Little Treasury Jewelers Customer Wins Competition for Rare Fortis Watch

Little Treasury Jewelers Customer Wins Competition for Rare Fortis Watch


Fortis only made thirteen Stratoliner S-41 White Dust Supernova watches, and a Little Treasury Jewelers customer, Rob, now owns one. He frequents our store and events, visiting us from his home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Rob gave us an interview, telling the whole tale of how he became one of thirteen people to acquire the Stratoliner.

Rob wanted to buy one of the limited Stratoliners as soon as he heard about them. His interest in watches has been a decades long journey. Rob pays particular attention to Fortis because of his enthusiasm for aviation and aerospace, “embedded” in his life thanks to his father and grandfather.

Most prospective buyers will be unable to get a watch with the same story as Rob’s. To get his hands on the model was a challenge. All thirteen flew together to space, and survived the trip back down to earth. The thirteen White Dust Supernova traveled on the Suborbital Express 3 Mission, with a cadre of other projects that were all running experiments which required the environment of spaceflight to conduct. These thirteen have a unique design set apart from the rest of the Stratoliner S-41 Supernova.

In the Fortis tradition of creating timepieces that are reliable under extreme circumstances and used for space exploration, the watchmaker partnered with the Swedish Space Corporation. This project took flight from Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, carrying the Stratoliners with the newest movement, the Calibre Werk 17, beyond the standard Fortis lab tests. The Fortis team released a video of their test on their Youtube channel. The full documentary of the Suborbital Express 3 Mission, Microgravity - How Earth can benefit from Space, is for rent on Amazon prime video.

 Fortis suborbital express rocket launch / Fortis Watches in space

“Since I was a little kid I’ve been interested in aerospace,” Rob says. He tells of many connections through his family, including meeting John Glenn Jr., the third American in space, first American to orbit the earth, and former U.S. Senator of Ohio. “My grandfather was friends with many aviation pioneers, including Eddy Rickenbacker; he knew so many folks,” Rob recalls. “I’ve collected lots of stuff from airlines and planes, and as a child I even asked to get dinner at the airport for my birthday,” he laughs.  

“My dad was in the reserves and then became an Aerospace engineer. He worked on 3 manned space missions.” Rob remembers the constant updates on the Mercury program, Project Gemini, and the Apollo program. “As a child I went down to the Cape to see launches first hand.” Eventually, Rob had the chance to work in aviation. He was one of two recipients for a piloting scholarship at age 16, and earned his private pilot license over the next year.  

Rob has been collecting watches for the past 25 years. “My wife and I were on vacation in the Cayman Islands and I saw a GMT watch I wanted to buy, but I didn’t have a great experience at that store so I decided against it.” Then he found Little Treasury Jewelers in 2012. “Through the watchmaker I connected with Steve, and bought the Vogard Timezoner watch at LTJ,” Rob explains. “Little Treasury has exposed me to more horology and different brands to explore.” 

 Fortis Stratoliner watch box packaging

Rob soon discovered Fortis. “I do a lot of research. I'm an analytical person, and was impressed by the brand and their space related work. They make a lot of pilot watches, and when I was in Germany, I purchased two designed for the Swiss Aerobatic team. After that trip I continued to keep up to date on the Fortis brand,” Rob says. “I saw the documentary that they launched this rocket… I decided to try to get one because of the tremendous success of the space flight test. I knew my chances were low.”

Last Fall, representatives from Fortis were present at our annual watch fair, Time Out. Rob heard they would be attending, and drove down from Pennsylvania. “I didn't think there would be another opportunity anywhere else nearby for me in the U.S.” Rob recalls meeting Rob Nudds, a Fortis representative, co-host of The Real Time Show podcast, watchmaker, and noted watch journalist. “We got to talking about the Stratoliner and he encouraged me to continue my application process.” Prospective buyers were asked to submit an application to Fortis if they wanted a chance at owning one. Rob sent his letter in October 2023.

 Rob receiving Fortis Watch

In his application letter, Rob explained to Fortis his deep connections with aerospace and aviation. He tells how his father “designed one of the main antennas of the LEM Lander,” which became the Apollo Lunar Module, the spacecraft that carried the first Americans to land on the moon. Fortis owner, Jupp Philipp, selected the winners. Rob eagerly awaited news, noting as each winner was announced, including another pilot. Nudds, who advised Rob on his letter, delivered the good news in February.

“I give my wife a lot of credit for tolerating me and this hobby. I don’t race cars, I don’t fly anymore, these are my toys,” Rob says, excitedly. “My dad would bring home things from the programs. I covered my walls with drawings, pictures, and all the different mission patches.” Now he has one more space mission momento. “I would really like to thank Rob Nudds and Pascal Leutwyler for their assistance and new found friendship.” Rob received his Stratoliner S-41 White Dust Supernova during a Fortis event, hosted by Little Treasury Jewelers at The Escapement on February 20th, 2024.

Rob Milne with Steve Hammalian and Fortis Watch receiving Stratoliner watch