5. February 2016

Die “Calatrava” aus Grenchen

Karl Heinz Nuber

This blog is dedicated to the successful brand relaunch by Fortis at the Baselworld trade fair 2015. The two new managers, Max Wedel, responsible for marketing, and Maximiliam Spitzy, Fortis CEO, are most amicable figures, both fellow Austrians, who have each gained years of experience abroad.

The company founded by Walter Vogt in 1912, in the Swiss town of Grenchen, relaunched its brand with the introduction of a collection that has been newly divided into four worlds – Cosmonautis, Aviatis, Aquatis and Terrestis. This division now provides a clear-cut overview. According to Mr Wedel, the number of models has thus been radically reduced from 126 to 49. I was particularly impressed by the Terrestis model line, which represents a tribute to the great pioneer years and the success of the 1930’s and 40’s.

The Terrestis collection, which includes, for instance, the 2Pi by Rolf Sachs, the Orchestra, the Hedonist, the 19Fortis p.m. or a.m. and the Tycoon, has been revamped by the renowned Scarinzi brothers. These models feature a sleek and stylish design combined with the robustness that is typical to the Fortis image. The watches also feature a new, elegant crown as an optical highlight. The hands are made according to the originals of the 1940’s. A new watchcase with a screwed-on mineral crystal caseback – eight screws – houses the Swiss made ETA2895-2 automatic mechanism with a 42 hour power reserve. Fortis now also offers the models in precious metal versions.

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(Maximilian Spitzy, FORTIS CEO)

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(Max Wedel, FORTIS Head of Marketing)

I instantly fell in love with the distinctive design vocabulary expressed by Orchestra: the domed, warm ecru-coloured dial, the nostalgically inspired feuille hands, the sapphire crystal cover, the drop-shaped lugs inspired by Fortis models from the 1930’s, and the new crown, which has a strong yet elegant appearance.

In my opinion, the Orchestra model from the Fortis Terrestis collection could become a real bestseller. I wouldn’t hesitate to compare this model with the “Calatrava” by Patek Philippe, but on a different level, of course, because Fortis does not yet have its own manufacturer’s calibre.

Fortis’ path of history is paved by a continuous line of incredible milestones. For example, the series production of the world’s first automatic wristwatch, the legendary Harwood, was launched in 1926. One of the very first waterproof watches in the world, the Fortissimo, was produced in Grenchen in 1940. After introducing the Flieger Classic in 1987, Fortis quickly became an international trendsetter among aviation watch manufacturers around the world. 1994 marked the beginning of the cooperation with the ROSCOSMOS space mission Euromir 94: the first automatic chronograph in space. Another world’s first was launched in 1998 when the first automatic chronograph with mechanical alarm was introduced. The Flieger Classic won the first European Aviation Watch Award in the year 2004. Sponsor of the Mars Mission (simulated journey to Mars) in 2009. On the company’s one hundredth anniversary, 2012 saw the introduction of the Daybreaker, the world’s first and only chronograph with alarm and GMT function. Fortis was also able to celebrate a particularly special anniversary in the year 2014 – 20 years in space. I can only mention a few examples here, because there simply wouldn’t be enough room to mention them all.

 

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To mark the brand relaunch in 2015, Fortis has also adopted a new slogan: “Face the New”, a slogan that reflects the Fortis philosophy, because “Face the New” stands for a future-oriented way of thinking and the constant application of refinements, which inevitably lead from one milestone to the next. Fortis has so far dedicated itself to more than 100 years of watchmaking.

The philosophy of milestones will also be reflected in a new Flieger Classic model and a new Classic Cosmonauts model, which will be presented at the Baselworld 2016. I intend to write up a report at the end of this year.

The main markets of the Grenchen based company include the home market in Switzerland as well as the USA, Japan, Germany and Singapore. The current goal is to develop the market in China. It’s not to no avail that Fortis CEO Spitzy speaks Mandarin. He lived in China for ten years, where he built up several companies, though not in the watch industry.

Fortis manufactures watches in the price segment ranging from CHF 900 to CHF 1600 and over. However, the majority of the models are sold at prices ranging from CHF 1500 to CHF 3000.

As in recent years, Fortis will continue to exclusively offer mechanical watches.

Hence, Fortis’ quantum leap will carry to company far into the future. I wish the Austrian duo responsible for this leap great success in all their endeavours.

Maximilian Spitzy, Fortis Neo CEO explained to me: “We have helped Fortis to become the manufacturer that it always was at heart”. Or in my own words: the future of Fortis was established in the past and has once again become visible thanks to Spitzy and Wedel.