For some time now, I think we can all agree, Longines has been on a hot streak like few other brands. All of their additions to the fantastic Heritage Collection have ranged from commendable to award-winning fire, and new iterations of the HydroConquest and Master Collections have continued to punch well above their RRP weight. They have also started to push the winged hourglass’ pitch to more urban and on-trend sensibilities, with models like the all-black Legend Diver remixing a heritage model for decidedly modern tastes. The cornerstone of the Swiss watchmaker’s triumphant last few years has been simple – give the people what they want, give it to them for a fair price, and overdeliver in terms of technicality and build quality. To this day, Longines’ timepieces represent value for money that is practically — and you can come at me in the comments if you like — peerless.
Now the Saint-Imier outfit has set its sights on creating a range of pilot’s watches like no other … ladies and gents, I give you the Longines Spirit.
It may surprise a fair few of you reading this, but Longines’ history of creating instruments and timekeeping devices purpose-built for air travel is extensive. Ever heard of Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart or Paul-Émile Victor? Well, all three of these aeronautical pioneers used Longines watches and instruments to help them conquer the great unknowns of air travel in the 1930s.
This new collection aims to pay homage to these mavericks of the sky and the instruments they used, while also forging a new path as a power player in the highly competitive pilot’s watch market of the modern age. In total there will be eight different models of the Spirit available from launch, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a quick play with each of them before their official unveiling … and these are my initial impressions.
The first thing you notice is the stainless steel case, which can be had in either a 40mm or 42mm sizing. It is a very, very good-looking design – nicely rounded and dripping with detail. The highly polished, chamfered lugs continue along the entire length of the steely case, thanks to the bezel, which is polished around its flanks and brushed on top, being stepped. The glitzy lugs are also contrasted with the rest of the case, being radially, vertically and horizontally brushed. The knurled, oversized onion screw-down crown is also highly polished, as is the piston-style pump pushers and screw-down date pusher found on the chronograph models.
The overall aesthetic that Longines has been able to accomplish with all this mixed finishing is admirable, and on the wrist, these watches do not feel cheap … in fact, they feel a fair bit more opulent and expensive than their recommended retail prices would have you believe. It is also worth mentioning that case thickness will depend on which model you go for, with the width ranging from between 13mm to 16mm. Readers needn’t worry about this girth, though, because the lugs of the Spirit are quite rounded; even the largest and thickest variants will fit on most wrists with ease and, more importantly, comfort.
The pilot’s watches will initially be offered with three different dials – a radially brushed, sunburst navy blue dial, a matt black dial and a granular, silver metallic dial. All three options are a triumph, and each one provides its own unique personality that’s sure to cater to a wide array of customers. All of the dials are slightly recessed, and feature a thin strip of highly polished steel around their edge, which neatly separates the dial’s base from the stepped minute track. Highly legible, applied Arabic numerals filled with extra bright green Super-LumiNova adorn all of the dials, and the accompanying pencil-style handset is also filled with the mesmerising and practical lume. The legibility of the entire range is further enhanced thanks to the use of a domed sapphire crystal with antireflective coating, which seamlessly rises from the edge of the multifaceted bezels. Another big talking point of the Spirit is the five polished applied stars found on all the dials, with the lettering stamped neatly below: “Chronometer”. Rather obviously, that’s because each and every iteration of the collection is COSC certified, which, once again, is a very notable positive, given the modest overall cost of the watches.
For anyone who’s a fan of the Longines brand, these five stars will already be familiar. But for those of you who don’t know, the Swiss watchmaker has always bestowed five individual stars to the dials of timepieces that possess movements that have been enhanced for better quality and reliability. The calibres found in the new Spirit collection couldn’t be more worthy of this accolade. Calibre L888.4, found in the 40mm and 42mm time and date variants of the Spirit, offer up a technicality and precision, benefitting from features such as self-winding, hacking seconds, aforementioned COSC certification, silicon balance spring, 21 jewels, 25,200 vph and 64 hours of power reserve. Calibre L688.4, which is utilised in the 42mm chronograph variants, is also a sensational movement in this price point, thanks to a strong list of specs that include COSC certification, silicon balance spring, self-winding, column wheel chronograph complication, 27 jewels, 28,800 vph and 60 hours of power reserve. Be in no doubt, these ETA-based movements are some of the best in the biz, especially considering that they’ll no doubt be nigh on bombproof.
Depending on which model you choose, the Spirit range comes equipped with either a tapered three-link stainless steel bracelet with brushed and polished elements, or a calfskin leather band with contrasting crème stitching in one of three colours – chocolate brown, tan brown or navy blue. The steely bracelet feels solid and comfortable on the wrist, and both interacting with it and fastening it to one’s wrist, via either a single-folding deployant or dual-folding “butterfly” clasp, is enjoyable and intuitive. Likewise, the brushed stainless steel pin buckle found of the leather bands is a solid, quality item.
With prices ranging from $3100-$4500 AUD, I strongly suspect that Longines has once again nailed what people want with the Spirit – it’s another brilliant addition to their vast catalogue, and it stays true to the ethos that the watchmaker has become known for worldwide: one of quality, affordability and durability. Well done, Longines.