The RZE Fortitude – Rugged and Airborne

By Frederik Drost
The RZE Fortitude – Rugged and Airborne

One of my favorite watch brands, RZE, is finally back with a new watch! And after launching a field watch, a diver, and a sporty Chrono, the obvious candidate is of course a pilot’s watch.

Now I will be honest, I rarely do “reviews” of watches before having tried it on myself.

But the exception that confirms the rule is this watch, which deserves all the attention it can get. Also, I will acquire one when they are available and update this review with real “field data”, justifying it all in the end.

Here are my key takeaways from all the press pictures and the press release.

Design

One good thing that RZE is nailing is their design consistency, which is constant across their models (so far) while still releasing cool and different colorways.

This model is still the rugged, masculine tool watch that I want to see from RZE, but with a bit more flair thanks to the use of satin finish for the first time on any of their watches.

the RZE fortitude watch, the new pilot's watch from RZE.
Here you can clearly see the “red you’re dead” crown stem.

But at first glance the design doesn’t scream “pilot’s watch” and that is probably due to the fact that it was designed with a purpose in mind and not to honor the vintage pilot’s watches.
And that’s fine by me, except that for my trained eye I can still the big crown reference and the centered hour indicators as being true to some pilot heritage.

We still see the not-so-subtle love for textured matt dials appear on this watch again, and a willingness to set it apart from their other models.

the RZE fortitude watch, the new pilot's watch from RZE close up.

Here are the design details that really stood out for me and made me want this watch in my collection :

  • The jagged cut bezel, which is something i rarely see and reminds a lot of the Oris Pro Pilot X series, which is also a rugged pilot tool watch.
  • The use of PM hours indicators near the center of the dial (their placements are consistent with some vintage pilot’s watches by-the-way). I don’t recall ever seeing that on a watch!
  • The double stepped date aperture is just some great attention to detail and really adds to the watch.
  • The red on the crown stem, reminding you to close the crown and inspired by the “remove before flight” tags. The “red you’re dead” functionality is not something new (Jaeger Lecoultre and Omega have done it and many more), but is something ir arely see on microbrand watches in this price range.
  • Using a sandwich dial give them an easier way of applying a lot of lume to the hours indices, thus moving more budget into other elements of the watch. It also creates an imposing dial with more depth. I Cant’t wait to do a lume shot with this watch !
  • The sharp thin lugs reminds me of mahy vintage watches, noticably the Breitling Navitimer, the most famous pilot watch of all time!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t provided with pictures of the backside of the case, nor the clasp, so you will have to wait until I get the watch to hear my opinion on those.

Specs

the RZE fortitude watch, the new pilot's watch from RZE.

As with all their previous watches, RZE does not joke around with their specs. They offer you as much as they can squeeze out of the watch’s price.

The good old UltraHex coating allows for less apparent hairlines (mine are still in mint condition btw, being worn at the office and at parties) and my favourite lume paint is still present for the long dark danish winter months.

the RZE fortitude watch, the new pilot's watch from RZE.
The lovely blue hue of the BGW9 !

But the big upgrade with this collection is the Anti Magnetic watch case! This is definitely a cool spec, and rarely seen on watches in this price range ! For comparison, try to get a Rolex Milgauss or an Omega Railmaster.

I am also very curious to see if they have upgraded their AR coating since it is even more important for pilots.

Here are the official specs for the press release :

  • Case: Solid Grade 2 Titanium with UltraHex Coating(up to ~1200Hv hardness)
  • Anti-magnetic case with protection up to 20,000A/m
  • Case Size: 41mm
  • Case Thickness: 12.45mm
  • Lug size: 20mm
  • Lug to lug: 48mm
  • Movement: NH35A Automatic Movement
  • Water Resistance: 100m (330ft) / 10ATM
  • Crown: Screw-down crown with custom reverse engraved logo
  • Dial: Sand textured sandwich dials with applied indexes filled with Grade A BGW9 Swiss Super-luminova (my favourite)
  • Hands: Custom-made hands with Grade A BGW9 Swiss Super-luminova
  • Lens: Sapphire Crystal with inner-side Super-AR
  • Strap: Titanium bracelet with stainless steel buckle with UltraHex Coating
  • Case Back: Screw-down solid titanium caseback with VITON® gasket

Conclusion

RZE continues to impress me with their new releases of cool spec-loaded tool watches. This watch is definitely among my favorite releases of 2021 and I can’t wait to play around with nato straps on this watch.

5 out of 5 stars so far!

I believe RZE has found their ever-growing niche of watch nerds on a budget and will continue to satisfy us until the end of time (pun intended). But the brand is also highly prone to enter the mainstream market thanks to its attractive looks.

Yet somehow with this strong identity, my curious mind would love to see how RZE would handle a dress watch. Maybe one day?

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