Longines is a Swiss luxury watch brand based at St Imier, Switzerland, since 1832. Currently the brand is owned by Swatch Group S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of watches and associated products. Its signature is timeless elegance based on a rich aesthetic heritage that it keeps up-to-date with a skilful blend of refinement and classicism. Its current models are inspired by a history of daring technology and bold styling nurtured within the Manufacture, a huge laboratory that carefully protects the profile of Longines creations. With an excellent reputation for creating refined timepieces, the brand, whose emblem is the winged hourglass, is now established in more than 130 countries.
Today, Longines creates timepieces that are adapted to the constraints of modern times without sacrificing its core values. The watchmaking tradition of the winged-hourglass brand is exemplified by models in the Longines Master Collection, the Longines Evidenza, Longines Spirit, or the Heritage Collection (Flagship Heritage, Longines Clous de Paris, Conquest Heritage, or Les Elégantes de Longines). Its devotion to elegance is expressed in the Longines Dolce Vita, Longines BelleArti (contemporary elegance) or La Grande Classique de Longines (classic elegance) collections.
Finally, all of its sporting experience is invested in performance, with models such as the HydroConquest, Conquest, GrandVitesse and Longines Admiral. The Longines Sport Legends (The Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch, the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch, the Longines Legend Diver and the Longines Istituto Idrografico R. Marina Watch) all pay tribute to the famous instruments that have been invented by the brand with the winged hourglass.
History of Longines Watch Company
In 1832, Auguste Agassiz entered the world of watchmaking by establishing a partnership with a watchmaking comptoir (the Swiss name for a watch production workshop and dealership) in Saint-Imier. Shortly thereafter, he took control of the enterprise and renamed it “Agassiz & compagnie”.
At the time, the company assembled watches according to the établissage method, with people working at home, and developed trade links that enabled the company to sell its timepieces around the world, particularly in North America.
In the 1850s, Ernest Francillon, a nephew of Agassiz, took over the management of the company on behalf of his uncle, who was obliged by ill health to delegate his responsibilities. Francillon continued the work of the company, concentrating his efforts on the production of standard watches and aiming to increase production of it. In 1862 Francillon gave his name to the company, although it remained under the auspices of his uncle, being now known as Ancienne Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest Francillon, successeur. Immediately, he looked for ways to improve the manufacturing methods currently in force in the watchmaking industry of the Jura region.
Referred to as établissage, this method of organising the labour necessary to produce watches is characterised by a very clear division of labour within a network of artisans, each specialising in highly segmented tasks and each working independently. At the head of this diffuse system of production were the watch manufacturers who – like Francillon – owned a watchmaking comptoir. The watch manufacturer distributed the work to be carried out among the independent artisans, co-ordinated production, and was responsible for the marketing of the finished watch.
When he took over responsibility for the former Agassiz comptoir, Francillon was fully aware of the deficiencies inherent in the system, and looked for a solution to reduce the effect of these deficiencies on the watch production process. His conclusions led him to attempt to formulate a new method of production which would be based on two principal axes: geographical concentration of labour (which at that time was spread over a wide area within the établissage system), and the use of mechanical production methods which were being developed at that time. In 1866 he bought an old amalgam mill at a place called “Les Longines” on the banks of the river Suze in the Saint-Imier valley. Here he aimed to set up a watchmaking factory, bringing together under one roof some of the artisans who were affiliated with his comptoir.
Simply bringing together the various specialists in certain operations for the assembly of the movement did not sufficiently improve the établissage production process, and Francillon also explored the possibilities afforded by machine tools. Mechanisation of the production process was of fundamental importance for Swiss watchmaking in the second half of the 19th century, and Francillon was one of the pioneers in this field which was at that time unknown among regional watchmakers. He used machines for the production of certain components of the movement, but his main ambition was to acquire the capacity to produce ébauches, or movement blanks, which constitute the substructure of the movement.
The possibility of machining these blanks is an essential strategic element of watch production, on the one hand enabling a manufacturer to develop his own calibres, and on the other hand providing some relief from dependence on movement blank manufacturers, which supplied the entire watchmaking industry of the Jura region with these basic movement frameworks. To develop the machines necessary for production, Francillon sought the assistance of a young relative, an engineer named Jacques David, who together with an experienced watchmaker by the name of Edouard Châtelain undertook to modify the mechanical methods involved in the established production programme.
