The Best RZE Watch Yet
We know RZE very well, and here at Mainspring, we are big fans of the brand. Today we come back to showcase the brand’s fourth model, the Fortitude, their own take on the pilot watch. Just like with any other RZE timepiece, the case and bracelet are made of reinforced titanium, and the watch offers great specs, making it a full tool watch worthy of filling out the model options in any brand’s catalog. Indeed, after making a field watch, dive watch, and chronograph, it was clearly just a matter of time before RZE turned to producing a pilot watch
Just like any RZE watch, the Fortitude has a particular design language that makes each model stand out from each family of tool watches. The Resolute stood out from the world of field watches, as did the Endeavour in the world of dive watches. The most striking design element of the Fortitude are the hands: a broad arrow hour hand and signpost minute hand, two-thirds of which are covered by lume. The second hand is long, narrow, shaped like a needle, and generously covered with lume. The hands contrast superbly with the dark gray dial and its sandy texture.
The indices are recessed within the dial in the fashion of what is commonly known as a sandwich dial. The indices are basically deep holes filled with lume, making the dial shine bright in dark conditions. Coupled with the brightly shining hands, it’s very easy to read the time on this watch in all lighting conditions. Small details give the dial an interesting appearance, details like the sandy texture that we mentioned earlier, as well as what seems to be thin frames around each hour marker. The date window is circular and perfectly integrated within the bottom half of the dial.
In terms of information, we can see that the rehault shows the minutes in five-minute increments, and that the inner portion of the dial shows the 24-hour military scale. These two sets of numbers make the watch visually pleasing to look at, balanced, and functional, as this is, at the end of the day, a pilot watch that typically puts the emphasis on counting the minutes rather than the hours. Between the hour markers, we find a fully-indexed minute track, another common design characteristic of pilot watches. All in all, the dial is legible and pleasing to look at.
There are two other striking elements of this watch that we will discuss in the next section below: the crown and the bezel.
As soon as the first photos of the Resolute were published on the Kickstarter campaign website, my eyes were drawn not to the dial or the hands or the strap but to the case. I immediately fell in love with its angular case shape, which reminded me of the contours of a high-tech sports car, giving it a modern and bold look. Looking at BOLDR’s catalogue, we can see that these case shapes were the product of Tan’s creative mind, and they immediately became RZE’s signature design style.
The dial has a fine grainy texture that absorbs light and makes the brushed markers, hands, and framed date window stand out, creating a perfect contrast. The combination of this dial texture with everything brushed gives the Resolute a distinctive, toolish aspect. Add to this the sandblasted titanium case, bracelet, and hands, and you find yourself with a watch that oozes adventure and begs to be taken out into the wild.
As we mentioned before, RZE mixed two types of lume on the dial, C3 Superluminova on the hands and hour markers and BGW9 on the five-minute markers along the minute track. While there doesn’t seem to be a practical reason to have two types of lume, the contrasting lume colors are certainly pleasing to look at, something rarely done by microbrands. The lume is bright and generously applied all around.
My favorite part of the Resolute is the design of the hour markers and hands. The markers are long and thin, while the batons have brushed surrounds and are filled with thick layers of lume. The hands are also long and thin, and their width is equal to that of the hour markers, which creates great balance at all times. The batons at 6, 9, and 12 have a little break allowing the use of the two types of lume, and there are double batons at the 12 o’clock.
The Heart of the Matter
I am by no means an expert in pilot watches, but it doesn’t seem to be very common to see an engine turned–style bezel on a pilot watch anymore. As far as my memory recalls, this is a feature that only IWC, Oris, and Rolex used at some point in their histories as watchmakers. Even though it is not something we often see—and this style of bezel should not be confused with the fluted-style bezel seen, for example, on the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and vintage IWC watches—it has become an instantly recognizable design element of the Fortitude. As always, Travis gives us designs that remind us of something familiar but not seen in this configuration.
What’s more, you get a solid watch for the asking price of $650. RZE once again has released a watch that has outstanding specs for the money, and it seems that the more the company evolves, the higher the value of their watches becomes. This time around, Travis added the antimagnetic cage, which is something rarely seen on a microbrand watch (the only examples I can think of are the Seaholm and the Astor Banks), which once again proves that RZE ups the ante with every new release. Microbrands that offer such great value do not tend to stick around, unlike RZE.
Another great feature of the Fortitude is the crown. Not only does the watch have a screw-down crown, it is also accompanied by a touch of red paint at the base of the stem, indicating that the crown is unscrewed. This makes it easier for the wearer to remember to screw it down to guarantee that it is waterproof and to keep dust away from the inner mechanics of the watch. Like any other tool watch, a pilot watch, after all, must be reliable. Anything that can be done to make the watch keep ticking accurately is necessary, and RZE has a knack for making each model even more sturdy than the previous one.
So where does this leave us? Well, as you know if you’ve been spending time with us here on this website or on Instagram, there are hundreds of microbrands out there, and brands have to constantly innovate in order to stay ahead of the pack. RZE started strong in 2020 and continues to impress. With their cheapest model (the first version of the Resolute), which retailed for $430, and the Fortitude retailing for $650, there’s a lot to love here, and one could genuinely wonder how Travis does it. In theory, manufacturing great watches should mean that the watch will sell for double their current price, but they don’t, which is a testimony to Travis’ horological philosophy of making good watches affordable.
In the past two years, RZE released four models. In just the first few months of 2022, the brand released two new ones, which are new versions of the Resolute: one version of the field watch, and one that is a true super-compressor. That’s six models released in just over two years, a sign that the brand is doing well and won’t cease to impress us. The Fortitude is an impressive watch, given the antimagnetic property and the myriad of design details that one can find, which explains why the brand has been so successful.
If you are into tool watches and are looking for a pilot watch, take a look at the Fortitude. Click on the link below to purchase this model and to take a look at the entire RZE catalog.
Thanks for reading.