IN-DEPTH: The Longines Spirit Zulu Time CollectionFergus Nash
The ability to display two time zones on a single dial has cropped up quite a lot over the course of history, but it was rarely more than a niche curiosity before the advent of flying. Now, the idea of a pilot’s watch without a GMT complication feels somewhat incomplete, and that’s why the new Longines Spirit Zulu Time collection feels so right.
The Longines Spirit collection was an instant hit, with not a single detail on the dial feeling out of place or unnecessary. In short, it was a perfect pilot’s watch with just the right blend of elegance and function to make it a versatile wearer in any scenario. The only gripe was that it was missing a GMT hand, until now…
Longines’ first exploration into a dual-time pocket watch was in 1908, designed to show both Turkish time and French time simultaneously. The Zulu moniker was introduced for the first time in 1925 on a unique square wristwatch. It used another separate hand to indicate the standard of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which was given the Zulu nickname by the military. It even depicted the Zulu flag on the dial, which is also used in naval signalling when a ship requires a tug. The 1930s brought an explosion of development for both air travel and the respective horological technology, with cockpit clocks displaying multiple time zones and Longines securing a patent for their Weems wristwatch with its rotating bezel. The Longines Spirit Zulu Time collection builds on that heritage, but does so in a way that’s highly palatable to contemporary tastes.
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time delivers a solid 42mm case, but the rugged bulk that diameter imparts is tamed with a restrained 49mm lug-to-lug length and 13.9mm thickness. It’s the kind of watch that benefits from a larger size, offering the legibility to pore over its meticulous detail as well as bringing a certain wrist presence. If your wrists are on the smaller side, it’s possible you may experience some overhang, but wearing it on the leather strap should help mitigate any potential discomfort. The bracelet has an extended first link, making the lug-to-lug length a bit longer effectively, but it’s also gorgeous with brushed solid steel links that are polished along their inner strips.
The majority of the case is brushed to show the fine grain of the stainless steel, with a continuous chamfered edge along the side and the coin-edge bezel being polished for contrast and a hint of class. The bezel insert is made of ceramic to match the scratch-resistance of the gently domed sapphire crystal, and it comes in either black, blue or dark forest green depending on your reference of choice. The crown is signed with the Longines name and the winged hourglass logo in polished relief, as just another welcome detail for a watch of this status.
As with the first releases from the Spirit range, the Longines Spirit Zulu Time has one of those dials that just feels harmonious. It’s restrained without being boring, detailed without being overwhelming, and easily legible without sacrificing aesthetic. The Arabic numerals are applied with a nice thick metallic border, then filled with Swiss Super-LumiNova for excellent after-dark vision. Beside them are printed diamond markers, sunken into a subtly risen chapter ring bearing the minute markers. The other applied details include the five stars that indicate the movement’s quality, and of course that winged hourglass which is the world’s oldest active trademark. Surrounding those stars are the words ‘ZULU TIME’ honouring the original 1925 watch, and proof of the movement’s chronometer certification.
The overall vibe of the Longines Spirit Zulu Time is really what makes it such strong competition for something like the Tudor Black Bay 58, with that unmistakeable vintage aura that feeds into a nostalgic mindset. There are very few vintage watches that actually look like this, but there seems to be a strange kind of subliminal comfort that this well-balanced and finessed style provides. There are three variations, with the most versatile being a simple white and matte black colour scheme, except for the little burst of blue on the GMT hand and ‘ZULU TIME’ text. Next is a far dressier version in blue, complete with a vibrant sunburst dial and blood-orange highlights. The cooler tones of the blue really brings in a level of sophistication that the other versions don’t lean into. The third reference is likely going to be the most popular, with a black and gold dial featuring the dark green bezel. The warmth emanating from this model with its aged lume is incredible, and it’s easy to imagine the smell of fuel and the whir of propellers while wearing it.
The Longines calibre L844.4 is based on the ETA A31.L01, with the rarely seen beat rate of 25,200 vibrations per hour and a very healthy 72 hour power reserve. This version also features a monocrystalline silicon balance spring that aids reliability and anti-magnetism, and COSC-certification that guarantees performance within -4/+6 seconds per day. The positioning of the date display at 6 o’clock is great for dial symmetry. To adjust the whole time including the 24-hour GMT hand, the crown is pulled to the third position where the seconds are hacked. To then change the local time when travelling, the second position allows you to move the hour hand in single-hour increments.
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time collection price and availability:
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time models are available now from Longines boutiques and authorised dealers. Price: $4,400 AUD on leather, $4,550 on bracelet.
|Model||Spirit Zulu Time|
|Case Dimensions||42mm x 13.9mm x 49mm|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Water Resistance||100 Metres|
|Dial||Black / Blue Sunburst / Anthracite Gilt|
|Strap||Steel Bracelet / Leather Strap|
|Power Reserve||72 hours|
|Availability||Available now from boutiques and authorised dealers|
|Price||$4,400 AUD on leather / $4,550 AUD on bracelet|