In 1867, Francillon was able to present the first calibre entirely designed at Les Longines – the 20A, a mechanical movement with pendant winding. This was first presented at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
At the same time, Francillon undertook steady development of calibres which he adapted to his ambitious new production set-up. This quest for the movement continued until the end of the 19th century and went on into the first third of the 20th century, in spite of the death of the founder of the Longines factory.
In 1878, Longines produced a calibre fitted with a simple chronograph mechanism, the 20H. This movement was the first chronometric device manufactured by Longines. During the 20th century the brand was to invest massively in this field.
The 1876 Universal Exhibition held in Philadelphia is generally regarded as being the starting point for the process of the industrialisation of the Swiss watchmaking industry, which was still based on a production system governed by the établissage organisational method, in spite of some attempts to question this system (the most successful such attempt being that of Longines).
By indirectly setting Swiss watch production against that of the American manufacturers, in particular at the Waltham and Elgin factories, the exhibition provided an opportunity for the delegate from the Société Intercantonale des industries du Jura, Jacques David, to evaluate the emergence of the competition, which was as unexpected as it was serious.
Returning from the United States armed with a report containing disturbing findings about how far Swiss watchmakers – firmly rooted in a concept for the organisation of labour which had contributed much to regional development – were falling behind, Jacques David, the engineer at the Longines factory, paved the way for a new production concept which would enable the Swiss watchmaking industry to affirm its expertise within the framework of a different production system, more suited to supporting its firm resolution to fight the threat of the transatlantic competition which was a cause for concern from many points of view.
But while Swiss watchmakers were still putting up resistance to the introduction of machine tools, Longines (thanks to Francillon’s intuition and David’s efforts) played a pioneering role in the process of the mechanisation – albeit partial – of watch production.
Indeed, the production route taken by Francillon was to receive confirmation in the form of distinctions and prizes awarded at universal exhibitions held internationally. In the last third of the 19th century, the production of the Longines factory was regularly honoured by various accolades testifying to the quality of a production concept which attempted to integrate, on different levels and according to different experimental approaches, the contributions that machine tools could make to watchmaking.
In 1874, Francillon also took protective measures to guarantee the authenticity of his production, and to guard against the counterfeits that were attempting to take advantage of the Longines name. He published a notice stipulating that all watches and all movements produced in his factory from 1867 onwards were to bear the name of Longines or the winged hourglass which is the symbol of the brand. From that time onwards the Longines brand and the winged hourglass symbol became firmly established.
In 1880 the brand name was filed with the Federal Office of Intellectual Property, while the symbol was registered in 1889. In 1893 worldwide protection was provided when the brand name and symbol were filed with the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property, the forerunner of WIPO. Longines is thus the oldest brand name to have been registered with WIPO and still in use unchanged today.
The putting in place of a structure for producing watch movements and watches required major effort and constant modification. From its beginnings in 1867, this vast “work in progress” continued during the end of the 19th century and into the 20th. The organisation of the factory underwent major development; additional tasks (inherited from the division of labour which applied in the context of regional établissage) were integrated and a process of specialisation led to the emergence of new operations, indeed of new professions.
The changes in the organisational structure to some extent reflected the development of the production method used at the Longines factory. At the same time, mechanical production processes were progressively introduced under the supervision of the engineer Jacques David. Encouraged by the findings brought back from Philadelphia by David, Francillon continued to try to improve production by implementing the benefits of the mechanical age.
In parallel with these changes in working methods, quality and production control procedures were set up. Although the first watches produced at Les Longines are listed from 1867 onwards, it would take several years, during which the production structure was being put in place, before the documents containing this information – the livres d’établissage – began to include headings indicating the existence of a procedure for verifying production quality. Once the movement was assembled and cased up, i.e. once the timepiece was finished, the watch was subjected to a final control carried out by experienced watchmakers.
The regularity of the rate was checked, and if any irregularities in the functioning of the watch were detected the watch was sent back to the timing workshops or other workshops further upstream in the production process. These production controls were carried out in what was known as the lanterne department, because it housed the special glass-fronted cupboards in which repairers and timers hung watches being kept under observation. This was the last stage carried out within the factory before the watch was put on sale.
