HANDS-ON: The Fortis Marinemaster M-44 has no business being this underrated HANDS-ON: The Fortis Marinemaster M-44 has no business being this underrated

HANDS-ON: The Fortis Marinemaster M-44 has no business being this underrated

Borna Bošnjak

Big, bold and built like a tank. That’s the condensed version of the new Fortis Marinemaster M-44, which is a take on the best adventure watch possible by the brand from Grenchen. Normally lauded for their flights to the stratosphere and beyond, the Marinemaster is an under-the-radar choice from an already under-the-radar brand. From the ridiculously good build quality alluded to previously to a chronometre-rated movement made by a brand with accolades such as producing the first automatic watch, the Marinemaster is deserving of a lot more attention.

Highly detailed and well-executed dial

The primary purpose of a dive watch (other than water resistance) is its legibility. Fortis does a phenomenal job here, using orange and white against a black backdrop for maximum contrast. This by no means renders the dial simple and utilitarian, with Fortis employing a stamped rectangular pattern on the black dial, giving it great depth and texture. The elongated rectangular indices are pumped full of X1 Superluminova, as are the fence-post hands and lollipop seconds hand. Picking out the minute markings of the orange rehaut and matching it in colour, the minute hand really stands out, and will surely be extra legible because of its bright colouration.

The printing is kept to a minimum, with the FORTIS and MARINEMASTER text more prominent than the chronometre indication and impressive depth rating. Perfectly alligned with the repeating rectangular relief of the dial is the colour-matched date, which pleased me greatly. A further note on the date wheel – some press shots show it in white, with black text, but the unit we received has a black one with white text. It also hides a little Easter egg, with the 13th day of each month in red.

With great size comes great wearability

Wearability, you say? Even with your puny 6.1-inch/15.5 centimetre wrist? – I hear you ask. Believe you me, seeing the 44mm diameter of the Marinemaster’s recycled stainless steel case gave me little hope, thinking I’d have to corral it into the ever-growing too-big-for-me pen. Fortis, once again, pleasantly surprised me. With the shrouded lugs 48mm apart, it wears unreasonably well for its dimensions. With the grippy, steel bezel protruding slightly from the diameter, it reduced the visual bulk of the case even further.

Having said that, this is still a 44mm watch, and no lug trickery will make it wear like a slim dress watch, which is further accentuated by its 14.4mm thickness. The main caseband is slim, and so is the bezel and flat sapphire crystal, but the bulbous caseback accounts for over a third of the overall thickness. Weighing in at almost 140 grams on the rubber strap, its prone to a little top heaviness.

There was no compromise in the construction of the Marinemaster, however, which, if I were to hazard a guess, accounts for the impressive heft. Not only is the vertical brushing done to a tee, but the chamfer sitting atop the lug features a brushing that manages to appear as a polished highlight in person. The radial brushing of the bi-directional locking steel bezel is interrupted by inky black markers and includes a grippy material surrounding its perimeter. The flathead screws holding the 21mm strap (my only gripe, make it 22!) feature a sunray finish and chamfered polished edges, matching the 10 o’clock bezel-locking crown. With an impressive 500-metre water resistance rating, the Marinemaster is one serious piece of kit.

In-house werkhorse

Built to the same robust specification as the rest of the watch, the Fortis Werk 11 movement is COSC-certified, giving 70 hours of power reserve. Looking at its architecture, including the dual-sided traversing bridge, you’ll notice similarities between it and Tudor’s MT5XXX-series calibres, Breitling B20, Chanel Cal 12.1 and Norqain NN20/1. All of these movements were produced by Kenissi, winners of several Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, such ventures allowing the manufacturers to use fantastic movements at attractive price points. To some, it may bring the definition of in-house under scrutiny, but if the movements are executed well and perform well, which in my experience, they do, I couldn’t care less. Our piece ran perfectly, coming in at 0 seconds per day in four positions. The crown had no noticeable play when operating the hands, with a buttery-smooth screw-in thread.

The verdict

This is a fantastic watch, not only for its build quality, but the specifications and wearability as well. While looks are always subjective, I find it handsome and legible, which fits right into its ethos. The Marinemaster truly has no right being this well put together at this price point, and to paint a picture, I take a stab at my beloved Black Bay 58. As much as I love it, it can’t hold a candle to the superior build quality of the Fortis. Pair that with that excellent, well-performing movement, the Marinemaster M-44 is a tough one to beat.

Fortis Marinemaster M-44 Chronometre pricing and availability:

The Fortis Marinemaster M-44 Chronometre is available from the Time+Tide shop. Price: $4,150 USD

Brand Fortis
Model Marinemaster M-44 Amber Orange
Case Dimensions 44mm x 48mm x 14.4mm, 21mm lug width
Case Material Recycled stainless steel, steel locking bezel
Water Resistance 500 metres
Dial Black, with rectangular pattern
Crystal Flat sapphire crystal with dual-sided AR coating
Strap Rubber horizon amber orange strap
Movement Fortis WERK 11 in collaboration with Kenissi, COSC, 70-hour power reserve
Price $4,150 USD