Swiss Watches and Space Technology

Fortis Watch in Space


by Adrian Herscovici  

Swiss Contribution to Space Travel and
the Watches that Made the Journey

Fortis WatchesThe 1961 space voyage of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard the Vostok is well documented in the annals of space exploration. Gagarin was, after all, the first person to travel into outer space. Gagarin wore a Russian-made Sturmanskie Sputnik watch on his inaugural journey.

Around the same time, Fortis Swiss watches – already famous for the Harwood automatic – made its debut in the space community when astronauts in the U.S. space program chose the Fortis Spacematic to wear during training. The strong reputation of Fortis watches among pilots and astronauts only grew, until 1994, when the Russian Federal Space Agency chose Fortis as its exclusive supplier of watches for manned space missions. To this day, the Fortis Official Cosmonauts Chronograph remains standard issue for all Russian cosmonauts.

Fortis 623.10.51 Si.01 Spacematic Fortis 630.10.11 Men’s Official Cosmonaut
Fortis 623.10.51 Si.01 Spacematic Fortis 630.10.11 Men's Official Cosmonaut
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Fortis remains one of a choice handful of famous Swiss brands to appear on the wrists of astronauts in space over the decades, and one of two Swiss brands to dominate the landscape of space-worn watches ever since.

Watches In Space

Perhaps the most iconic space watch of all time is the Omega Speedmaster, which made its first trip to space in 1965 on the wrists of the crew of Gemini 4, and in 1969 gained the distinction of being the first watch worn on the moon, strapped over the suited wrist of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

While its reputation as the “moon watch” is cemented, the Speedmaster was not the first Swiss timepiece in space. That distinction goes to Heuer: American astronaut John Glenn strapped a large Heuer stopwatch (Reference 2915A) over his suit in 1962 aboard the Friendship 7. Later the same year, aboard the Aurora 7, American astronaut Scott Carpenter wore his Breitling Navitimer – the first Swiss wristwatch worn into space. In 1970, Jack Swigert wore a Rolex GMT-Master on the legendary Apollo 13 mission.

John Glenn Wears His Heuer Stopwatch Jack Swigert With His Rolex GMT
John Glenn With His Heuer Stopwatch Astronaut Jack Swigert Wears His Rolex GMT
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It is a little-known fact that another watch worn by an astronaut on the moon’s surface was a Bulova, strapped to the wrist of American David Scott in 1971 as part of the Apollo 15 mission. Scott switched to the Bulova after his standard issue Speedmaster experienced an operational problem.

In any case, most of these Swiss watches were mere one-offs in the chronicles of space history. Only Fortis and Omega maintained their positions as official suppliers to their respective space programs. Watchmakers, however, were not the only Swiss engineers of the day who were occupied with matters of space exploration.

Space Sciences and Technologies

Switzerland has a long, mostly unsung history in the world of space sciences and technologies. For reasons of their own, the Swiss made a conscious decision long ago not to start a space program of their own. Instead, they are among the world’s great collaborators in the field; Switzerland is a key member of the European Space Agency and contributes greatly to international space initiatives including those with NASA.

And given the Swiss’ aptitude for engineering (mechanical, electrical and chemical), which assists in their ability to remain at the vanguard of technological advancements in the watch industry, this should come as no surprise.

Highlights of Swiss contributions to the international space community include the ingenious solar sails (a form of spacecraft propulsion), which were developed for the Apollo missions (1969–72). Then there are the RUAG Launcher Fairings (in use since 1974); the Swiss instruments aboard Rosetta (in use since 2004); the Swiss atomic clocks for Galileo (in use since 2008) and the Swiss satellite CHEOPS (2014–2021). The high-tech motors that ran the Sojourner wheeled robotic rover on Mars (1997) were driven by motors produced by the Swiss.

Swiss CHEOPS Satellite Sojourner Rover
Swiss CHEOPS Satellite Sojourner Rover
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For all of this, the history of Swiss involvement in space sciences actually goes back even further than Apollo, and well before Gagarin exited the atmosphere in 1961.

