It all startet with a dream out of which many myths have been created. One of them for example is the story of Ikarus. His father Daedalus created the first wings made out of feathers and wax. He told Ikarus to not fligh either too high or too low. If he would fly too low the density of the seas would melt the wax - if he would fly to high the heat of the sun would melt the wax. After a while Ikarus was overcome by giddiness so he soared into the sky. Afer a while he realized that the sun has melted the wax and there were no feathers left. He fell into sea - today named as the Icarian Sea.

Credit: Image online, courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress.

This image depicts the first rigid air ship produced by Count Zeppelin - LZ 1 - on its test flight.  The great Zeppelin stayed aloft for eighteen minutes. The air ship was 128 meters long with a diametre of 11.65 meters. It was equipped with 2 Daimler engines each providing 14.1 break horse powers

The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two American aviators, engineers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world's first successful airplane. They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In 1904–05 the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft. Although not the first to build experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

Credit: La Vie au Grand Air, 17 novembre 1906, supplément au n°426

Credit: Vickers Vimy, british bomber in WWI 1918 This is a Royal Air Force image.

During the year plenty of milestones in aviation were set in Europe. One of the most important ones was the flight of Louis Blériot. On the 25th of July 1909 he flew from Calais to Dover over the English Channel in the monoplane Blériot XI. The flight tool 37 minutes with an average height of 100 meters above sea level. With the Blériot XI the constructeur became the father of the modern monoplanes. It also made him the first commercial aircraft manufacturer.

On the 12th of November 1906 the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont who lived in Paris made the very first motorized flight in his famous "14-bis". In 1909 he designed and flew the "Demoiselle" the very first light constructed aircraft of the world. He also flew the first speed record with 55.8 miles per hour.

On the 30th of November 1917 the "Vickers Vimy" successfully completed its first test flight. The aircraft was used as a bomber during World War I. Also the first transatlantic flight was completed in this aircraft in 1919. At the same time FORTIS added a new wing to the factory to meet the steep increase in demand. It housed spacious, bright workshops that provided optimal working conditions for watch manufacturing based on modern, contemporary Bauhaus criteria. It is still the headquarter of FORTIS today.

During World War I the new aircrafts were mainly used for observing missions. The first aerial bomber mission was operated by the air ship LZ 21 over the town of Lüttich. Their bombs killed 9 people.

From 1914-1918 camera systems have been developed to observe the enimies military basis from the sky.

Claude Dornier has been employed under Count Ferdinand Zeppelin in Friedrichshafen since 1910. After some time working on the concept of air ships he was assigned to take car of planes. In 1914 the the whole department under Dornier moved to a new working space at the "Seemooser Horn". Here Dornier developed the giant flying boat Rs I, Rs II, Rs III, Rs IV.

From August 1st to September 4th in 1929 the air ship LZ 127 completed the first around-the-world trip which was the greatest success in the history of Zeppelin travel. This flight was completed in several stages, travelling eastwards. The takeoff and final destination in Lakehurst had been requested by the American Publisher William Randolph Hearst, who obtained exclusive reporting rights through his financial investements in the venture. Lady Grace Drummond-Hay was a passenger during the spectacular journey of the LZ 127. As a journalist she wrote daily articles about the individual stages of this fantastic trip for the Hearst media empire. The modern woman wore a HARWOOD automatic (the World`s first automatic wristwatch)on her wrist. She was therefore the ideal ambassador for this new generation of wristwatches made by FORTIS.  It was also the beginning of FORTIS especially designing timepieces for travellers.

Flying at that time is mainly for military services and to time the missions reliable timepieces became more and more important. Instead of operating unhandy pocket watches modern wrist watches became more and more popular. Furthermore automatic wristwatches set themselves into focus as the wearer is not in the need of winding the movement manually on a daily basis, The Harwood automatic became more and more the prefered watch.

During the 1940s the military department appointed several manufacturer to build the so called "Beobachtungsuhren" (observation watches). Mainly there were 2 different styles: A & B. The watches`main feature was the huge size of 55mm in diameter as the watches should be worn above the pilot jackets. Based on these B-type designs FORTIS launched the famous Sky-Watch in 1986 which was based on a quartz movement.

Based on the design of these typical B-Type watches since 1940 the FORTIS automatic pilot watch was reduced to its most important features. The time indication was designed in a little-to-beat clarity and for the first time cased in a watch of 40mm diameter. By the proportions of hands, numerals and indices, which were covered with green tritium a perfect design was achieved.

With the invention of the ETA Valjoux 7750 Chronograph movement in 1994 FORTIS launched the Flieger Chronograph accordingly in design to the existing 3-hand models. Like the 3-hand models the chronograph is based on the typical designs created during World War II.

- big, good readable dial

- big, afterglowing numerals & indices

- sword-shaped hour and minute hands (afterglowing)

- Triangle at 12h with 2 dots

With the B-42 case a new era of robust and reliable pilot watches started. Still to this day the case is used in different variation in the current FORTIS collections.

Since more then 30 years FORTIS is encouraged in serving the best of the best. Squadrons like the Swiss PC-7 Team rely on FORTIS timepieces for round about 15 years. If you are interested feel free to start your enquiry here.

For the famous Watch and Jewellery fair in Basel, FORTIS updated the Flieger to the Flieger Professional, which was a great international success.


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