The OMEGA Speedmaster Professional gets a lot of attention for being the first watch on the moon (“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for OMEGA marketing”). Patriotic Russians can console themselves with the fact that a Russian-made Pobeda – strapped to a dog named Chernushka – was the first watch in space. And the Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph was first chronograph in open space. How great is that? Great enough to wear on planet Earth? . . .
That depends on whether you prefer an AR-15 or a Kalashnikov. The former is a precision American rifle that requires proper care and feeding. The latter is a Russian ballistic hammer, known around the world for withstanding ridiculous abuse and neglect. OMEGA precision or Fortis robustness? Let’s go to the tape . . .
OMEGA recommends checking their Speedy’s water resistance once a year and a complete service every five to eight years. Fortis recommends a three to four year service interval. But the manufacturer is Swiss and lawyers are a thing, so they would say that. More to the point, a Russian cosmonaut used a Fortis to hammer in a loose rivet in open space.
The Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph (B-42) certainly looks like it could take – or give – a beating. The Speedmaster Pro clocks in at 42mm, its thin rotating bezel disguising its size. The FCC is all of 44mm with an unabashedly big ass bezel. It’s also 15.24mm tall, weighs a shade under half a pound (7.2 ounces) and stretches 54mm lug-to-lug.
Did I say lugs? There’s no discernible difference between the Fortis’ lugs and its flat polished steel case – a monolithic structure that makes Khrushchyovka (’60’s Russian apartment block architecture) look positively whimsical. The Cosmonaut’s wide, three-link bracelet does nothing to diminish the impression and much to enhance it. As do the pushers – rock solid stubby affairs that click loudly enough be heard across a room.
The Cosmonauts Chronograph is such a large solid piece you can literally stand it up and use it as a desk clock.
The Cosmonauts Chronograph’s blue-that-usually-appears-black dial doesn’t reflect this brutalism. When the massive lumed hands are out of the way, it’s a highly legible stopwatch sheltering under a flat sapphire crystal with double-sided anti-reflective coating. To increase at-a-glance-ability, Fortis equipped the chrono minutes (at the 12) and hour counters (at the six) with a Berlac fluor (orange) hand.
The unmistakably large, fluorescent chrono second hand – complete with a central lumed dot – is the FCC’s party piece. If the Russians ever need to time a 14 second rocket reentry burn, I reckon the Fortis Cosmonauts’ Chronograph would be Speedy superior.
The FCC’s day date window is where things get complicated. You’ve got your crowned Fortis logo above, the all-cap words chronograph automatic below. The window’s flanked by up and down triangles.
The up/down triangulation was a brave design choice; if you’re doing a quick day/date scan it’s an ideal addenda. If you’re looking for symmetry, not so much.
In terms of needless affectation, I consider a tachymeter one step above a tourbillon. The last time I timed a mile was in a 1928 Duesenberg Model J. I get its inclusion on the Moonwatch, a watch born from motor racing. But how do you time a measured mile traveling 16,500 m.p.h.? I’m mystified by Fortis’ decision to hide a tachymeter on a steeply sloped chapter ring – unless they share my antipathy to the genre.
Cosmonauts train for zero G space underwater. So the Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph’s 200m water resistance makes more sense – and increases its appeal for earthbound swimmers (especially divers who prefer a wrist to an ankle weight). Surprisingly, delightfully, the crown isn’t screw down – accounting for the chronograph pushers’ super-stiff action.
I’m also down with the day date setting: a single detent and then it’s clockwise for the date, counter-clockwise for the day. The 120-click unidirectional aluminum bezel is no less practical, ratcheting with absolute precision. Appropriately enough, it’s a countdown timer. Your boiled eggs will be ready in three, two, one . . .
The Cosmonaut Chronograph’s hands are motivated by ye olde ETA Valjoux 7750 – the legendary engine that barely survived the quartz crisis. VJ’s generally considered the world’s greatest mass production mechanical chronograph movement. Like IWC, Fortis use it as a base for their more complicated timepieces (e.g., the Cosmonaut Chronograph alarm and GMT). In this application, the Valjoux 7750 is prized for its robust reliability.
Strapped to the Timegraph, the Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph was clocking-in at around +8/+9 seconds per day. As stated above, this is not a watch you buy for accuracy. It’s a serious tool watch. A horological companion you can wear anytime, anywhere without worrying about dinging or damaging it – even if you do. Would you feel the same way about an OMEGA Speedmaster Professional? I think not.
The Fortis Cosmonaut Chronograph’s screw down caseback trumpets the watch’s association with ROSCOSMOS and the Yuri Gugarin Cosmonaut Training Center. While wikipedia.org reports that Russia’s state-owned space agency is plagued by “irrational spending” and “outright theft and corruption,” Fortis is still making their watches to the same standard that enabled more than 150k failure-free hours in space.
The Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph doesn’t have the OMEGA Speedmaster’s accuracy and flex appeal, but it has brick shit house space cred for a couple of grand less. Whose admiration is more important, yours or onlookers? And let’s face it: you never know when it’s going to be hammer time.
Model: Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph
Price: $2,470 (via watchbuys.com)
Case diameter (with bezel): 44mm
Case thickness: 15.4mm
Case lug width: 20mm
Lug to lug: 53mm
Body material: Brushed stainless steel
Bezel: Unidirectional rotating countdown bezel
Bezel material: Stainless steel with inlaid aluminium ring
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating AR 027 on both sides
Case back: Stainless steel with ROSCOSMOS embossing
Functions: 12h-Counter, 30 Minutes Counter, Hour (luminous), Minute (luminous), permanent small second, Second (luminous dot)
Other features: Stop second hand and counter pointer in Berlac fluor orange
Water resistance: 200 m / 600 ft / 20 atm
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Design * * * * *
Form follows function; a solid beast in every direction and aspect. The dial’s busier than a moth in a mitten, but what three-register chronograph isn’t?
Legibility * * * * *
Depends on the position of main hands (as always), but it’s a sensibly arranged chronograph blessed with a hugely legible fluorescent orange chrono second hand.
Comfort * * * *
Heavy AF but silky steel bracelet and shape (it sits on the wrist) keep things comfortably anchored.
Overall * * * * *
A never-say-die Swiss made tool watch with [little known] space cred. An indefatigable value-based Speedmaster alternative.
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watchbuys.com loaned us this watch for review,
no further consideration provided.