There Might Be No Rockets If Not For… Balloons

Thirty years before Yuri Gagarin journeyed into space, a Swiss professor by the name of Auguste Piccard, together with Paul Kipfer, made a record-setting balloon ascent of 15.8 kilometres. Others had attempted such ascents, but Piccard was the first to do so using a pressurized capsule, which he designed, and which resembled Gagarin’s Vostok spacecraft.

What exactly has this to do with space travel? Well, at such an altitude, the physiological conditions for humans are similar to those in outer space (minus weightlessness), and the goal of Piccard’s ascent was to measure cosmic rays and stratospheric temperatures – both space-related undertakings. Such balloon missions are, in some ways, the predecessors of manned space flight. It is not known, however, if Piccard wore a watch on his balloon mission.

Swiss Made

To this day, space sciences generally do not leap to mind when people think about Swiss industry. Instead the Swiss are better known for financial services, pharmaceutical production and watchmaking, not to mention world-favorite edibles like cheese and chocolate.

For watch enthusiasts, subjects like tracking the history of watches in space, and monitoring which watches are chosen (and why) by current and future astronauts, remain the more compelling narratives.

Still, the contributions of the Swiss in the field of engineering for space exploration should not be under-represented, even if they remain a lesser-known specialty. In the name of subsistence of the human species, may the Swiss commitment to space exploration endure as long as the hundreds-of-years-old (and counting) mechanical watch technology that preceded it.

Gevril Group US, Canada and Caribbean Fortis Watches Agent

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the sole US, Canada and Caribbean agent for Fortis Watches and the official Fortis watch repair service center. Contact us by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Fortis Receives Congratulations From Space

Fortis Receives Congratulations From Space


by John Sealander  

You Know you’ve got a Winner When
Three Astronauts Congratulate you From Space

Fortis WatchesFortis has been involved with developing timepieces specifically designed to withstand the rigors of space travel for over forty years. In 1994, the Fortis Official Cosmonauts Chronograph Automatic became part of the regulation equipment handed over to cosmonauts before each launch. To this day, every cosmonaut and astronaut who goes through the training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia receives a Fortis watch as part of their official space equipment.

Unlike some “high performance watches,” a Fortis space watch is the real thing. Fortis watches have been into orbit many times and to this day are still the only official timepieces of the Russian Space Program. To celebrate the company’s long and illustrious involvement with manned spaceflight, astronauts Oleg Novitsky, Evgeny Tarelkin and Roman Romanenko recently sent their congratulations to the Fortis team for a job well done directly from the International Space Station.

This special message in honor of the Fortis 100 Year Centennial also included the presentation of a special flag of the Russian Federation, complete with the signature and stamp of the International Space Station. This special flag will occupy a place of honor at the Fortis Museum when the astronauts return to earth. The astronaut’s Fortis watches will occupy a place of honor as well: on their wrists!

Gevril Group US, Canada and Caribbean Fortis Watches Agent

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the sole US, Canada and Caribbean agent for Fortis Watches and the official Fortis watch repair service center. Contact us by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Free Fortis 100 Years Book

Fortis 100 Years Book Cover


by John Sealander  

Fortis Wrote the Book on Fine Timepieces, Now You Can Read It

Fortis WatchesAn Early Fortis AdIn many ways, the history of Fortis is the history of the watch industry itself. For almost 100 years the company has been surprising the world with a succession of technical achievements and marketing firsts. In celebration of their 100th Anniversary, Fortis is giving watch aficionados a unique opportunity to relive this history of innovation and excellence with a beautiful new book that chronicles the company’s history: Free Fortis 100 Years Book.

This spectacular oversize volume chronicles the brand’s rise from Walter Vogt’s early dreams of manufacturing top quality, innovative timepieces at an affordable price, to the worldwide leadership the company enjoys today. This unique limited edition coffee table book is filled with hundreds of never before seen photos and drawings from the Fortis Grenchen archives and will make a special gift for anyone who appreciates fine timepieces.

