Editor’s note: Almost all reissues of vintage timepieces have an exciting story to tell – that’s just the way it is, otherwise watchmakers wouldn’t bother remaking. Thing is, though, when a watch manufacturer does decide to create an homage timepiece, they usually have the original in their possession. That was not the case when Longines was first shown the original version of their now famed Avigation BigEye. Seriously, the brand had no idea the watch existed — they didn’t have a single example of it in their museum; they only found out because a keen Longines collector brought the watch to their attention. Boy oh boy though, was Longines happy they did, because the tribute timepiece they created went on to win GPHG’s ‘Revival Watch Prize’ in 2017. It’s hands down one of the nicest pilot’s watches the Swiss firm has ever produced.
By now it should come as no surprise that Longines is a master when it comes to heritage reissues. The company has a proven track record almost as long and distinguished as its actual archives. From the Legend Diver through to the COSD and the Heritage 1945, the Saint-Imier brand rarely puts a foot wrong when it comes to vintage-themed pieces.
Longines’ latest is the Avigation BigEye, a handsome 41mm brushed-steel chronograph that draws on the marque’s strong aviation links. The design is based on a historical pilot’s chronograph, similar in style to the Type XX watches made by a range of brands, including Breguet.
As with all good pilot’s watches, legibility is key, and the BigEye’s spartan colour scheme and relatively plain design very much honours that promise, with bold hash marks, large Arabic numerals, and traditional stick hands. But the most interesting design feature is the oversized elapsed minutes counter, the ‘Big Eye’ that gives the watch its name. This 30-minute sub-dial is larger than the running seconds and elapsed-hour counter, to give it maximum presence. Some people may find this larger counter slightly off-putting, but I find that this variation, along with the different layouts on the sub-dials, keeps things interesting. Extra props to Longines for leaving the date window off and avoiding the temptation to use faux-tina, opting for the cleaner white/green Super-LumiNova.
The rest of the watch serves as a great support act for the dial. The domed sapphire crystal is on point, and the mix of brushed and polished finishes on the case casts the right balance between tool watch and style object. Pump pushers are on point, too.
The movement, hidden behind a solid caseback, is also noteworthy: the Calibre L688 is essentially a souped-up 7750, with architecture that’s modified to a column-wheel instead of cam architecture. Oh, and the power reserve has been increased to 54 hours. It’s shipped on an aged-calf strap, but it’s the sort of watch that would look great on anything.
All told, the Avigation BigEye is a classic, classy watch that shows plenty of vintage cred without overpowering. And it’s hard to argue with the price.