The True Legacy of Longines
A look at the prolific run of new-old or contempo-retro watches at Longines.
The demand for modern watches with retro styling has outlived the expectations of many industry observers. And when a design is backed by the brand’s own heritage, as in the case of Longines, the appeal can only be magnified. To be sure, Longines is hardly unique amongst the Swiss brands, or really watchmaking brands from around the world, in avidly mining its own heritage. Even within the Swatch Group, Longines hardly cuts a lonely figure in this regard; Swatch Group is the parent company of a wide range of brands, from Breguet and Blancpain to Mido and Hamilton. Somehow though, Longines feels like it represents the retrostyled watch, or new-old nostalgia timepiece to a tee. In WOW, we call these contempo-retro watches.
“The watch universe is the only sector I know which builds on its traditions to go further and innovate,” said Longines CEO Matthias Breschan. “In watchmaking, perpetuating a tradition is what makes us alive. This is particularly true for Longines.”
This might be because Longines has been keeping historic designs alive in their modern portfolio even before this current trend gathered pace. We traced it back to the 2007 Legend Diver, but we concede that it might be even earlier than this. The later increase in interest (post-Great Recession) only benefited Longines, and that is why we see even more offerings from this Saint-Imier brand. We have covered several re-creations last year both in print and online: the Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946, the Heritage Classic Tuxedo (with and without chronograph), and the Heritage Classic with a sector dial. The Spirit collection that graced our cover in issue #59 last year was not a re-creation or reissue, but an entirely new development. Even so, it looked like something Howard Hughes might wear.
Longines’ Silver Arrow is racing past
More followed this year. The Silver Arrow watch, also a member of the aforementioned Heritage collection, seems to be a favourite among many collectors, as well as our own WOW colleagues in other countries. The original adventure of the Silver Arrow began in 1955 when the name was picked from the 450 choices proposed by Longines employees to communicate the futuristic spirit derived from race cars and supersonic aircraft. The name Silver Arrow itself might remind you of the official nickname of German racing cars, including the legendary Mercedes-Benz and Audi (or what would become known as Audi) automobiles of the 1930s.
The modern reincarnation of the Silver Arrow watch has the same minimalistic silver opaline dial with sword-shaped hands and striated hour markers underneath a box-shaped sapphire crystal. Its 38 mm stainless steel case is paired with a vintage style leather strap in matte brown. The new Silver Arrow is powered by the self-winding L888.5 movement (ETA A31.L11) with a 72-hour power reserve, and a silicon balance spring that qualifies it for the new Longines five-year warranty scheme.
We’re all dialled up
When Longines wants to give reissue watches a twist, the firm knows how to do so in such a way that purists will not cry foul. Take the Heritage Classic with the sector dial, for example. The model was given its rebirth in late 2019 and graced the cover of the WOW Thailand March 2020 issue. In the optimal 38.5mm size, its key selling point is the sector dial, which has developed a following in recent years.
Having realised a rather faithful reinterpretation of the original pieces from the 1930s, Longines experiments this year with new black sector dial versions. Each zone of the dial is given a different finishing: matte for the central circle, circular brushing for the hour track, and concentric rings for the small second subdial. Same as the Silver Arrow, this watch comes with a five-year warranty with the use of a silicon balance spring in its self-winding L893 (ETA A31.501). But instead of the leather strap as the only wearing option, this sector dial watch is offered on a grain of rice stainless steel bracelet as well — a rarity among the Heritage collection members. Indeed this is the only model with such a bracelet that we can think of.
- READ MORE: The Longines Spirit — A Pioneer Generation
Petroleum blue dials
Another example of a twist that has garnered positive responses from potential buyers, the new Avigation BigEye offers a petrol blue dial, contrasting black counters and titanium case. The Avigation BigEye is a re-creation of the 1930s pilot’s chronograph. Its name alludes to its oversized 30-minute counter at the three o’clock position, and its purpose as a navigation tool for aviators. The existing modern product of this design was introduced in 2017 in typical stainless steel with a black dial. The new titanium version with a petrol blue dial is different but in a calm and soothing way. Perhaps, it has to do with the shading effect on the grained dial, or the beige hue of the Super-Luminova on the hands and numerals. Everything is modern and retro at the same time. Again, this watch comes with a five-year warranty because of the silicon balance spring in the L688 column wheel chronograph movement.
For anyone looking for something along this vintage avenue, but with even greater difference from your other watches, we can recommend the Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935. This 2020 novelty is built upon the original Longines design for the US Army pilots where the dial is rotated 40 degrees to the right so that the wearer can read the dial without removing his left hand from the control of the aircraft. The monopusher embedded into the crown operates the column wheel chronograph. Calibre L788.2 powers this 41 mm watch. A version of this watch was on the cover of WOW Singapore in 2017.
“Today, Longines is known and recognised throughout the world. This is the result of our brand’s loyalty to its origins and values,” said Breschan. “We are offering high quality products featuring refined aesthetics, accuracy and reliability with an outstanding value for money. We are confident that new generations of watch lovers appreciate these assets and also highly value our constant quest for innovation while making the most of our rich Heritage. In this regard, our Heritage segment and our new Longines Spirit collection are meeting great success. We think this is a sign that, for many people, and especially for younger ones, watchmaking and tradition cannot be set apart. With a Longines Heritage or a Spirit model on your wrist, you are not only wearing a watch, you are part of history.”
For more watch reads, click here.