As a pilot by profession, the Fortitude was the project I was most excited to work on. I could showcase my passion for aviation and put it together into a timepiece fit for a pilot; anyone looking to capture their love for the skies on their wrists.
This isn’t just any pilot watch. This is a titanium pilot watch designed and built by an actual pilot. I wanted every single element of this timepiece to reflect the time I spent in the air and make it into something practical. In this blog post, I hope to shed some light on how the Fortitude came to be, as well as some general design choices that we made.
TITANIUM CASE & BRACELET
As with all RZE watches, the Fortitude case and bracelet is entirely made out of titanium, making it incredibly lightweight. We like the weight of titanium because of its airiness and the comfort of wearing a watch and not having it remind you it’s there.
Statistically, titanium is about three to four times stronger than stainless steel which means its lifespan over generations is slightly longer, and it does so at half the weight. We’ve also coated every inch of the titanium with our signature anti-scratch technology, UltraHex which doubles its strength (~8x stronger than stainless steel with UltraHex).
Our philosophy has always been to design watches that can withstand hard knocks and take a serious beating, but also “melt” into the wrist for maximum comfort. The contours of the case follow the contours of the wrist maximizes mobility and comfort.
One of the standout features of the Fortitude is its anti-magnetic case. The choice of an anti-magnetic case harks back to the days when pilots and aviation personnel had to have anti-magnetic protection on their navigation watches as a result of the electromagnetic fields of various on-board instruments which negatively affected the devices when in the cockpit.
Today, we are surrounded by electromagnetic fields every day caused by our smartphones, computers and various devices that could affect the balance and hairspring of automatic watches, in turn messing with the beat accuracy of the watch. In most cases, once these magnetic fields are moved away, the watch might be able to run normally again. However, the problem arises when the watch is exposed for an extended period of time or even to a particularly strong magnetic field, the watch may stop working altogether.
The addition of the Faraday cage was a costly one but a necessary one especially for this model. We’ve always been about durability and precision, so the anti-magnetic case prevents the mechanisms within the watch from getting worn out and lengthening its lifespan which we felt was worth justifying the extra cost.
Even with the anti-magnetic soft iron cage (aka Faraday's cage) which is known to significantly increase the thickness of the watch case, we managed to preserve the thinness by just compromising on a mere extra 0.2mm to cater for the Faraday cage. At 12.7mm, it’s still thin enough to perfectly slide under the cuff.
The signature of a pilot watch is the oversized crown, a utility for pilots back in the day for easy adjustments on the watch while wearing gloves. We kept this signature look and added our own spin.
Inspired by the “Remove Before Flight” tags that need to be removed as part of the procedure for takeoff, HexCrown is the custom crown designed with a red line to ensure that the crown is fully screwed down for maximum water resistance. So with one look, you can easily tell exactly if your crown is fully screwed on.
HANDS AND DIAL
As a pilot, we need to be able to tell time quickly with one glance. So when designing this pilot watch, legibility was key. The large legible hands and boldly printed indexes filled with ultra-bright Super-LumiNova are designed for quick time reading.
RZE owners have always been wowed by our lume, so we decided why not kick it up a notch. We upgraded the lume to GRADE A BGW9 Super-luminova making visibility even more exceptional at night.
We didn’t leave out our signature sand-textured sandwich dial on the Fortitude. I always liked adding depth and character to the watch just by adding little details without being too loud. The sand-textured dial paired with the turbine bezel is an interesting touch.
One of the most interesting features of the Fortitude is its bezel. I wanted to design a bezel that reflected the turbines of the aircrafts that I operate on a daily basis.
This turbine bezel gives the Fortitude its signature look, and reminds me of flying when I look down at my wrist.
We launched our first model a year ago, and since then, we’ve managed to garner a fair amount of feedback, to which we’ve constantly used to improve on our future collections.
So we took one of our bestselling products, our UltraHex Titanium Bracelet and improved on it. We upgraded the buckle to a squeeze release flip lock closure for quicker wearing.
Our exclusive titanium bracelet is lighter than standard stainless steel bracelets due to its titanium build, keeping the whole watch ultra light and comfortable on the wrist.
It’s these little improvements that we’re committed to making for the betterment of our customer’s experience.
The finishing is one area we debated on for quite a while. RZE’s signature look has always been our bead blasted finish. So this time, we wanted to experiment with a different look. As a brand that talks about rediscovering that next zenith of exploration, we decided why not up the ante.
After multiple design iterations, we decided to take the leap of faith and opted for a satin finishing on the case. This custom design case finishing captures the maximum amount of light with the creative use of angles and brushed finishing while still maintaining the RZE signature utilitarian tool-watch look.
Paired with the turbine bezel, we felt this added a rugged flavor to the watch.
The Fortitude is a model that is near and dear to my heart as it was conceptualized from the place I have spent the most time in – the cockpit. So I hoped to be able to encapsulate all these aviation elements into a watch and combine my two loves of flying and horology.
While many may overlook these tiny details, it was a watch that carries a lot of meaning for me and the RZE team, so we designed it with every little detail to be perfect. The extra costs we put into the tiny details were a tough pill for us to swallow but in deliberation with the team, we knew we wanted the Fortitude to be something special; not just your run of the mill pilot watch. But more than that, we wanted whoever owns it to be proud to wear it.