Longines Spirit Zulu Time Longines Spirit Zulu Time

Longines Spirit Zulu Time

Borna Bošnjak

The Swatch Group is pretty much solely responsible for keeping many of today’s noted Swiss brands afloat through the spooky, scary times of the quartz crisis. Longines is one such brand, a maker with a storied past in creating world firsts as well as outfitting the wrists of individuals undertaking great feats of exploration. Especially famed for its chronograph expertise, the brand was position as a mid-tier luxury proposition when its owner ASUAG merged with SSIH in 1983, the two eventually becoming Swatch Group five years later. Recently, however, we’ve seen Longines’ new models positioned in a higher price bracket, squarely aiming at the vintage-inspired sports watch trend that seems to be all the rage in the last decade or so, the Spirit collection being the flagbearer of this endeavour. Enter the Longines Spirit Zulu Time, a true GMT sized at 39mm to suit a wide variety of wrists. I had the pleasure of spending the last few weeks with it on my wrist, and got to find out exactly how Longines is competing around the ever-more crowded A$6,000 price point.

Simply put, it’s pretty

longines spirit zulu time 39 flat

Isn’t it just? The combination of the brown ceramic bezel insert and touches of gold studded throughout accompanies the symmetrical anthracite-brown dial splendidly, especially when looking at the details even closer. Though it’s a sports watch, the polished highlights are thankfully not overdone, Longines managing to use them sparingly throughout and only to highlight the lines of the case. Where they could’ve potentially omitted it is on the outermost plane of the bracelet links, as this is the most likely area to pick up scratches, though it’s by no means visually intrusive.

longines spirit zulu time 39 dial closeup 2

The typeface is dominated by the subtly vintage-styled numerals on the bezel and dial, with the latter giving fantastic depth thanks to their applied form and raised edges that sit ever so proud of the lume infill. I’m often critical of the use of fauxtina, though once again Longines shows off an exercise in restraint, going for a subtle creamy lume to accompany the gold dial appliques. All of the hands are lumed, and after-dark legibility is great considering the usual drop in lume brightness when opting for fauxtina. Simple pencil hands are tasked with time telling, while the running seconds sports a lumed pip on one, and a large counterbalance on the other. The GMT hand is blacked out at its root, giving the polished golden tip a floating appearance, reaching out all the way to the vertical flange. A touch that I’m especially fond of is the date wheel, which isn’t only colour-matched to the dial, but also sports rosy gold printing for the numbers. One slight downside that marrs so many modern watches is the dial printing. The Spirit Zulu Time sports no less than six lines of text, inclusive of the winged hourglass logo and five stars – I’d love to see the AUTOMATIC and CHRONOMETER text relegated to the customary spec sheet on the caseback.

Not too small, not too tall

longines spirit zulu time 39 case side

The Spirit Zulu Time is up against some established favourites at its price point, meaning that it needs to do just as well, if not better. Where it really stood out to me is the case, measuring in at 39mm in diameter, with a thickness of 13.5mm. Of course, it could slim down a millimetre or two, which would undoubtedly give it best-in-class dimensions, but considering it as it is, it’s much more wearable than any Tudor GMT, especially with my smaller-than-average wrists.

longines spirit zulu time 39 wrist

Another important aspect to consider in terms of wearability is the bracelet. It tapers from 21mm to 16mm at the clasp, and is absolutely solid in construction. Due to that aggressive taper, the head of the watch can feel a little top-heavy, so I opted to wear this one quite securely fastened, as opposed to leaving some breathing room. Furthermore, the end-links integrate into the case really well, though be wary of the long-but-curved male end-links increasing the effective lug-to-lug to almost 50mm – just about within the comfort zone of my 6.15in (15.5cm) wrists.

Longines is aiming upmarket

longines spirit zulu time 39 profile

There’s no doubt about it – the brand’s intentions were clear when the Spirit launched, and confirmed with the latest Hydroconquest GMT, which coincidentally features the exact same movement as the Zulu Time. The details are a step above to what we’re used to seeing from Longines. My favourites are probably the diamond hour markers that cut into the stepped rehaut and its bevelled edge – small touches that make the dial much more engaging. Rather than going for black, which would’ve looked almost as good, Longines went for a brown ceramic bezel insert – which just looks better.

longines spirit zulu time 39 caseback

Though not on show, the L844.4 calibre is an impressive performer, with a silicon balance spring, COSC certification, and a 72-hour power reserve – specs which bring it right up to par with the Kenissi’s GMT movement. The L844.4 is exclusive to Longines, based on an ETA A31.411, which is in turn a derivation of the ETA 2892-A2 – though these are by no means downsides – if you read my Questions of Time, you’ll note that I’m quite tired of the whole in-house debate.

longines spirit zulu time 39 bracelet

While the case finishing and movement may echo Longines becoming part of the less approachable, but more refined crowd, I was disappointed to see a pretty standard clasp. Don’t get me wrong, the finishing is great, there is plenty of micro-adjustability and the quick-release spring bars of the bracelet are easy to use, but the near-A$7,000 price point for this two-tone variant screams for a toolless micro-adjust system.

Closing thoughts

longines spirit zulu time 39 dial closeup 1

The Longines Spirit Zulu Time has awakened significant internal conflict in me even after the (relatively) short time I spent wearing it. I’m delighted that Longines seems to have (finally) been given the green light by Swatch Group to become something more than just a considerable value proposition, though it does mean that the days of affordable Longines Heritage Classic pieces could be numbered. Either way, none of those factors are reflective of the watch itself. Objectively, the specifications are fantastic, and so is the general wearing experience. Do I wish some things were different? Certainly – a solid gold bezel and crown would make it that much more appealing over a Black Bay GMT S&G (which also features gold-capped components for nearly A$2,000 more), and I’d kill for on-the-fly micro-adjust.

To sum up then – there are some watches that I carefully pick every morning, after long consideration of what to wear on a given day. The Spirit Zulu Time, however, was the watch that appeared on my wrist those mornings when time was of the essence, picked up off the bedside table and simply being a delightful wrist accessory for the rest of the day. That’s as good of a sign of a great daily wearer as any in my book.

Longines Spirit Zulu Time 39mm pricing and availability

The Longines Spirit Zulu Time is available now from Longines. Price: A$6,675 (fabric or leather strap), A$6,850 (steel bracelet)

Brand Longines
Model Spirit Zulu Time
Reference Number L3.802.5.53.6
Case Dimensions 39mm (D) x 13.5mm (T) x 46.5mm (LTL)
Case Material Stainless steel and 18k yellow gold cap
Water Resistance 10 bar (screw-down crown)
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Grey-brown
Lug Width 21mm
Strap Three-link steel bracelet, double pusher foldover clasp
Movement L844.4, ETA 2892-A2 base, automatic, silicon balance spring
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, true GMT
Availability Now
Price A$6,675 (fabric or leather strap)
A$6,850 (steel bracelet)