To many, a watch is more than just something that tells you the time or the date. In many career fields having a watch on your wrist is almost a requirement more than it is a fashion accessory for men. Pilots, Doctors, Nurses, and a host of other professions rely on accurate timekeeping on a daily basis. Many times those watches receive a great deal of abuse in the form of knocks, bangs, scrapes, and in some instances, they are exposed to great torque and extreme temperatures. There is one profession where all of the hazards and conditions I listed above could be encountered by a single timepiece, and that profession is that of a Cosmonaut or Astronaut as our own National Aeronautics and Space Administration refers to the personnel lucky enough to be selected for manned space flight.

When you stop to think about the hazards, testing requirements and extreme climates that anyone involved with manned spaceflight has to endure it’s staggering.  Any failure of equipment in an environment like space or in the international space station could have grave consequences. Every piece of equipment that is loaded into a rocket or shuttle to space is examined, prodded, beaten and tested to its limits, including a wristwatch. It’s a high standard to pass, so when I had a chance to pick up a Fortis B42 Cosmonaut Watch, the official watch of the Russian Space Federation ROSCOSMOS, I jumped at the chance.

WHY?

Am I a Cosmonaut ?, Nope, Am I ever going to experience the temperatures or conditions of outer space? Most likely not. I do however live in Alaska so I can promise being exposed to stupidly cold temperatures at times, that’s as close as I can get. If I am lucky I will won’t experience anything near the G-Forces that military pilots will experience either. So why would I want a timepiece that was designed to handle those conditions if I never expect to be in those conditions? We will get to that in a little bit, but first, let’s look at some of the specifics of this watch and the history of the Fortis Brand. We will also take a quick look at how this line of watches became the official timepiece of people lucky enough to earn the title Cosmonaut.

The Brand

Fortis was like many other fine watch manufacturers founded in Switzerland where it still resides today as one of the last privately owned watch companies. The company was founded in 1912 by Walter Vogt in the Swiss village of Grenchen and has over the last 100 plus years been an innovator in technology and style. In 1926 it was Fortis who released the Harwood Automatic, the first self-winding wristwatch to be made commercially available. In terms of horology, the release of that design turned the watch world on its ear. In 1943 Fortis again set the standard in technology when they released the Fortissimo, the worlds first line of waterproof watches.

After years of testing and design work with NASA and other agencies, Fortis was ready to step to the big stage and beat out several larger manufactures in a competition for the next generation of timepieces to be used in not only manned space flight but in orbit on the International Space Station. When the trials had ended Fortis, beat out the big names of the industry like Rolex and Omega and was deemed worthy to wear the title “Official Cosmonaut Watch”.

Emblem of Russian Space Federation ROSCOSMOS shown on watch back

Specifications:

Manufacturer: Fortis

Country of Manufacture: Switzerland

Movement Type: Swiss ETA 2836-2 Automatic

Case Diameter: 42mm

Water Resistance: 20 BAR (669 Feet)

Lug Width: 20 mm

Case Thickness: 15.5 mm

Strap Types: 

  • Stainless Steel
  • Leather
  • Rubber

MSRP: $840 – $980 depending on band choice at www.watchbuys.com

Weight: 6.7 Oz with Stainless Steel band

Pros:

  • Stainless Steel Case
  • Automatic movement means no batteries
  • Can withstand the most severe elements
  • Classic look with
  • Affordable compared to its competition

Cons:

  • Price for some people
  • Lack of chronograph function
  • Large, thick heavy stainless steel case
  • Metal bracelet can be problematic to size and small easy to loose screws
Fortis logo seen on the stem. Lots of small details in this watch for sure

30 Days of Wearing, Thoughts and Impressions

I have been wearing this watch for just over 30 days on my wrist and I can tell you there are somethings I have come to like, and some I have come to dislike. The overall watch is a beast, it presents a large clear no-nonsense face to the wearer. This is nice but at the same time just sort of bland at times to be honest. I understand the target audience on this watch is not a guy who works in a government office so I take that into account. At almost 7 ounces of weight, the stainless steel case at times is nice and other times feels like you are wearing a wrist weight all day.

The 42mm case easily protects the Swiss-built ETA 2836-2 movement that is also found in many other watches made not only by Fortis but other makers such as Hamilton, Rado, Sinn, Ball & Tissot. The stainless steel comes it handy because you will most likely knock this watch into things on a daily basis. The case also features uses Fortis specific strap bars that are 20mm wide instead of the more universal and generic spring bars common on most wristwatches today.

The watch I have been wearing has the stainless steel bracelet style strap on it which adds to the overall weight. One thing to note on this is the, however, Fortis designed the bracelet they did it in a way that it doesn’t pull out wrist hairs. This is something to mention because to date I have only owned one watch that had a metal strap that didn’t constantly pull out my wrist hairs, and that was the Doxa Sub 1200, which costs nearly twice what the Fortis B-42 does.

Shortcomings 

Any watch that gets close to the $1000 price range I tend to be more critical of the fit, finish, and presentation of the product. The Fortis B-42 left me with a sense that the company could have done better in some areas. The first area I think needs to be addressed is the previously mentioned stainless steel bracelet. While the strap is great at not pulling out hairs, the screws that hold the link together are prone to breakage and easily getting lost. It’s a shame Fortis doesn’t offer this watch with more strap options. I like the strap now that it’s sized but I will not be happy if I ever have to adjust it again.

The numbers and markings on the dial show up wonderfully clear in the daytime but at night the markings are hard to see even considering that Fortis touts its “Superluminova” technology. I noticed after a few days I could pick the markings up in a dark car but it’s still a chore to see them clearly and that is unfortunate. I have other analog watches that are at a much lower price point where the hands and numbers are easier to see in low light. Again Fortis missed the mark here.

Closing Thoughts 

The Fortis B-42 Cosmonaut Watch is a large, well built and accurate timepiece that will take a beating for years and is able to withstand more abuse than it’s wearer. The company continues a tradition of handmade Swiss watches that goes back over a hundred years in the Grenchen region of Switzerland. That being said the Fortis B-42 is not a watch for everyone, and honestly, I was a bit let down by it after 30 days. I plan to keep the watch and put it into my watch rotation and use it when the mood hits, but to me this is not an everyday watch. The size and lack of features aren’t a problem for me personally, what bothers me is the thickness and weight of the case. When you add that to the sub-par lume on the dial it just sours the overall feeling of the watch.

The company also has in recent months suffered a financial setback and has asked the Swiss Government for bankruptcy protection for a specified time period. This is interesting because it’s an independent company and would most likely be primed for a buy out by the SWATCH group or another Swiss watchmaker. In a nutshell, the slight slip in attention to detail and quality control (the poor illuminating quality of the dial) coupled with the shaky financial status of the company, unfortunately, makes me not recommend this Fortis B-42 or any Fortis currently to our readers.

We sometimes get accused of being paid shills for the manufacturers of the gear we review, this has not and will not be the case here at Hurricane Group. This test watch was not provided by Fortis or one of their authorized retail outlets, it was purchased with my own money from an Authorized Distributor. One who I would like to add sent me replacement screws for the stainless steel bracelet when a set snapped off. That was a nice touch of customer service and the substandard review of this watch in no way reflects on the treatment I received from the Authorized Distributor.

We hope you enjoyed this honest look at the Fortis B-42 watch if you have a watch that has served you well over the years we would love to hear about it. Horology and higher end watches aren’t for everyone, just like a custom 1911 isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who enjoy, collect and choose to wear higher-end timepieces, I think it’s safe to say we enjoy hearing about other peoples watches and why we tend to gravitate towards one brand or another.