While the brand has a long and varied history with pilot watches, the Fortis Flieger series has been one of the most enduring parts of the brand’s lineup since its introduction in 1987. While following the general outline of the classic WWII German pilot’s watches that still form a foundation for flight watch design today, the Fortis Flieger has always taken a sleeker, more angular departure from its contemporaries. As Fortis plans to dramatically renew this cornerstone Flieger series over the course of the next several months, the line’s altered pilot aesthetic is changing as well, becoming more futuristic while losing none of its rugged purposefulness. The first insight into this new style is the Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax, a clean and durable new two register chronograph with a handful of distinctive visual cues.
The 43mm stainless steel case of the Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax follows the classic sports watch profile with wide set tapering lugs, but the execution of this simple form is almost harsh in its utilitarianism. The case sides are completely flat with a coarse, even brushing, while the transition between the case sides and the top of the lugs is an abrupt 90 degree angle that feels almost razor sharp. The ends of the lugs are squared off with a similar abrupt 90 degree cut. Both the oversized screwdown crown and the wide inverted pushers with their knurled tops are optimized for easy grip and function, adding a pleasingly purposeful look to the otherwise drab case side. At first glance, the tall coin edged rotating bezel looks to continue this trend but reveals one of the watch’s best visual flourishes on closer inspection. The stainless steel 12 hour insert is sharply angled inward towards the dial at a nearly 45 degree angle, creating a dramatic bowl-like effect that both creates dynamic reflections in changing light, and adds miles of visual depth to a dial with an already surprising amount of verticality. The etched caseback adds a stylized propeller motif, while also ensuring an impressive 200 meters of water resistance.
Like past Fortis Flieger models, the dial of the F-43 Bicompax alters the traditional flight watch formula while creating something every bit as functional. Previous iterations of the Flieger have maintained the classic Arabic numerals, while this new generation skips them entirely in favor of simple indices made of Fortis’ Brixtrack solid lume blocks. This hours and minutes track is given even more visual depth as it sits on a slightly elevated ring around the central dial, giving a touch of personality to this function-first design. The handset is a slimmed down take on Roman sword hands, rather than the more common diamond shaped flieger style, and adds a vibrant punch of fluorescent orange on the central chronograph seconds hand. Fortis outlines the major chronograph functions in this bright orange as a highlight, surrounding both the 3 o’clock 30 minute subdial and a ten second sweep from 11 to 1 o’clock on the main dial. Fortis refers to this ten second line as the “Synchroline,” a quick visual reference to ensure all pilots in a group have their chronographs properly synchronized. While it might not be the most practical of additions in daily use, it adds an extra pop of contrast to the dial and injects the overall design with some needed character. The 6 o’clock date window is also outlined in this orange, which does break this strict use of color for chronograph functions slightly. It’s a minor concern, but this utilitarian design would feel a touch more focused with a white or lumed outline around the date window instead.
Fortis powers the Flieger F-43 Bicompax with the ETA/Valjoux based UW-51 automatic chronograph movement. In addition to the classic two register layout and a quickset date, the UW-51 offers solid performance figures including a 48 hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. There are a pair of available strap options for the Flieger F-43 Bicompax. The first of these is a three link oyster style bracelet with narrow central links, featuring solid link construction, a clean all over brushed finish, and a sliding adjustable clasp. For those that prefer leather, Fortis also offers a distressed black calf leather strap with prominent black stitching. The texture is just enough to give a handsome worn in feel, without detracting from the clean, purposeful overall aesthetic.
With the Flieger F-43 Bicompax, Fortis has taken a dramatic first step towards redefining one of its most enduring collections. The Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax is expected to be available for sale through authorized dealers on October 13, 2020. Starting MSRP for this model is 3,150 CHF. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.