Once the control procedure was completed, the watch and the movement inside it were placed on lists covering the entire production at the factory, the livres d’établissage. Kept in the dispatch department, these huge ledgers listed all the movements and timepieces produced at Les Longines using an individual consecutive number engraved on each calibre. In 1867, when Francillon was taking his first steps towards a “new production concept”, he immediately put in place a system which would enable him to identify all the movements produced in his factory. He wanted to have total traceability of production. All this information is recorded in the livres d’établissage, a series of documents which made it possible for quality control to be exercised on all items produced.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Longines consolidated the links it had established (going back as far as the time of the Agassiz comptoir) with the American market, an essential outlet for the Swiss watchmaking industry, in spite of the emergence of serious local competition. The Saint-Imier brand became well established in the United States and North America, thanks to the links maintained with Mayor, based in New York, and then with his successor J. Eugène Robert. In 1890, Albert Wittnauer took over the running of the establishment and the Longines representation on the other side of the Atlantic. This New York branch enabled the manufacture in Saint-Imier to sell a major part of its rapidly growing production.
At the factory in Les Longines, for a good deal of effort was undertaken to shift production to an industrial scale. While new various new technologies were adapted for use in movement production, the brand also developed different types of movements for its timepieces. Influenced by a clear trend towards miniaturisation of the movement, Longines was now marketing its first wristwatches, although the pocket watch still took the lion’s share of its production.
In 1900, the achievements of the “winged hourglass” brand were appropriately rewarded with the Grand Prix awarded at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. On the cusp of the 20th century, this recognition, taken in conjunction with the prizes won on similar occasions, reflected the progress made by the Longines factory since 1867 in putting in place a different system of production that was subject to systematic quality control.
During the first decade of the 20th century, the development of the movement – the heart of the watch and the centre of activities at the factory at Saint-Imier – underwent a process of reorientation. Spurred by the creative impetus of Alfred Pfister, who joined the company in 1896, a range of calibres was developed. While the Longines movements of the first third of the 19th century were characterised by their robustness, the design perfected by Pfister and his staff was to place a new value on aesthetics. This range of calibres was produced in sizes from 8 to 24 lines; it was also executed in a slimmed-down version.
The emergence of a construction model for the movement produced according to different approaches betokened a new way of thinking about watch manufacturing, aimed at the rationalisation of production. The calibres produced in Les Longines were mainly used in pocket watches, but the wristwatch – which used movements similar to those used in pocket watches – were gradually gaining ground.
Over the first ten years of the century, Longines employed a significant number of workers – although the numbers were very much dependent on economic circumstances. While the workforce at the Longines factory numbered about 900 in 1907, this figure rose to over 1000 in 1911 and almost 1200 by 1912. In a village of scarcely more than 8000 souls, the place occupied by the company, in spite of the presence of numerous other watch manufacturers, appeared predominant to say the least.
Every day a long procession of workers would march up along the banks of the river Suze in the direction of the village; this procession of workers illustrated the close connections that existed between the Longines factory and the village of Saint-Imier, whose development owes much to the watchmaking industry.
From an industrial point of view, the first decade of the 20th century represented a period of extension, increased production and the development of new movement models. This period was brought to an end by the First World War and its consequences. In the context of strong demand for timepieces, with wristwatches gaining in importance, the technical department headed by Alfred Pfister was studying the construction of shaped movements, specially designed for timepieces to be worn on the wrist.
These calibres, which were developed during the war, represented the first example of movements specifically created by Longines for wristwatches. The oval and rectangular shapes of these calibres, and consequently the shapes of the timepieces themselves, were a response to the aesthetic trends of the period.
But the beginning of the first global conflict interrupted the period of growth and consolidation which had begun for the factory at the end of the 19th century. The general mobilisation decreed in Switzerland emptied the workshops of their men, forcing horological matters to come to a standstill. The managers at Longines were obliged to suspend shipments and to impose short-time working. However, in order to counteract the economic consequences of the war, a process of diversification of production was initiated.
Adapting the production equipment available, Longines manufactured prismatic compasses to send to England and sighting compasses for the United States. However, the necessity for this tentative diversification proved short-lived. In spite of the obstacles to trade, global demand for timepieces rapidly recovered strength in the majority of the world markets. While the spectre of unemployment (the managers’ great fear at the start of the conflict) vanished during the latter years of the war, it was the shortage of labour, particularly the workers that had been called up to serve in the armed forces, that represented the most damaging deficiency as far as the activities of the company were concerned.
