Friday, April 5, 2019

48 Hours with the AMADEE-18

So suffice it say, this is going to be short, and sweet!  As my visit at Fortis HQ in Grenchen was wrapping-up, I was asked if I'd like to take one of their Cosmonaut series time-machines for a test drive (or flight).  I was, of course, quite keen to wear one if only for a few days.  So one of the AMADEE-18 series was made ready -

It's not every day that the brand owner breaks out his tools to get a test watch ready for you, but that's just what he did.  A rubber strap was removed, and an integrated "performance" strap was installed.  Now it is important to note that the aforementioned "integrated" trap was a hot topic of conversation during my visit.  My contention?  That the integrated strap made it more challenging for the wearer to change straps and travel with the watch in a watch roll.  Now the obvious (in hindsight) response was something to the effect of - a watch is designed to be worn, not "traveled with in a pouch", and that the integrated strap not only looks better but is more comfortable.  Spoiler alert - the strap was incredibly comfortable, and I bow in deference to the wisdom of the Fortis team.

Now before we get into a full-on breakdown of my 48 hours of wear, how about a little background on just what the AMADEE-18 was made for?  AMADEE-18 took place a little over a year ago, in February of 2018.  Per the OEWF (The Austrian Space Forum) website:

In February 2018, the Austrian Space Forum – in partnership with the Oman National Steering Committee for AMADEE-18 – conducted an highly international Mars analog field simulation in the Dhofar region, Oman. Directed by a Mission Support Center in Austria, a small field crew conducted experiments preparing for future human Mars missions in the fields of engineering, planetary surface operations, astrobiology, geophysics/geology, life sciences and other.

Conducting field research in a representative environment is an excellent tool to gain operational experience and understand the advantages and limitations of remote science operations on other planetary bodies. This field mission was designed to be:
  • an opportunity to study equipment, procedures and workflows under Mars analog conditions with  humans-in-the-loop.
  • a platform for testing life-detection or geophysical techniques, terrain tests for rovers and increase the situational awareness of remote support teams,
  • studying the test site as a model region for Martian deserts and extreme life,
  • serving as an outreach platform to enhance the visibility of planetary sciences

Fortis was an official industrial partner on the mission, and the watch produced was the AMADEE-18.

In terms of look and feel, Fortis got this one SPOT ON!  It had the layout and look and feel of the original Cosmonaut.  But what I found intriguing was the design decision to use a black PVD case.  But it occurs to me that this was actually a rather inspired decision (whether intentional or not), as it is typical for "star voyagers" to wear white flight suits.  A black PVD watch case will make the watch stand out and be more of a visible focal point on a large (sometimes "puffy") white sleeve.

Now in fairness, I was not wearing a space suit, but I will say that the watch itself was incredibly comfortable to wear, and once again, I was forced to admit that I was in the wrong about the form-fitted, integral strap.  It was wicked-comfortable.

The case measures 42 mm in diameter, and is of stainless steel with PVD treatment/finishing.  At 42 mm, it is right in the sweet spot for fit for most of us.  When you add in a good sized crown, and chronograph pusher buttons, you really wouldn't want to go much larger.  The crown and pusher buttons were sufficiently large without being too large, and quite tactile.  The crown was responsive and the setting and initial hand-winding were smooth.

As mentioned, the PVD finishing was well done, and comprehensive, including the case back.  The mission logo features as part of the case back's design, along with the Fortis logo.  Although tactile, the finishing of the case back was smooth and the fit and feel of the watch was comfortable.  Truth be told, you might not know that the case back wasn't completely flat unless you took the watch off to look at it.

The watch face is clear and legible, the main chronograph hand is orange, as are two of the other sub dial indicators.  Now the Day/Date function is a point of contention for some folks out there.  Some find it superfluous, others find it a nice added feature.  I find myself in the second group.  It is actually quite a nice little feature to have both the day and the date, and the design used by Fortis makes it easy to find on the dial without making a bit distraction.

The watch functioned perfectly during my brief time with it.  All chronograph timing functions operated smoothly, the hands returning smoothly between timings.  The time keeping was solid and did not miss a beat.  The movement used in this model is Valjoux's 7750

So all in all?  It's a pretty sweet watch at a very competitive price given all that comes with it. 

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