Fit for a Top Gun
The RZE Fortitude is straight out of the brain of an actual pilot. Travis at RZE is an experienced airline pilot that’s constantly jetting around the world and who better to design the ultimate pilot’s watch then? I suspect that even Maverick himself would approve of the Fortitude.
There is another small boutique brand called Sinn, you may have heard about them…They take great pride in extreme over-engineering and as we will explore in today’s article, this is something that Travis is highly inspired by.
What is the point of overengineering one might ask?
Well, particularly in the airline industry, absolutely everything has recommended tolerances, but will withstand far higher stress factors. It goes without saying (almost) that this is what you definitely want when failures are likely to result in certain death.
Whilst a failure on your wrist watch would have little to no effect other than an inconvenient warranty claim, it’s certainly convenient to know that a great deal of care and attention to detail has gone in to the construction of you watch. So let’s check out this piece that will outlast you.
My impressions after some time with the watch
First a note on packaging. You get a really cool zip up pouch with included microfiber cloth, a screw driver to adjust your bracelet and also a ‘remove before flying’ key ring tag that is a lovely personal touch.
Within the pouch is a QR code to register your warranty, no hand written cards here and I like this, it’s 21st century thinking to an old school issue, how to offer warranty reliably for both parties.
Finally, worth pointing out that using material and approaches that will have you potentially use it to store or travel with your watch sure is better than the standard cardboard box approach.
Titanium has become the signature material of RZE, I’m a big fan. The slightly darker than steel look is attractive but there is one major downside to titanium, scratches. Fear not however, this has been both considered and accounted for with the special UltraHex coating that RZE use here. This takes the entire watch including its bracelet up to 1200Hv hardness. Personally, I’d still not wear it whilst working on engines (which I will pretend for the sake of this review that I do) since that would be pushing fate, but it’s certainly nice to know that every day wear is unlikely to slowly destroy your shiny new device.
The next evidence of overengineering is the Anti-magnetic case. This is again pure Sinn with not only highlighting that this is an issue you need to be aware of with all watches, but hey…there is already a solution in place. The Fortitude is protected up to 20,000A/m which is approximately 4 times the minimum requirements for ISO 762 standard. The reality is that even small magnetic fields of for instance portable speakers could magnetise an automatic movement. Whilst this is not difficult to rectify, it sure would be annoying.
Exhibit number 3 in the overengineering is the custom crown. You may have come across this before on the Tudor Black Bay. It’s a simple but effective system. If you haven’t screwed the crown all the way in, there is clear red line that indicates this. Whilst this is clearly not a dive watch, you’d want to be sure that you haven’t half screwed the crown in after perhaps adjusting the date during your recent date line crossing, when you’re about to hop in the hotel pool. Peace of mind, included free of charge.
Special mention to the large and comfortable crown. It’s signed, easy to manipulate by even my large sausage fingers and the size alone makes this 41mm diameter watch shrink a little as if by magic.
So what about the visuals? The bezel design is inspired by Jet turbines which to my eyes is very attractive. It’s reminiscent of Oris Pro Pilot and this is high praise since I love my Oris Pro Pilot big crown quite a lot. On that note, I’d argue that the Fortitude is quite similar to the recent Oris titanium releases and that’s what drew me to this model in the first place. But guess what, the Fortitude came first and I feel that Oris designers may have seen this model from RZE during their design decisions…
The dial is an interesting sand texture with 24 hour markings next to its indices. This, in combination with its cross hair again makes it clear that this is a modern pilot’s watch. There is a small date included here and I would like to emphasise small. It’s very small, point made? Ok. The sandwich dial means that it’s typically easier to be rather generous with applying lume, and whilst the lume is pretty good, the BGW9 Super-luminova could have had a few more layers in my opinion. It’s by no means bad but it’s far from class leading.
The hands are large and bold but could again have done with slightly more lume applied in my opinion, but legibility is top notch here. Against the dark grey background, you’ll never have an issue trying to make out the time. This is a design that prioritises you knowing what time it is rather than getting lost in fancy polished hands or numbers font designs.
Moving on to the bracelet, the squeeze release flip lock closure is lighter than standard flip locks due to its titanium build, and is an upgrade developed from customer feedback to improve the bracelets. It’s certainly easy to operate and having no less than 6 micro adjust positions ensures you’ll get that perfect fit. The fold over buckle is signed with the RZE logo and the combination of push-release and secure fold over ensures that you’ll never have this one open by itself and fly up or down your wrist.
In addition to those features, the screw in links are super easy to adjust yourself, particularly since the high quality screw driver required, is already included in your package. Nice touch. To me, it’s an attractive design with its almost ‘V’ for victory pattern all around your wrist and the satin like finish is both attractive and nice to touch.
Titanium is much faster to adjust to your skin temperature than steel so this in combination with its tapering design ensures that this is one bracelet that you’re likely to leave on for good.
Movement: NH35A Automatic Movement
Strap & Bracelet
Strap: Titanium bracelet with stainless steel buckle with UltraHex Coating
Case: Solid Grade 2 Titanium with UltraHex™ Coating (up to ~1200Hv hardness)
**Anti-magnetic case with protection up to 20,000A/m compared to 4,800A/m anti magnetism in ISO 762 standard
Case Size: 41mm
Case Thickness: 12.45mm
Lug size: 20mm
Lug to lug: 48mm
Water Resistance: 100m (330ft) / 10ATM
Crown: Screw-down crown with custom reverse engraved logo
Dial: Sand textured sandwich dials with applied indexes filled with Grade A BGW9 Swiss Super-luminova
Hands: Custom-made hands with Grade A BGW9 Swiss Super-luminova
Crystal: Sapphire Crystal with inner-side Super-AR
Case Back: Screw-down solid titanium caseback with VITON® gasket
I like this model very much. It’s sad in a way that it’s looking like it may not be renewed after selling out the last few models. I’m guessing it’s been an expensive model to produce and perhaps it’s not been as popular as the diver options from RZE, and I guess from 100 other microbrands. Divers is seemingly still where it’s at for microbrands.
I want to point out again that the similarities to Oris recent titanium release, the ProPilot X, is more than fleeting, to me anway. There is one massive difference though, an added 0 at the end to the purchasing price. And, no lume at all by the way. If you really like those new releases, then you can at least consider the Fortitude to test drive if spending a large amount of money on a ProPilot X is for you.
On its own merits, the RZE is a well designed, well engineered and solid offering from one of the fastest growing microbrands in the world. The fact that the guy behind it is absolutely lovely makes it all that easier to support him and his family.
Did you enjoy this review? Coffee fuels my night time ponderings.