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  • Writer's pictureBalance & Bridge Team

Hands-on: FORTIS Stratoliner S-41 Review. The Sky is Not the End of the World.

FORTIS Stratoliner

Recently Balance & Bridge was lucky to be able to get hands-on with a set of the S-41 Stratoliners from FORTIS, and in short, they did not disappoint. In fact, the Stratoliner is one of the most robust and enjoyable watches we have had the chance to review. Layer in the history of the brand along with their incredible efforts to push boundaries and you have one of the best options in the industry at any price point. We are not sure if there is another watchmaker taking the steps that FORTIS is to ensure their products are setting the industry standard and in parallel, moving the standards forward.


For the whole Stratoliner image gallery, check out the gallery here.


Before we get into the hands-on portion of the review, we recommend that after checking out our review, you look at the incredible history of FORTIS featured here. For over 110 years, they have been at the top of the horological food chain and deserve a bit more inclusion in the widespread conversation of luxury watchmakers.


The FORTIS Stratoliner S-41

FORTIS Stratoliner

We were able to get hands-on with all four featured variants in the Stratoliner line up. The respective names are a nod to each piece's dial color, and each dial has fantastic color and texture. We will address the watch as a whole and provide images captured for each variant so you can pick your respective favorite. All of the watches also feature the FORTIS Block Bracelet, which we'll get into later. Let's jump right into the model as a whole and each variation including the 'White Dust', ' Cool Gray', 'Cosmic Gray', and 'Blue Japan'.


Stratoliner S-41 Specifications

The FORTIS Stratoliner boasts impressive specifications that make it a real standout timepiece. The case, with a nearly perfect diameter of 41 mm, is meticulously crafted from brushed stainless steel, including recycled stainless steel. It offers a water resistance of 200 m/600 ft/20 atm, an added bonus for a watch not built for the sea. The flat fixed Orbit Bezel is made from recycled stainless steel with additions of 18k Gold or rubber depending on the model. The case thickness, around 15mm enables safety in and out of our atmosphere amongst varying pressures.

FORTIS Stratoliner

The case glass is a beautiful Sapphire Crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides, and the case back features a Smoked Sapphire Crystal with a see-through "Spaceship-Window." The crown is a FORTIS signed screw-down with a triple gasket system. Above the segmented chapter ring, the inside of the case directly above the 12 hour marker features a message reading, "DER HIMMEL IST NICHT DAS ENDE DER WELT", in english this reads, "The sky is not the end of the world", a nod to the the watches celestial conquests.

FORTIS Stratoliner

The dials showcase a finely grained base structure with various Dust Dial color options such as Cosmic Gray, White Dust, Cool Gray, and Blue Japan. The hands include luminous hour, minute, and second hands. Additional noteworthy features include the use of Superluminova® X1 with blue afterglow and a Luminous Space Travel Indicator. The lume, in full glow, displays the phased journey of a spaceship including Ascend, Boost, Zero-G and Glide. Seriously, who else is doing this?

FORTIS Stratoliner

The movement of the FORTIS Stratoliner S-41 is the appropriately named WERK 17, a stratosphere-tested (with the partnership of the Swedish Space Corporation) self-winding Column-Wheel Manufacture Chronograph. Complications include a Column Wheel Chronograph, Day-Date, and Small Seconds. It is a self-winding movement with a power reserve of 60 hours. The movement is also decorated and adorned with FORTIS signature branding including the crown on the bi-directional rotor.

FORTIS Stratoliner

The strap options are diverse, offering a Stainless Steel Block Bracelet, Black Aviator Leather Strap, and an Indigo Aviator Leather Strap. The materials include recycled stainless steel and vegetable-tanned genuine cow leather from sustainable production. The buckle/clasp options include a Stainless Steel Slide-Clasp with a quick adjustment option and a Folding Clasp-in-Pin Buckle Design. The lug width is 21mm, similar to many luxury brand lug width designs.

FORTIS Stratoliner

Hands-On - FORTIS Stratoliner Review

We alluded to it in the opening, but there's no one else in the horological landscape doing what FORTIS is doing. Plenty of similarly priced options don't come with half the pedigree OR pure engineering that FORTIS delivers. The Stratoliner may just be the best option for an enthusiast under $6,000 USD. We don't take that statement lightly but the on-wrist experience cemented our hypothesis. Hear us out.


