Graham Fortress Ltd

The Graham Fortress Ltd is the latest creation from the Anglo-Swiss watch brand, best known for its unusual ‘trigger’ device. However, this new model eschews the legendary trigger in favour of a monopusher/crown. Could this model be the new face of Graham?

Graham Fortress LtdThere are some brands which apply one or more stylistic elements to a product or its packaging, making it readily identifiable. The silhouette of a Porsche 911 is unlike no other car, distinguishing it from others. The ‘hobble-skirt’ bottle will forever be associated with Coca-Cola. A red pocket knife will always be termed a Swiss Army knife. In terms of watchmaking, Graham will forever be associated with the chronograph trigger.

The Swiss watch brand has equipped numerous chronographs with a prominent trigger on the left flank of the case. There is much sense in positioning the trigger on the left and, indeed, its design. Appraising the human hand, the thumb is the fastest acting digit. In military aircraft, weapons are engaged using the thumb. Graham’s trigger is ergonomically designed to accommodate the thumb, making actuation intuitive and quick. This is of vital importance.

When using a chronograph, the time interval between observing an event and actuating the pushpiece needs to be as small as possible if the recorded elapsed time is to have relevance. By endowing various models with its iconic trigger, Graham has significantly improved the value of the chronograph complication. Moreover, by locating the trigger, which also includes the crown, on the left, the arm is able to flex easily, hence wearer comfort isn’t compromised. The chronograph is reset with a separate pushpiece located at 10 o’clock.

In terms of the trigger’s design, ‘form follows function’. By seeking the optimum means of actuating the chronograph, Graham has created a look that differentiates its products from all others.

With all talk up to this point being about the trigger, it may come as a surprise to learn that the brand’s latest model, the Graham Fortress Ltd, eschews the actuation device in favour of a monopusher/crown. At the centre of the model’s fluted crown is a pushpiece with allows the wearer to start, stop and reset the stopwatch function. The monopusher/crown sits on the left flank of the case, upholding Graham’s design language as well exploiting the aforementioned ergonomic benefits.

Reading the Graham press release, there is a degree of mystery regarding the inspiration behind the ‘Fortress’ name. Is it a reference to the Flying Fortress of the 1930s or is it intended to convey the model’s robustness? One thing is certain, the Graham Fortress Ltd looks sturdy and ready to take on the world.

Housed in a 47mm steel case, this new watch is overtly masculine. The rhodium-plated ‘Modern’ hour and minute hands are treated with beige Super-LumiNova and efficiently converse with matching, fulsome Arabic numerals. A small seconds display is located at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph register is positioned at 6 o’clock. Lastly, a date display resides at 9 o’clock, completing the model’s inventory of functions. All indications are eminently legible.

With the advent of the Graham Fortress Ltd, one cannot help wondering if the monopusher/crown will become the new face of Graham.

The brand’s press release (December 2020)

What’s in a name? The Fortress upholds Graham’s fondness for aviation-themed product names. Perhaps its moniker doffs its hat to the Flying Fortress of the 1930s? Alternatively, the word ‘fortress’ may evoke thoughts of military strongholds or castles and, by default, elicit images of strong, castellated buildings and impregnable structures. All of these associations are consistent with the tough nature of this new Graham model.

However, while this introduction may suit the Marketing Department’s brief, it does not convey the real Graham. To really understand the watch brand from La Chaux-de-Fonds, a person has to think like Graham, ie don’t subscribe to convention or accept mediocrity; be bold and brave. If a sign says ‘keep off the grass’, put on a pair of big boots and do a jig on the turf. If other brands choose to place pushpieces on the righthand side of the case, then break the rules and go for a leftfield approach.

Indeed, as you look at the new Fortress from Graham you will note a monopusher located on the left flank of the case. This lone pusher, positioned in the top of the crown, starts, stops and resets the chronograph. It’s a one-stop shop for all of your stopwatch needs. By combining it with the crown it endows the case with a clean, uncluttered profile.

But a leftfield design can also be eminently logical. A pusher on the left side of the case proves more intuitive to use. When using a chronograph, the wearer observes the start of an event, actuates the stopwatch function and, thereafter, at the end of the event, halts the timer. The potential problem is the human factor, namely the time gap between seeing an event and pressing the pushpiece. The shorter the gap between observation and pressing the pusher, the more validity the recorded elapsed time really has. The thumb is the fastest acting digit, hence with this design, a right-handed person will instinctively place their plumpest digit on the pushpiece and press it with lightning bolt alacrity.

Graham Fortress Ltd

Another key benefit of positioning the combined crown and monopusher on the left is superior wearer comfort. Often when a watch is worn and the wearer flexes their wrist, the protrusions on the right flank of the case gouge the wrist, chafe the skin or inhibit free movement. The Fortress’s leftfield approach causes no such problems.

The black grained dial features bold, luminescent hour and minute hands which collaborate with ample, applied Arabic numerals, imparting meaning. The dial has two circular brushed counters, a small seconds display at 3 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph register at 6 o’clock. A date display is located adjacent the monopusher/crown. Housed in a 47mm stainless steel case, the generous proportions of the watch confer impressive wrist presence, while the exhibition caseback affords sight of the Fortress’s Swiss automatic movement.

This rebellious firm doesn’t subscribe to slick marketing, it chooses to focus on making excellent watches, rich in character. Indeed, the Graham Fortress Ltd is a serious watch from a company that still knows how to have fun.

Further reading

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