The Fortis watch company was started in 1912 by Walter Vogt in the small Swiss village of Grenchen. Actually when he first started the company it was simply named after the creator, but later in 1924 Vogt renamed the company, believing that this gave them a greater presence and ability to brand the name.
Vogt's basic business ideology was to create watches that were affordable, yet included design and innovation that were not normally present in watches of the time.
In 1924 Fortis teamed up with another big name in watch making at the time, John Harwood. Harwood had an idea for a self-winding watch mechanism that Vogt liked, so he entered into a partnership with Harwood to produce a fully automatic wrist watch. Although Fortis did produce an automatic watch, named the "Harwood", the company did not find the sort of success they were hoping for and eventually the partnership was abandoned.
After the disappointment of this venture, the company returned to the drawing board and decided that high standard, well priced chronographs were the way forward. They did continue to use mechanisms invented by Harwood and one of the first designs was the Autowrist. Two more watches that were to become very well known amongst wrist watch buyers were the "Wandfluh" and the "Fortissimo". The first was a classic automatic chronograph and the second a waterproof watch of outstanding quality.
In the mid 1950s, Fortis again hit the headlines by gaining the highest certification from the Swiss for the accuracy of their chronometer watches. The advent of the quartz watch revolution proved to be just one further hurdle for them to overcome. They did so in style, producing the "Flipper" range of wrist watches. It was called "Flipper" because the movement and strap could be 'flipped' on and off easily and quickly.
The range of watches from the company has continued unabated, with more automatics and chronographs being produced based around certain themes, like their range of Pilots' watches and space exploration designs. As the chosen watch for the Russian Cosmonauts, their watches have to meet stringent design criteria and so far they have passed all the tests the space agency can throw at them.
For the collector, their early alarm watches are worth collecting as are most of the chronograph models. They do occasionally turn up on eBay and are fairly well priced considering the quality. Fortis do continue to make some great watches so even a modern one would be a great addition to a fine watch collection.
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