The Dial(s)

The Dial(s) are nearly impeccable. They each feature incredibly unique layouts and asymmetrical patterning. The subdials are crisp, functional and each have unique borders that pay homage to celestial flight as mentioned in the specifications section above. The 6-9-12 sub-dial layout is balanced by the day date window and brand/model name markings above and below that window. The balance is great and the legibility is superb. Each dial is finished in a textured matte finish that aptly reminds of us the 'dust' namesake. The balance between texture, legibility, finish and minimalism give the Stratoliner a striking visual experience while not sacrificing its aesthetic. Our favorite dial is the "Cool Gray" variation, as it features the most versatile palette for everyday wear, but they're all great. The Japan Blue is also beautiful and would make a great statement piece in any collection.


The Bracelet

FORTIS Stratoliner

We can't speak to the quality of the alternative strap options, but if they're anything like the Block Bracelet, they're second to none. In full transparency, we personally love the look of stainless steel bracelets but hardly enjoy them on-wrist for extended periods. For this reason, we tend to outfit most watches in rubber or NATO straps. But the Stratoliner is an exception to this rule. Thanks to the superb finishing, the incredible micro-adjust clasp and the non-tapered blocks, the bracelet was incredibly comfortable and easy to adjust as needed. We have only found the Rolex Submariner Oyster Bracelet to rival the comfort of this, and would say the Oyster bracelet comes in second place. Well done FORTIS, bracelets are too often an afterthought and this obviously was not.


The Finishing

FORTIS Stratoliner

When you creep over the $1500 - $2000 price range you start to get some serious critique when it comes to finishing. You start to graduate from fully polished and brushed surfaces and begin to introduce combinations of finishes, chamfers and bevels while even mixing metals and creating unique angles. Where the Stratoliner lives, at the $5,000+ range, you are in direct competition with Omega, Rolex and Grand Seiko and they will be the standard upon which comparisons are made. FORTIS does not miss when it comes to finishing. The consistency, angles, bevels, and overall metalwork are both flawless and seamless. They compliment the watch in a way that almost makes you forget it is so well finished, until you look and realize that's the true luxury behind it. Even the FORTIS logo on the crown is perfectly aligned when fully screwed down. That's impressive.

FORTIS Stratoliner


FORTIS Stratoliner

The Comfort and Wearability

Everything else matters, but it doesn't. Many a watch have spent lonely lives in watchboxes or ended up on someone else's wrist sooner than anticipated due to lack of comfort and wearability. Even the most aesthetically pleasing, and enthusiast crowned kings of the wrist have fallen by the wayside because they just didn't feel right. The Stratoliner felt great. In full disclosure, the watch is robust and it feels that way. It has such a unique heft to it, in a good way, that it feels secure and capable. Our reviewer personally likes this, as a 6'4" man, it is nice to have a watch on wrist that is noticeable. Far too often, watches slide under the cuff and out of the mind, and the mindlessness of them can be great, but sometimes you want to remember you're wearing something awesome. This feels exactly like that, awesome. The case thickness at around 15mm helps this, as the caseback domed crystal keeps the case perched up on the wrist a bit. The way the bracelet meets the lugs near the center of the case almost secures the watch to the wrist better than most. There was no top-heavy feel or instability in the case to wrist contact. Once the watch was on it was on and it did not float or hang with movement.

FORTIS Stratoliner


Final Thoughts

The Stratoliner finds a unique happy place in that it is by all counts a luxury watch, but it doesn't ooze the same pretentiousness that would have you think twice about wearing it everywhere. There is no high-gloss or polish attractant, no obvious signs that is closer to a $10,000 watch than a $1,000 watch. And that's what we love about the FORTIS Stratoliner. In a sense, it really is only built for those that know, and for the wrists of those capable adventurers. It straddles the line of cult enthusiast piece and celestial engineering marvel for those more into the gears and springs than the public praise of strangers.

To many, FORTIS wouldn't ring recognizable in the luxury watch landscape. They definitely don't leverage marketing in the same manner that the perennial best sellers utilize, and we think that's what makes FORTIS great and loved for over a century. They are purely action driven and results verified. They find themselves more closely aligned with the Grand Seikos, ZENITHs, and Sinns of the world, who purely build great watches for the exact market they are meant to support. These are by no means mass appeal pieces, but for those interested in the cosmos and getting there and back, we can't think of a better watch to accompany you. As FORTIS proclaims, this is absolutely a "Tool watch. Redefined."


FORTIS Stratoliner

The FORTIS Stratoliner review was possibly our favorite on-wrist review of 2023. Learn more and grab yours at FORTIS.

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