Fortis F-43 Review

Fortis F-43 Review

Richard Brown





Fortis Watches have an impressive pedigree. They have equipped pilots and divers for decades and have the accolade of making one of the few professional space-flown watches – the B-42 Cosmonaut. The famous image of a B-42 floating in Zero-G inside the International Space Station remains one of the best PR shots ever.  

WatchGecko recently recorded a fascinating interview with Jupp Phillip, the CEO and owner of Fortis. After the chat, we asked for a current review model, at Jupp’s discretion. Much to our delight, a parcel arrived a few days later containing a new Flieger F-43 Bicompax with a Petrol dial fitted on an Indigo Aviator Strap. 

If you want to know more about the history of Fortis, please tune into the YouTube interview and hear the story direct from Jupp. We’ll focus here on the new F-43.  

Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax PetrolFortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Petrol - Credit WatchGecko

Fortis has made capable Chronographs since the 1970s and dedicated Flieger models since 1987. Their early, highly militaristic, professional flight models soon defined a sub-genre of pilot watch, very different from the classic Rolex GMT. Their stark white-on-black style has often been imitated but never equalled. Previous generations of Fortis Fliegers looked like they had been lifted straight from an F-14 Tomcat cockpit however, the 2023 Flieger family has benefited from a different design ethos. They are still aviation inspired and hugely recognisable, but the majority of models are less fighter cockpit and more contemporary chrono, with a steely functional edge.  

There is an impressive total of 24 models in the current range, all of which have a high-end sports or semi-military look. They are unquestionably Fortis Fliegers, built for a new generation.  

Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax PetrolFortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Petrol - Credit WatchGecko

Except for the Triple GMT special editions, there is a common design theme for all the F-Range. Heavily brushed dials in monotone or striking shades of green and blue shake Flieger expectations to their core. The Petrol model we had on test shifts between turquoise and bottle green depending on light and in no way seems to fit into Flieger norms, yet it really works. Chrono (F-43) and non-chrono (F-41) variants are available; both siblings sharing the design commonalities and are equally good looking.  

The chronographs are a Bicompax design, and Fortis have made genuine efforts to create proprietary methods of improving legibility. Legibility is a subject very close to our hearts as watch enthusiasts. It may not be at the top of everyone’s design criteria, but if a manufacturer gets it wrong, you notice it. Take for example the recently discontinued Breitling Colt variant with a white dial and white lume hands with a silver outline. Undoubtedly a professional tool watch but not so easy to read.  

Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax PetrolFortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Petrol - Credit WatchGecko

Fortis has taken legibility to the next level with two creations. The first change is the lume indices which are called Illuminated Brix and are applied on the very bold minute track, called the brushed Brixtrack®. These “blocks” of lume increase the average readability speed. They are highly effective and there is no doubt that the time is easy to read at a glance.  

The second enhancement revolves around the necessity to zero a watch – a function that pilots and the military regularly require. Fortis has developed a line of lume pattern between the 11 and 1 indices which is called Synchroline®. Rather than trying to zero the 12 marker at Mach 1.5 or under fire, this broader zero-area allows the user to sync watches with other team members within a +/- 5 second range which is much easier.  

Looking at the watch function in more detail, the bezel is a 12-hour design which presents rudimentary dual time zone capability. It has 24 positive clicks and is very satisfying to use. The crown and pushers are the paragons of user-friendliness. The crown is oversized and heavily ridged for a superb grip. The pushers have a solid purposeful feel, and are also ridged at the ends for a perfect grip, especially when wearing gloves.  

Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax PetrolFortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Petrol - Credit WatchGecko

The two sunken dials, which offer a seconds complication and a 30-minute times, are obvious thanks to a base tone change and bold white military numerals.  

The hands are the most significant nod to Fliegers of the past and retain the classic sword shape we associate with Fortis. They are bold white on the variant we had but special “Original” models come in the old green, which we saw on very early models. 

The date window is at 6 o’clock to maintain symmetry and it also has a special nod to Fortis’ space legacy. For many years, Berlac Fluor orange has been a colour Fortis has used to accent watches. This specialised finish reflects highly when UV light found in space hits it, allowing for pinpoint accuracy during spacewalks. The brand works to integrate this colour into most watches and the Flieger F-43 Bicompax has the number 13 on the date wheel in Berlac Fluor orange. Why the number 13? We understand it is because Herr. Phillip bought Fortis on the 13th of the month, the company was founded on the 13th of a month and when Jupp joined, the company had 13 employees.  

It is worth pointing out that the F-43 is not a light watch. This is a heavy-duty steel tool watch weighing 140g. More than physical weight it is hard to convey in writing just how solid the watch feels. Fortis don’t make a big deal about this, but you just know it would survive if you had to eject.  

Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax PetrolFortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Petrol - Credit WatchGecko

Powering the F-43 is a Fortis Calibre UW-51 (Sellita 510 base) which is an automatic self-winding chronograph movement with a unidirectionally winding special rotor. It is  7.90mm high and has 27 rubies with a rapid date correction. It beats at 2,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) and offers a power reserve of around 48 hours. 

How does the F-43 wear and compare?  

As expected, the watch wears big, but it feels purposeful and works well as a pilot chronograph. In truth, it wears no bigger than an Omega Speedmaster or Breitling Navitimer but it does “feel” much more robust. The f-43 inspires confidence, and that is a fine accolade for any watch.  

At £3650 this is not a cheap watch but compared to the Omega and Breitling it is not as expensive. And when you consider what you get from Fortis, stunning design, build quality, and exciting space heritage it makes the F-43 a seriously viable choice of high-end chronograph.  

The chat we had with Jupp excited us all in WatchGecko.

His enthusiasm was infectious, and his passion for all things space-related resonated. Fortis has some fantastic plans for the future, which we cannot reveal here, but keep watching this brand for some of the most exciting watches destined to be released in 2023.  

Fortis B-43 Specs: 

  • Case diameter with bezel - 43 mm
  • Water resistance - 200 m / 600 ft / 20 atm
  • Body material - Recycled Stainless Steel
  • Bezel type - 12 hour manual GMT bezel (24 Clicks)
  • Glass - Sapphire Crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides
  • Case back - Recycled stainless steel with ultra engraving
  • Dial colour - Petrol
  • Hands - Hour (luminous), Minute (luminous), Second (fully luminous), Brixtrack®,
  • Superluminova® X1 with green afterglow, Synchroline®
  • Movement - UW-51 (Sellita 510) Automatic self-winding chronograph movement with unidirectionally winding special rotor, 48 hrs power reserve

Thank you to Jupp and Banu at Fortis for all their help with this feature. 

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Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

About the Author: Richard Brown

I truly believe one of the best partners in exploration and adventure is a fine watch. Over 30 years of collecting, my fascination with the technical capabilities of both vintage and modern timepieces has never abated and it is a privilege to be able to share this passion through writing.

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