FORTIS is one of the oldest Swiss watchmakers. Since its founding in 1912, FORTIS has always pushed the boundaries of this distinguished craft.
At the age of 29, Walter Vogt already knew that a strong brand name and a perfectly functioning production are the requirements for success in a competitive, growing industry. In 1912, he implemented his plan of a modern factory, which would meet those conditions, and chose a location conveniently situated next to the train station in Grenchen, Switzerland. One year later he registered the brand name and logo of FORTIS. Vogt’s philosophy was to produce reliable, top quality wristwatches for the international market. Vogt saw good opportunities for his undertaking, as wristwatches became the world’s trend in the beginning of the 20th century.
The world’s first mass-produced automatic wristwatch
In 1922, Vogt had a fateful encounter with John Harwood, a British clockmaker and inventor. Searching for a Swiss company to realize his idea of an automatic wristwatch, Harwood saw Vogt as a visionary promoter of his idea.
After four years of development the legendary model Harwood was the first automatic wristwatch ready for series production. Its acclamation at the Baselworld fair strengthened FORTIS reputation and competence worldwide.
In this regard the British journalist Lady Drummond Hay was accompanied by a Harwood automatic aboard the airship Graf Zeppelin on its first world tour in 1929. She was the only female passenger on that flight.
In the 1930s FORTIS put its pioneering role in a new direction by manufacturing its first chronographs. Among these the Autorist was a totally new and innovative concept, using the movement of the strap to power the watch.
In 1943, one of the world’s first waterproof watches was introduced with the FORTISsimo. FORTIS’ competence on this field peaked in the Manager, which won the chronometer award of the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute COSC in 1956 for being the first waterproof mechanical alarm chronometer. Until today the models of the FORTIS Aquatis Collection have embodied the perfect symbiosis of award-winning design and functionality.
The 1960s were a time of change. FORTIS launched a risky, but successful experiment, scoring a bestseller with the first Swiss plastic watch, which was water-resistant up to 200 m.
After this episode FORTIS found the way back to its roots, focusing on aviation watches. In 1987, the Flieger Chronograph set a new trend using oversized cases with a diameter of 40 mm. This step was honored belatedly in 2004 winning the 1st European Aviation Watch Award.
But design is nothing without functionality. With its highly functional and reliable aviation watches FORTIS set two altitude records, which made it the first choice instrument for pilots and over 60 flight squadrons worldwide, including the Swiss Air Force’s PC-7 Team®.
After passing endurance tests at a physical limit and in open space, the Russian Federal Space Agency ROSCOSMOS decided to name FORTIS as the official timekeeper for its missions.
Since their orbital baptism of fire aboard the space station MIR in 1994 FORTIS watches belong to the strictly defined equipment of cosmonauts. Putting forward over 100.000 earth orbits no other watches have spent more time in space. In honor to the pioneering cooperation with the space authorities their emblem is engraved in the case back of all FORTIS Cosmonautis Collection models like the legendary FORTIS Official Cosmonauts, the first automatic watch in open space.
The world’s first automatic alarm chronograph GMT
But also in other spheres FORTIS has demonstrated its pioneering role in the art of Swiss watchmaking: On the occasion of its centennial celebration in 2012, FORTIS introduced its Opus Magnum, the Daybreaker. As the world’s first and only automatic chronograph with alarm and GMT functions, the Daybreaker is one of the most complicated wristwatches ever built, consisting of more than 500 micromechanical pieces.
Face the New
Having said that, FORTIS’ philosophy becomes self-explaining. Face the New is a way of groundbreaking achievements and steady refinement, which leads from one milestone to the next, through over hundred years now dedicated to watchmaking.
- As picked up in this advertisement from the 1940’s FORTIS has always been the reliable choice of numerous military units.
- Water-resistant in any case. Granted, this advertisement from 1951 shows it in a quite peculiar way.
- This classic advertisement from the 1940’s says ist all: FORTIS’ water-resistant watches are solid like an anchor.
- FORTIS’ patent from 1998 was issued for the world’s first alarm chronograph.
- 1940’s FORTISsimo watches herald the era of water-resistant watches.
- With the Wandfluh from 1937 Walter Vogt demonstrated his love for his native soil by naming it after a local mountain. The mechanisms of the Wandfluh were rhodium-plated to achieve still higher quality and special protection.