knowing that it can handle the harsh conditions of outer space? It’s a give and take relationship, making the connection ever so strong. At least now, as I’m grown up and not a flipper anymore.
The PC-7 Aeromaster Edition is a set of watches that is both beautiful, tough, accurate and a proper celebration of the 30th anniversary of the PC-7 crew. Being limited to 300 pieces each, these belong in every Fortis enthusiast’s collection, at least the 300 first to make the purchase. Last, but not least, I want to thank my B-42 Official Cosmonauts and B-42 Marinemaster for joining me through this review, surviving all the hours in front of the computer, living through all the desk diving dings that might have occurred during these intense days.