Once the war was over, the technical office resumed the development of calibres, which had been put on hold during the last two years of the conflict. Even though a series of shaped movements intended for wristwatches had been developed in 1916, the innovation relating to the heart of the watch – the centre of the company’s industrial activities – experienced a period of stagnation which contrasts with the uninterrupted development of movements from 1867 onwards. In spite of the emergence of the wristwatch, supported as much by the needs of the military as by the directions in which female fashions were moving, the construction of the Longines calibre seemed temporarily to have reached a technological plateau.
It was 1920 before the factory launched a movement with a power reserve of 8 days, which was used in a series of special pieces that included small clocks, office clocks, travel clocks, and clocks used in cars and planes. From an economic standpoint, the beginning of the 1920s was marked by a pronounced slowdown which plunged the watchmaking industry, albeit accustomed to putting up with the hazards inherent in business affairs, into an intense crisis.
The 1920s witnessed numerous attempts to master air travel, a field which requires time measurement instruments of extremely high precision. Thanks to its chronometers, Longines, the official supplier to the International Aeronautical Federation (IAF) since 1919, was right up there with the pioneers of the sky in their expeditions. In 1925, for example, the winged-hourglass brand accompanied Locatelli’s flight in the North Polar region; in 1926, the Saint-Imier company was there when Mittelholzer flew from Switzerland to Iran.
But it was above all the human and technical achievement of Charles Lindbergh in 1927 which had a real impact in terms of brand awareness. Flying the “Spirit of St. Louis”, Lindbergh succeeded in making the first non-stop crossing of the North Atlantic, from New York to Paris. His feat, officially ratified by the IAF, was timed using Longines measurement equipment. Subsequently, equipment provided by the winged-hourglass brand was to assist numerous pilots in their explorations of the skies.
The Saint-Imier brand also accompanied the Antarctic expedition led by Admiral Byrd, but it was above all in the field of aviation that Longines was to provide chronometers. Between 1926 and 1939, the company was associated with a long list of prestigious flights. Longines also provided the equipment for the “Graf Zeppelin” airship captained by Hans von Schiller during his world tour. In 1938, Howard Hughes beat the speed record for a flight around the world, circling the globe in less than four days equipped with chronometers and chronographs supplied by Longines.
In 1931, however, Longines’ involvement in the conquest of the skies took on a whole new dimension when, based on a design executed by Charles Lindbergh on the basis of his experience as a pilot, the company developed and produced an Hour Angle watch. This device, which was to be of crucial importance for pilots at that time, showed Greenwich time and the corresponding hour angle.
The repercussions of the spectacular collapse in share prices at the New York Stock Exchange on October 24th 1929 sounded the death knell of the boom years and dragged the United States down into an unprecedented crisis affecting all Western economies to varying degrees. At the Longines factory, however, the situation seems to have been perceived as less worrying than at the time of the 1921 crisis, and the managers considered themselves better equipped to face a recession. Nevertheless the crisis spread, seriously affecting the Swiss watchmaking industry, which in addition was having to cope with new competition from American watches which were protected by the prohibitive customs tariffs voted by Congress.
Furthermore, the practice of chablonnage, i.e. the exporting of movement blanks and assorted parts, increased and aggravated the threat hovering over the Swiss watchmaking industry as a whole. Indeed the impact was sorely felt at Longines: for the first time ever, the company recorded a serious annual deficit, working hours were shortened, the payment of dividends was deferred, workshops outside the factory were closed and observatory competitions were postponed.
The impact of the recession in the 1930s also led to a reorganisation of the production process, a severe cutback in the number of calibres in production and the design of new movements including a small baguette calibre. At the instigation of Alfred Pfister, Longines adapted its production methods and sought to reduce the cost price of its movements. The crisis gave rise to a remodelling of the structure of the factory.
In 1936 the situation improved again for watchmaking in conjunction with the re-opening of the American market, where Longines from then onwards had a reorganised branch operating under the name of the Longines-Wittnauer Watch Co, which once again set about the task of filling up the factory’s order books. After six difficult years marked by the worldwide economic slump, Longines came to the end of the financial year 1936 with a modest profit.
