Collector’s Guides • 17 Nov 2018

Pioneering Heritage – A History Lesson in Longines Reissues

by Cameron Wong

In watchmaking, there are few brands that can lay claim to a history as long and storied as Longines. Founded in 1832, in the small Swiss town of Saint-Imier, the manufacturer began by making and selling pocket watches with key-wound movements – as was the standard for much of the Swiss watchmaking industry at the time. Then, in 1867, they produced their very first movement, the calibre 20A. Featuring an anchor escapement with a pendant winding and setting mechanism, the calibre was awarded a prize at the influential Universal Exhibition in Paris that very same year.

A triumphant time for Longines, 1867 also saw the company begin the crafting and assembly of all their components under one roof, in their newly built factory located in the long meadows along the river Suze. And it was at this time that they began a consecutive serial numbering system for their watches, creating a one-of-a-kind database, that today, with a few strokes of the keyboard, gives Longines access to the production records, technical drawings, price lists, and even the illustrated catalogues of each and every watch produced since that milestone-rich year.

This meticulous keeping of records not only allows the winged hourglass brand the opportunity to answer the many and varied questions of their collectors, but also serves as a valuable source of inspiration from which the historic watchmaker can draw on its rich heritage and recreate the iconic timepieces of its past.

Spearheading the Reissue Trend

Credited with being the catalyst that sparked the ever-popular reissuing trend in the watch industry, the legend of the reissue begins with the Longines Legend Diver. First released in 2007, the Legend Diver is a dial for dial, case for case, remake of the original 1960’s Super Compressor Longines diver (Ref. 7594) – complete with early edition spearfishing skin diver engraving on the caseback. Introduced first without a date (a version subsequently discontinued 4-5 years later) the Legend Diver with date window is, to this day, a much-loved staple of the Longines Heritage collection, thanks largely to its timeless good looks, rugged functionality, and clear vintage styling.

Longines Legend Diver

Later versions of the Legend Diver saw the option of a “Milanese” mesh bracelet added alongside the original sailcloth style strap. And for 2018 – in its most modern reinterpretation yet – a black PVD coated model was made available with a very clever-looking rubber strap.

New to 2018, the PVD-coated Legend Diver

Diving into their Past

Off the back of the success of the Legend Diver, over the years a number of other historical dive watches from Longines’ archives have also been reimagined.

Following in the same stroke as the Legend Diver, in 2018 the Saint-Imier brand introduced the Heritage Skin Diver. Based on Longines’ first ever dive watch (Ref. 6921), it’s better known as the “Nautilus” amongst collectors, and was produced during the late 1950s and into the ‘60s, at a time when recreational diving was just making its way to the masses. Aesthetically, the modern-day recreation pays a faithful tribute, only giving way to modern touches with a slightly larger 42mm case, a 300-metre water resistance, and an updated automatic movement with a 64-hour power reserve.

Longines Skin Diver

Moving ahead a couple of decades, and a duo of divers with undisputable ‘70s flair were reimagined by the 2014 released Longines Heritage Diver. Available as a standard three-handed version and as a chronograph, the Heritage Divers reintroduced bright colours and an impressively sunburst finished cushion-shaped steel case to the wrist. Finding inspiration in two separate models from the 1970s as well as from Longines own involvement in the world of underwater exploration.

Military Pedigree

Amongst the military watch circles of the collecting world, Longines is held in a high regard. Just as it was when, during World War II, the British Ministry of Defence commissioned the Swiss manufacturer, along with 11 other brands, to create and supply watches for their soldiers. These watches, now known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’, represent the most sort after models for military watch collectors. And in 2009, Longines released a tribute to the 1945 WWW “Greenlander”, retaining the easy-to-read black dial, cathedral hands, and its small seconds subdial.

Longines Heritage Military

The iconic “Greenlander” wasn’t the only Longines watch found in the trenches however, and in 2015, the Longines Heritage Military COSD reenlisted a design that was first destined for British airborne units at the end of WWII. These battle-ready watches were marked by the initials of the Company Ordnance Supply Depot (COSD) and featured white dials, with additional red 24-hour inner-dial markings, and a robust case construction.

Longines Heritage Military COSD

With navigation and mission critical timing dependent on their watches, wartime pilots were also issued watches, and many of these used very similar looking spartan dials that were highly legible in the cockpit. One of the finest examples from Longines was the 6B/159, and for 2018, the Swiss-made brand released yet another faithful tribute to its precision timers of WWII, the Longines Heritage Military. Matching everything from the blued steel hands to the lightly fauxtinaed dial with black speckled dots that mean no two watches look the same.

1940’s-inspired Longines Heritage Military

Flying High

Some years before the second advent of world war, Longines watches were already gracing the skies, and the wrists of pilots. In 1927, US Navy officer Phillip Van Horn Weems developed the Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch. Serving as an essential navigational tool for a pilot, the watch used a rotating disc that could synchronise the second hand with a known GMT signal.

In 1931, historic aviator Charles Lindbergh then helped design the very first hour angle watch. Building off Weem’s creation, the markings on its external bezel could be used to find a pilot’s longitude, which when combined with their latitude gave them their exact geographic location.

Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch

Both the Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch and the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch, have been reissued over the years, with their famed historical functions made in several variations.

The Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch 1927-2017 – 90th Anniversary

Not all reissues are based on already famous designs however, and despite having access to records that detail nearly every single Longines watch, with a back catalogue as vast as theirs it’s easy for some to hide in plain sight. As was the case with the 2017 Longines Avigation BigEye, when it was a collector that brought the attention of Longines to the flight-ready design. The BigEye chronograph then went on to win the Revival prize for best historical reinterpretation at the prestigious GPHG awards.

Longines Avigation BigEye

Dressed to Impress

Longines’ history has long been steeped in tradition and elegance, and the original Conquest collection – which was, in fact, the very first Longines family of models – was the epitome of style and refinement for its time.

Longines Conquest Advertisement from 1954

Debuting in 1954, to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2014, Longines reissued the very first Conquest. Remaining impressively true to the original with an under-the-cuff-venturing 35mm case size and a wonderfully decorated caseback with era-appropriate engraving and enamelling.

Longines Conquest Heritage

That timeless elegance is no more evident than in the Longines Heritage 1945. Inspired by a historical model from the 1940’s, the Heritage 1945 reissue shows ageless refinement, with its copper-toned brushed dial glinting in the modern world and looking as dashing today as the original surely did all those years ago.

Cameron Wong

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