This first sentence may sound like I am a fanboy or on the payroll, but RZE is quickly becoming one of my favorite brands to review. The RZE Fortitude is their latest model, going up for preorder on December 13th. The young brand is only 4 models in, well, this will be their fourth model, yet they are really showing what they can do, and not only are they putting out models which can be considered good values, but also with great designs. Now, I have no issue saying that the last model, the Valour, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but the Endeavour dive model and now this pilot watch surely are. If you like watches with that no-nonsense tool watch vibe, you’ll want to keep on reading.
Case: Solid Grade 2 Titanium with UltraHex™ Coating (up to ~1200Hv hardness)
Anti-magnetic case with protection up to 20,000A/m compared to 4,800A/m anti-magnetism in ISO 762 standard
Case Size: 41mm
Case Thickness: 12.45mm
Lug size: 20mm
Lug to lug: 48mmMovement: NH35A Automatic Movement
Water Resistance: 100m (330ft) / 10ATM
Crown: Screw-down crown with custom reverse engraved logo
Lens: Sapphire Crystal with inner-side Super-AR
Strap: Titanium bracelet with stainless steel buckle with UltraHex Coating
Case Back: Screw-down solid titanium case-back with VITON® gasket
*Preorder Price $469- MSRP $599
RZE Campaign Link: https://bit.ly/307swc8
If you are a watch aficionado, then you certainly can see the RZE Fortitude’s resemblance to the Oris Big Crown Pro Pilot. You will also notice some similarities to a Damasko, especially with the cross-hair dial. Did I confirm with the owner Travis that these were the exact inspiration for this new model? No, I did not, but I feel pretty confident saying that is exactly what he had in mind. That all said, The case, crown, and bezel do have a similarity to the Oris, but I would not call it a copy or a 1:1 ripoff by any means, but for some, the similarity will keep them away. For others, this is exactly what they have been looking for, a similar-looking watch at a lower price.
The Fortitude is packed with goodies, such as the grade 2 titanium case and bracelet, which is also extremely anti-magnetic massive screw-down crown, gravel textured sandwich dial, BGW9 lume, and an automatic movement, albeit a lower grade movement in the form of the Seiko NH35, but more on that in a bit. As I eluded to above, this definitely takes a lot from the Oris ProPILOT, but if you were to look at them side by side, you would see they are actually much different. The RZE is definitely more on the rugged and sporty side with this type of dial, and the Oris is a little more elegant if you will. Both have their place of course and to be honest, I can’t really say I like one better than the other, as I am fond of both watches.
Undoubtedly, one of the interesting quirks of the RZE Fortitude is the big crown, or in this case, the massive crown. Coming in at just about 8mm, it is a large, attractive crown and easy to grip. But, when you unscrew it, you will see the massive red crown tube, which pays homage to a Tudor Black Bay, though they are not the only ones to ever do it, that is what most will probably think of. It definitely gives the crown stem some more rigidity and if you have friends who love watches, a possible conversation piece.
To keep down glare, you will notice the Fortitude is all satin-brushed titanium, all around the case, bracelet and case back. And let’s talk bout the titanium for a second, as RZE is fond of using titanium as all of their current models are titanium, and I will assume they do that just because they like a lightweight timepiece. And it is. With the bracelet and all the links, it weighs just about 120 grams. At 41mm and very lightweight, this should be an easy watch to wear daily, and I believe that some people out there, even those with large collections, might still wear a watch for more than one day at a time, and this is one that will become like a second skin, much like the all their past models. Like the others, this has the UltraHex coating as well, which is meant to be a hard coating, protecting the surface from scratches. Now, this is just my personal experience, but I haven’t really noticed the UltraHex coating proving to be that resistant to scratches.
The RZE Fortitude will have 4 dial colors available, black, white, grey, and blueish-green.
The sandwich dial has a pebble or gravel texture, a fixed chapter ring, and the crosshair dial that nicely sections off the dial, along with 24 hour time. Even with all that, the massive hands, especially these white hands against the black dial, is a stark contrast, allowing for you to easily read the time at a glance. The sapphire crystal doesn’t cause any distortion and the date is placed neatly at the 6 o’clock position. (Where it should always be 😉).
On my 7 1/2 inch wrist, the biggest thing I was initially worried about was if that large crown was going to dig into my wrist or the back of my hand. Fortunately, it does not, probably because it is a smaller diameter watch, and with a short lug to lug and lyre style lugs, it fits comfortably in the middle of my wrist.
Sizing the bracelet is very straightforward with screw bars for the links and the bracelet has a 2mm taper, with a standard but functional clasp and lots of micro-adjustment holes.
Normally with a sandwich dial, you expect the watch to have a good amount of lume, and the Fortitude is no different. A good amount of BGW9 is applied to the dial below as well as the hands, and the results speak for themselves. No slouch in the lume department.
Now, I have been getting a lot of watches with the Seiko NH35 lately and it’s one of those things, I am damned if I do, and damned if I don’t and many think I sound like a broken record. For the $469 preorder, I think it is more than fine, but at $599, the retail price after December 31, well, it’s pushing it. But this is far from the only brand doing it, and you do have to consider everything else this watch is offering, such as the Anti-magnetic case, all-titanium construction, sandwich dial, the overall look and build quality, etc. I’m always honest though, and I would love to see a higher grade of movement, even if it meant raising the price. I know I am not alone in saying that, but am well aware others will disagree.
I do not hide the fact that I love what RZE is doing, and I shouldn’t have to. I am a watch journalist or watch blogger, reviewer, or whatever you want to call me these days, but I am still a watch lover as well, and of course, certain brands and models excite me more than others. Those who say otherwise, are lying. They want to scream objectivity and confuse that with honesty. It happens no matter what product is being reviewed.
And? Well, it means I really enjoy this piece, and it is my second favorite model from RZE, right behind the Endeavour. I’m hoping one day my love of dive watches won’t push other great watches out of my view, and I do wear more than dive watches regularly, but I still seem to gravitate towards divers. The Fortitude is comparable to many dive watches, with design and build quality that should hold up well over time, a screw-down crown, and just a great look that can be very versatile, though I probably wouldn’t wear it with a tux, hey, it’s your watch, you do what you want.
RZE has put this watch on preorder, and they are doing a tiered preorder type of thing, so if you want the best price, you’ll have 48 hours to get it for $469, starting December 6th, if you are a boarding pass holder. Public sale starts on Decmember 13, for $499. After December 31, it goes up to full price. I guess it’s similar to what Zelos does, but I prefer things to be a little straightforward. Still, if you want the best price, you know now what to do.