The period of recovery that took place in the second half of the 1930s was stopped in its tracks by the start of the Second World War. The general mobilisation of the Swiss army deprived the workshops at Les Longines of the necessary workforce to maintain the productivity levels that had been attained by the end of the decade. In addition, as the war extended its grip, commercial difficulties emerged, although the watchmaking industry found ways of selling its products, for by contrast with the impact that the First World War had had on the course of business, the demand for timepieces continued unabated during the years of the conflict, particularly as far as chronographs were concerned. The aeroplane now took the place of the boat for the transport of watches produced in Les Longines. But in spite of this change, there were often severe obstacles in the way of traffic and finished timepieces were sometimes only delivered with difficulty.
It was during this period that the New York branch of the business showed its potential as far as the Saint-Imier company was concerned. With the closure of many European outlets, the Longines-Wittnauer company absorbed the majority of the watches produced on the banks of the Suze, even though the factory was working to its maximum capacity during this period. Indeed, in spite of the war, the financial position of the factory was very much better than it had been at any time since 1936.
While chronograph movements were the object of numerous developments in the 1930s and 1940s – the need for such instruments was great, especially during –the war – Longines was also researching the design of other technical devices. Outside the field of sports timekeeping, where the company was beginning to study and create various systems, Longines was adding to the range of instruments which it could provide to aviators. In particular, the company designed an on-board chronometer which became known as the siderograph, which gives the sidereal time at Greenwich expressed in degrees, minutes and fractions of arc minutes; this was used to speed up calculations of position by directly showing the hour angle of the vernal point in relation to Greenwich.
Although a difficult time from a commercial point of view, because of the many obstacles and communication problems, as far as the economic situation was concerned the Second World War was quite a favourable period for the watchmaking industry. On the technical level, the period of the conflict proved to be a period rich in developments at Longines. Many calibres were also designed between 1939 and 1945 (although the creative pace proved to be slower than at the start of the decade), while simultaneously the brand developed new processes in the field of sports timing. But one important innovation was created in the workshops at the Saint-Imier factory towards the end of the war: the technical department researched the development of a calibre with automatic winding, a type which was beginning to find favour with the international clientele.
Under the leadership of Alfred Pfister, the technical department made huge efforts in terms of research and development, on the one hand in order to design an self-winding movement – starting with a special movement blank – and on the other hand in order to create the tools necessary for its production. The development of a prototype, using a new winding technology never yest adapted to large-scale production, represented a considerable challenge requiring the participation of all the departments of the factory.
In 1945, Longines introduced its first self-winding movement created in its own workshops : Calibre 22A. This circular movement measuring 21.5 mm in diameter was built simultaneously with subsidiary seconds or centre seconds, and was protected by numerous patents. In 1944, another development project was started in the field of chronographs. The technical department wanted to develop a calibre for a wrist chronograph that would be lighter than the models in production at that time. Following a lengthy phase of research and modification, in 1947 Longines brought out a mechanical manual winding movement fitted with a chronograph device, Calibre 30CH – the last wrist chronograph movement to be developed by the Saint-Imier factory.
Generally, the newfound peace seemed to benefit the Swiss watchmaking industry and to contribute to its development. However, the influx of orders in the period following the war should not obscure the position achieved by the industry in Switzerland during the conflict, while foreign competition was suffering under a variety of constraints. In the face of the expansion of the worldwide demand for watches, production equipment was deployed and factories were enlarged. At Les Longines, new buildings were constructed throughout this period as part of a huge transformation programme.
In addition to innovation in watchmaking technology, the “winged-hourglass” company continued to pursue the paths it had been successfully following for several years beforehand. In the field of precision, Longines participated in the chronometry competition set up by the Neuchâtel Observatory to evaluate wristwatches, and obtained excellent results. Abandoned during the war (by Longines in particular), these chronometry tests setting one watchmaking brand against another took on a new importance in the context of the competition between the various companies. But although the chronometry competitions were a suitable means of testifying to production quality, the necessity of having a precise instrument for measuring time remained a fundamental need in many areas.
