The Fortis Flieger F-39 is a capable alt-take on a pilot’s watch

The Fortis Flieger F-39 is a capable alt-take on a pilot’s watch

Borna Bošnjak

Fortis has taken inspiration from the heavens for years, whether that be via space flights, or through creating impressive pilot’s watches. Starting in the late 80s, the first Fortis Flieger had a classic type-B layout, sword hands and no-nonsense case architecture. By 1994, Fortis’ functional approach already saw light of day, as they introduced a utilitarian GMT function. The Flieger model saw further refinement throughout the years, finally landing on the Flieger F-39 and F-41, the former of which we had the pleasure of looking at today. Using their known robust quality and phenomenal fit and finish, it’s as “tooly” a tool watch as they come.

1994 Fortis Flieger Type-B GMT

A utilitarian dial – but with a twist!

Though the original sported a Type-B dial, it seems that as time went on, Fortis opted for the more clean-cut Type-A style. Rather than just sticking a generic flieger dial on and calling it a day, Fortis adds some useful touches and colour accents. Atop, stretching between the 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock lume blocks, is the Synchroline. This lets pilots more easily synchronise time with their airborne colleagues, all within a five-second period for best accuracy.

To ensure maximum visibility, Fortis uses illuminated Brix that make up the BRIXTRACK, or as you and I call it, the chapter ring. Using large blocks of lume greatly helps with after-dark visibility, while the orientation of the dial is ensured via the triangle index at 12 o’clock. Sword-shaped hands are also pumped full of SuperLuminova X1, paired with an orange needle seconds hand. The colour-matched date wheel is framed with the same orange of the seconds hand, the colour once again repeating in the “automatic script”. Despite having four lines of text, only the crowned Fortis logo detracts attention from the otherwise highly legible textured dial.

Tall, brushed and handsome case

fortis flieger f-39

With the Flieger F-39, the name doesn’t tell the full story. This is one of the largest wearing 39mm watches that I’ve experienced, as the lugs stretch all the way to 50mm. The block-style bracelet has a female end link that does help with the lug-to-lug dimensions slightly. An inwards-sloping brushed steel bezel stands proud of the flat sapphire crystal, and when combined with the stepped dial, makes the case appear a lot taller than the 13m thickness would suggest. The bezel is bi-directional and graduated for 12 hours, meaning you could use it to track a second time zone in a pinch, provided it won’t tell you whether it’s AM or PM. The watch is just as capable in the water as it is in the air, with 200 metres of water resistance afforded by its screw-down crown.

fortis flieger f-39

As for the finishing, the case is completely brushed, fitting for this style of watch. The case and bracelet have a fine vertical brush, finishing in a large double security clasp. The clasp combines a bead-blasted and brushed finish, and incorporates a satisfyingly clicky ratcheted extension system for easy on-the-fly adjustment. Finally, one of the more impressive finishing touches are the sunray brushed screws used for securing the bracelet.

Simple, robust and easy to service movement

fortis flieger f-39

Ticking in the back of the Flieger F-39 is the Fortis UW-30 movement – a derivative of the Sellita SW 200 with a custom rotor. Offering a 38-hour power reserve, it’s a tried-and-true choice for a no-nonsense movement that won’t cost an arm and a leg to service.

The verdict

fortis flieger f-39

The first thing that comes to my mind when the Fortis name comes up is build quality. The Flieger F-39 certainly lives up to that, and while it doesn’t contain any of the WERK line of movements which would be nice, it comes at a much lower cost than those. Rather than following the frankly overdone flieger watch trope, Fortis take the formula and adopt it to suit their design language, and do so with definite success.

Fortis Flieger F-39 Automatic pricing and availability:

The Fortis Flieger F-39 Automatic is available from the Time+Tide shop. Price: AU$3,125

Brand Fortis
Model Flieger F-39 Automatic
Case Dimensions 39mm x 50mm x 13mm, 21mm lug width
Case Material Recycled stainless steel
Water Resistance 200 metres
Dial Black dial with Pilot Green and Berlac Flour Orange accents
Crystal Sapphire crystal, AR-coated
Strap Block-style stainless steel bracelet with ratcheting adjustment clasp
Movement Fortis UW-30, Sellita SW 200 base, 38-hour power reserve
Price AU$3,125