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Fortis Watches - A Brief History

[American Waltham | Audemars Piguet | Blancpain | Breitling | Bulova | Cartier | Corum | Ellesse |Fortis]
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The swiss village of Grenchen was the home of FORTIS when the company was founded by Walter Vogt in 1912, and it still is today. Mr. Vogt was a great innovator and pioneer: his original philosophy still forms the basis of today's company's policy. " ..the manufacture of good quality Swiss watches, in innovative designs at affordable prices.."


The most decisive year in the history of FORTIS was in 1924, when Walter Vogt met John Harwood, the British inventor of the automatic wristwatch. Harwood had already been looking for two years to find an industrial partner to massproduce his invention in Switzerland. In the founder of FORTIS, he discovered an enlighted defender of "the automatic wristwatch" concept. Walter Vogt backed the project and provided considerable financial resources to putting this invention into production.


The world's first selfwinding wristwatch in series production the "Harwood Automatic" was presented at the Basle fair and attracted intense interest.


In the 1930's, FORTIS produced two more classic automatic watches which became famous products: First came the "Rolls", a wristwatch, which was to become legendary with a winding system developed by Leon Hatot of Paris. The watches name was derived from the motion of the movement inside the case to wind the movement.


FORTIS produced the Autorist, which used another automatic mechanism invented by John Harwood. The watch was powered by movements of the strap by means of its attachement to the watch.


On the occassion of the company's 25th anniversary FORTIS manufactured their first chronographs which are admired for their precision until today. "Wandfluh", the name of the Jura massive close to Grenchen as name of the FORTIS Chrono became known throughout the world.


The latin wordmeaning of FORTIS is "strong" and with the presentation of the first waterproof watches from Switzerland FORTIS again perfectly meets the market demands with their most successful model "Fortissimo".


Some decades later to its first appearance on the market the alarm wrist watch enjoys renewed popularity thanks to the efforts of FORTIS.


FORTIS takes up the manufacturing of the alarm watch, thus becoming closely associated with the world-wide distribution of the most serviceable timepiece ever marketed.


FORTIS wins the leading chronometer awards conferred by the Swiss Insitute for Official Watch Timekeeping Tests, awarded to their waterproof alarm watches of the "Manager"-series. Every single "FORTIS-Manager" alarm watch tested, obtained the supreme distinction "especially good results".


In Tokyo 600 watchmakers celebrated the so-called "FORTIS day" in Yamaha hall on the 26 th of November. The company invited the Japanese watchmakers to promote the new electrical regulation system "BEP" presented by FORTIS and as thus the good relationship with the members of the Japanese watchmakers society.


The name of FORTIS- synonymous worldwide for reliable automatic watches from Switzerland- continues with their jubilee watch on the occasion of the company's 50th anniversary "Stratoliner" and the "Spacematic", a 25 atmospheres tested absolutely wateresistant anchour watch, high precision automatic, with date indication and chosen by the members of the American astronauts team that year.


With the upcoming quartz watches from Japan FORTIS like all the other Swiss brands had to face a competition on the market, which a lot of them could not stand. The FORTIS answer on this challenge, based on the companies experiences in waterresistant diver watches was the development of the "Flipper" watch. For the American market: the "FORTIS-Cobra", a most striking design which was a real hit and enormous success in those swinging times.


FORTIS set the pace in watch fashion with the "Flipper quartz leader" model, a great success in more than 40 countries the following years. This watch range incorporated the original FORTIS Container System, allowing the movement and bracelet to be interchanged within seconds.


The "Flipper quartz leader" provides besides steel and 18 ct. gold bracelets a wide range of colourful straps and thus made this FORTIS design a hit in the early 80s, worn for example by The Rolling Stones, Roman Polanski, Leonard Bernstein, etc.. The "...aristocrat of the plastic watches"..V. Philibert, Europa Star.


On the occassion of the company's 75th anniversary FORTIS sets a trend by relaunching the automatic wristwatches which had been synonymous for the brand in the glory past. Besides the Original FORTIS Container System with the successful range of the "FORTIS Logo Swiss" collection and the Harwood being the world's first automatic wristwatch in series production, FORTIS relaunched the legendary pilot's watches with their clear functions and easy to read dials in the typical FORTIS design that year and marks the renaissance of mechanical watches, a trend which a lot of Swiss watch companies followed until today.


FORTIS steps into space on board of the first advertising and art painted space craft, a Russian proton rocket. One dial of a limited series of the FORTIS Stratoliner automatic chronograph participates in the first "space museum" in orbit.

Since then a close cooperation between FORTIS and several Russian space institutions lead to the development of the FORTIS OFFICIAL COSMONAUTS CHRONOGRAPH, which was tested on the border of modern physics and under spaceflight simulation and proved its reliability on the wrist of the russian cosmonauts even in open space.


After two years of testing and preparation the Yuri Gagarin Russian State Scientific-Research Test Center of Cosmonauts Training in Star City chose the FORTIS OFFICIAL COSMONAUTS CHRONOGRAPH to be part of their cosmonauts official equipment.

Developed in intensive cooperation with the experienced experts of the center the FORTIS automatic chronograph received its unique design which meats the cosmonauts needs in every detail of its function.


The space mission EUROMIR I crew was the first to which the FORTIS Official Cosmonauts Chronograph Sets were presented to in October. Since then the FORTIS Sets were presented to all Russian cosmonauts of the Gagarin Center and the FORTIS Chronographs proved their reliability on the wrists of astronauts and cosmonauts in their professional activity and during several extra vehicular activities in open space.


Deeply involved in the world of aviation the FORTIS Chronographs were the timekeeping instruments of the world height record on a MIG 25PU double seater -non experimental- aircraft with a civil passenger, honoured by the guiness book of records.


After a successful launch of the FORTIS Cosmonauts and Pilot's collection in Europe FORTIS started its market approach with a spectacular debut in Asia.


The FORTIS OFFICIAL COSMONAUTS CHRONOGRAPH was chosen to be the official watch of the Russian-German space mission MIR 97.

On the occassion of the company's 85th anniversary the world's first automatic chronograph with mechanical alarm was presented at the Basle fair. In close cooperation and as per the demands of the cosmonauts developed, FORTIS exposed this mechanical speciality in a limited anniversary edition of 100 pieces in platinum, to be followed by a steel version later.


The Hungarian Air Force uses the FORTIS Pilot Professional Chronograph Automatic to equip their pilots. The 47th tactical fighter regiment fly with FORTIS.

The Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Dezhurov is a nominated crew member to fly to the international space station ISS, which is going to be launched this summer. He joins the presentation of the FORTIS OFFICIAL COSMONAUTS CHRONOGRAPH AUTOMATIC ALARM in Portugal and Spain. In the Planetarium of Lisboa he answered all questions of the press concerning the manned space program and his experience with the FORTIS Automatic chronograph during his work outside the MIR station in open space.

The premiere of the FORTIS world novelty in Spain took place in Barcelona on the occasion of the 10 th anniversary celebrations of "THE WATCH GALERY".

The ISS cosmonaut raises great interest and answers the questions of the audience concerning the FORTIS chronograph which he tested as part of his official equipment supplied by the Yuri A. Gagarin Cosmonauts training centre.

The FORTIS ART EDITION is presented on the occasion of the Basle fair.

The international awarded painter and sculptor Gerd Winner has created an individually numbered and a limited wristwatch collection, the WINNER EDITION.

Please remember that this is not an official guide as to the history of this company and thus may not be 100% accurate by all accounts, if you do see any errors then please do not hesitiate to email the webmaster.

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