View Fortis 100 Years Book Online

Follow the company from its humble beginnings in 1912, to the revolutionary development of the world’s first automatic wristwatch in 1926, to the introduction of the first widely available waterproof watch in the early 1940’s. Then discover how this history of technical achievement continues even today, with the introduction of the world’s first automatic chronograph alarm in 1997 and Fortis watches on board the International Space Station. After 100 years of innovation and firsts, it’s no surprise that Fortis watches are a favored timepiece of astronauts and aviators around the world.

Fortis on a Russian AstronautFortis still has the distinction of being the first watch worn in open space after a Fortis watch was worn on an early Russian spacewalk. Fortis is the official watch of the Russian space program, and to this day all cosmonauts and astronauts leaving the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia receive a Fortis watch as part of their official space equipment.

When Walter Vogt was looking for a name for his young company in the early 1900’s, he chose the Latin word Fortis. Fortis means “strength” in Latin and Vogt knew his company needed to be strong to succeed in the competitive Swiss watch market. The Fortis 100 Years Book is a celebration of the company’s 100 year journey to become one of the world’s most respected brands. If you or someone you know appreciates fine timepieces, you’ll definitely want a copy of this fascinating story for yourself. To order your own copy of the Fortis 100 Years Book, contact Gevril Group or an authorized Fortis dealer and reserve your book today.

Gevril Group US, Canada and Caribbean Fortis Watches Agent

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the sole US, Canada and Caribbean agent for Fortis Watches and the authorized Fortis watch repair service center. Contact us by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Fortis Zero-G Space Art Contest

Fortis Zero-G Space Art Contest


by John Sealander  

After 100 Years of Going Where No Watch Has Gone Before,
Fortis Wanted to Give Their Fans the Same Opportunity

Fortis WatchesFortis has a reputation for going where no watch has gone before. Ever since some of the original Mercury astronauts chose to wear the Fortis Spacematic watch, the brand has been a favorite among aviators and astronauts. There are Fortis watches on board the International Space Station. Fortis has been the official timepiece of the Russian space program since 1997 and all cosmonauts and astronauts leaving the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia still receive a Fortis watch as part of their official space equipment. Fortis still has the distinction of being the first watch worn in open space, after a Fortis watch was worn outside the spacecraft on an early Russian spacewalk.

To celebrate these unique achievements, Fortis is having an equally unique contest during their 100th Anniversary year. From September 1st, 2012 through March 31, 2013, Fortis is inviting anyone who has ever thought about space and space travel to submit their ideas and artistic expressions to the world’s first Zero-G Space Art Contest.

The winner of this unique contest will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave planet earth and experience the incomparable feeling of weightlessness on board a special parabolic aircraft flight that simulates the sensations of orbital flight. The lucky winner will accompany scientists from the German Sport University of Cologne on board a specially equipped Zero-G aircraft as they explore the sensations of weightlessness. The winner of this unique contest will also be equipped with the same Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph worn by astronauts on the International Space Station.

Anyone over the age of 18 can enter the Fortis Zero-G Space Art Contest by submitting their original artwork or videos to the Fortis Space Art Gallery. Winners will be determined by a vote of the online community. Get your friends to vote for your entry, because the entry with the most votes wins. There is even a prize for voting, since everyone who votes in this unique contest will be entered in a special drawing to win a second Fortis B-42 Official Cosmonauts Chronograph. The more votes your entry receives, the closer you are to a weightless parabolic flight on board the Zero-G aircraft.

Enter Contest

Almost any original drawing, photo, painting or video related to your thoughts and feelings about space is eligible for this special celebration of 100 years of Fortis innovation. Get started now, and you may be in for the ride of your life.

Gevril Group US, Canada and Caribbean Fortis Watches Agent

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the sole US, Canada and Caribbean agent for Fortis Watches and the official Fortis watch repair service center. Contact us by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog.