Think of the new Fortis Novonaut series as the thematic successor to the famed Fortis Cosmonaut range of watches. For many years, Fortis was the “other space watch” being relied upon by astronauts in similar ways as Omega Speedmaster timepieces, with a clear emphasis on the Russian space program. According to Fortis, it produced the original B-42 Official Cosmonaut watch (in some form or another) for 30 years. The Novonaut is a more modern interpretation of the famed pilot-style sports product, which maintains its status as a hardy and instrument-focused mechanical tool watch. Today, I review the reference F2040012 Fortis Novonaut N-42 Cobalt Blue Edition. Currently, the Fortis Novonaut N-42 is available with this stunning blue dial, as well as a more traditional black dial.

Fortis built up to the Novonaut over the last few years by introducing various components that would make it to this collection including the case (more or less), bracelet, and movement. The most original new part of the Novonaut is really the dial. Fortis currently has three major pilot watch collections, including the slightly more retro-themed Fortis Fleiger, the slightly more futuristic-themed Fortis Stratoliner (aBlogtoWatch review here), and now Fortis Novonaut, which is a watch inspired by contemporary times.

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Fortis Novonaut N-42 Cobalt Blue Edition

It was in the Fortis Stratoliner that the new exclusive-to-Fortis caliber WERK 17 automatic movement family debuted. This replaces the legacy Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 movement that was used in most historic Cosmonaut watches. If you recall, Fortis sent a bunch of WERK 17 movements to the edge of space in a rocket, to test them. The movement is pretty slick even though it more or less operates like a 7750 in terms of the complications and dial layout. According to Fortis, the WERK 17 movement is “stratosphere-tested,” and this movement features a column-wheel-based 12-hour chronograph, day/date complication, and, of course, the time. The automatic WERK 17 caliber operates at 4Hz with 60 hours of power reserve. You can view the movement through the caseback window, which has a retro-style rocket printed on it for an amusing effect. I actually like the WERK 17 a lot. Not only does it have a very nice pusher action for the chronograph, but I also found it to be rather reliable during testing.

It might be interesting for you to compare the 2023 Fortis Novonaut with previous models. First, check out the comparatively primitive Fortis Classic Cosmonauts watch that I reviewed on aBlogtoWatch in 2018. In 2020, Fortis released what we now see as being a transitional model with the Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph. That 2020 Cosmonauts model featured the same beefy case as the Novonaut, but still featured a 7750 movement and didn’t have quite as nice a dial; it also costs about $2,000 less. Many believed that Fortis replaced the Cosmonaut’s watch with the Stratoliner, but that was not the case. Fortis wanted to have both an artsy sports watch and a more traditional instrument-style pilot’s watch chronograph for those who preferred the more serious tool side of the brand.

I will quickly address the downside of this otherwise great watch. For a lot of folks, the Novonaut N-42 is going to be too large and heavy. This is a very handsome, very solid tool watch. It does, however, come with a larger case and chunky bracelet. This is perfect for some tastes, but given what I know is trendy right now, and where a lot of size preferences are, Fortis will mostly focus on bigger-wristed folks and those who want a beefier watch experience. Fortis even hints that smaller sizes might be on the horizon. Why would there be a N-42 version of the Novonaut if there isn’t going to be possibly be a smaller “N-40” (for example) designator in the future?

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In all brushed steel, the Fortis Novonaut N-42 case is claimed at 42mm wide, but with the bezel, it is really 44mm wide (not including the crown and pushers). The case is also about 16mm thick and has a roughly 51mm lug-to-lug distance. The case is robust with 200 meters of water resistance and a very nicely AR-coated flat sapphire crystal over the dial. The bi-directional rotating bezel has a smooth and high-end action to it and uses a lovely blue ceramic insert with lume-painted markers on it. The overall case is nice looking but really built like a tank, for those who appreciate that type of wristwatch architecture.

The dial of the Fortis Novonaut is really a thing of beauty. I wouldn’t call it the world’s most perfect instrument dial, but it emphasizes a passion for analog time-measuring instruments in a highly uncommon way today. Fortis wanted to make sure readability was as ideal as possible. This meant a huge focus on the hands being not only the right length but also very close in proximity to the dial area where you are meant to read them. This works especially nicely with the stepped rehaut ring around the periphery of the dial. This makes reading the minutes and chronograph seconds hand very pleasant for the eyes. The slightly metallic blue dial is beautiful, but of course, there are some odd parts. The day and date windows have text that is smaller than normal, but that actually makes it look better. We also like the quirky half-hour markers on the dial, which are fun but might prove confusing at times. While not everyone will be a mega fan of the Novonaut dial, I think Fortis did a great job here, and the dial is really what draws me to this overall creation.

Fortis pairs the Novonaut N-42 on its “block bracelet,” but the watch is also available with a matching blue rubber strap. Oddly, you must choose either the strap or the bracelet, as the watch doesn’t come with both by default. I found that a bit odd, given this more elevated price point. Fortis wanted to go for a “hardware” look for the Nonovaut case and bracelet, which means (for better or worse) the use of a lot of screws. That means you need to use a screwdriver to change the straps, as well as adjust the bracelet. The lug bar and bracelet screws each appear to require a screwdriver at each end, which is a pain unless you have the right tools. Fortis appears to supply one screwdriver with two head sizes with the watch, but really they need to supply at least two of them to get the job done. Plus, a mount to hold the watch case or bracelet in place while sizing it or changing the strap would be nice.

On the plus side, the Fortis block bracelet has a micro-adjust system in the deployant clasp, and the clasp itself has a nice push-button closing and opening action to it. Little details such as this, including creative detailing and luminant on the dial, help offer a lot of personality and charm in this otherwise chunky high altitude-themed aviation chronograph watch.

While Fortis charges a lot more for the Novonaut N-42 than they did for the B-42 Cosmonaut’s watch, the movement, dial, and overall platform are at another level. Fortis needs only to maintain its tool watch credibility and keep making sure its timepieces are mission-ready and regularly on missions to maintain their interesting watchmaker status with the community. While it is large, and not entirely perfect, the Fortis Novonaut N-42 is a desirable timepiece that offers a handsome wearing experience and isn’t a direct emulation of anything else on the market. This might be some of the best of what Fortis is currently offering. Price for the reference F2040012 Fortis Novonaut N-42 Cobalt Blue Edition watch on the Block Bracelet is $5,250 USD. Learn more at the Fortis watches website.

Necessary Information:
>Brand: Fortis
>Model: Novonaut N-42 Cobalt Blue Edition
>Price: $4,850 – $5,250 USD.
>Size: 42mm-wide (44mm wide with bezel), ~16mm-thick, ~51mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a large tool watch when a legible dial and chronograph are useful.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of analog astronaut watches that doesn’t want an Omega.
>Best characteristic of watch: Really spirited dial is great to look at and handsome. Solid build quality. Nicely operating movement. Good luminant.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Large and heavy. Hard to adjust or remove the bracelet. Expensive.

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