From the 1950s onwards, sports chronometry, a field in which Longines had significant expertise even at that time, constituted an important part of the activities of the winged- hourglass brand. Thanks to chronometry instruments developed by the Saint-Imier company from 1878 onwards, Longines had participated in numerous sports events of international importance.
Productivity at the Longines factory, achieved during the first half of the 20th century at the cost of rationalisation and modification of the production method, was largely maintained at the same level in the years between 1950 and 1970. Through its chronometers, Longines participated in the travels undertaken by pioneers searching the world for as yet unexplored territory. The French polar expeditions led by the scientist and ethnologist Paul-Emile Victor between 1947 and 1976 were among these attempts at the exploration of the planet, carried out even in sometimes hostile regions. The large amounts of sophisticated equipment that these expeditions required included Longines chronometers.
For a long voyage into an inhospitable environment, a reliable chronometer is a vital piece of equipment, principally for determining position. Subjected to huge variations in temperature, the equipment produced by Longines supported geologists, physicists, geophysicists, glaciologists, geodesists and other engineers of the French expedition in their polar journeys. Apart from the characteristics of the movement itself, i.e. the construction and totality of the technical parameters contributing to a precise rate, the watertightness of the timepiece was an essential prerequisite for any expedition in difficult conditions: a watertight case protects the movement and promotes a regular rate.
While Longines was participating in the discovery of the poles, or in other expeditions such as the British topographical campaign in Georgia in 1955-1956, the winged-hourglass company also found itself plunged to the depths of the ocean bed. Through its chronometry equipment, Longines was associated with the marine explorations carried out by Professor Auguste Piccard. A Swiss physicist, Piccard had devoted the first half of his career to conquering the stratosphere in a pressurised airship of his own design, with which he attained a height of 15,781 metres in 1931.
After the Second World War, he resumed the position of Professor of Physics which he had held before the conflict at the University of Brussels, where he led work on the development of an engine for exploring the ocean depths. He designed his first bathyscaphe (derived from the Greek “bathus” (deep) and “skaphê” (boat)). At the beginning of the 1950s, Piccard directed the construction of a new submersible, financed by Italy and Switzerland, which he christened Trieste in honour of the Italian city where the project was based.
The first tests were carried out during the summer of 1953 along the Italian coast, with the assistance of the Italian Navy. In the cabin of the Trieste, high-precision Longines counters formed part of the equipment with which the scientist and his son Jacques Piccard launched themselves to a test depth of more than 1000 metres. On September 30th 1953, the “Trieste” attained a depth of 3,050 metres off the island of Ponza. This was to be the professor’s last dive, after which he handed over the control of his bathyscaph to his son.
In addition to its mechanical instruments, Longines was also studying new technologies for the measurement of time. Thus the company developed a high-precision quartz clock which enabled it to obtain an unprecedented result at the Neuchâtel Observatory in 1954. The performance of this device, designed in-house at the Saint-Imier factory, superseded the accuracy records previously established by time-measurement instruments at astronomical and chronometric observatories. After 24 hours in operation, the Longines quartz clock showed an error of zero (0 thousandths of a second). It was the chronometry department which, under the supervision of the engineers from the winged-hourglass company, had perfected the mechanical and electronic parts of the device. This quartz clock was then coupled to a Paillard-Bolex H16 camera.
This technical association enabled Longines to design a sports timing device using a principle already evaluated with the previously developed Chronocaméra, i.e. the visualisation of time on the finishing line. In this device, known as the Chronocinégines, the time indicated to one hundredth of a second by the quartz clock was projected via a set of lenses on to each frame of a film (up to 100 frames per second), thanks to a synchronous motor which causes a counter movement to turn. During the 1950s, the development of sports timekeeping devices continued at Longines. Although it was just one of a series of systems designed by the Saint-Imier company, the Chronocinégines signalled the emergence of a new technology, the technology of electronics and quartz, within the field of time-measurement techniques.
In 1952, Longines brought out its first self-winding calibre designed in house, the 19A. The factory was acquiring knowledge relating to automatic winding technology. In 1956, this experience was mobilised for the design of a small oval self-winding movement which was intended for ladies’ watches, the 14.17.
Dependent upon the decisive progress made with regard to lubrication, this calibre was fitted with a balance and spring assembly oscillating at a frequency of 19,800 vibrations per hour; it constituted the only self-winding movement for ladies’ watches developed by Longines. The increase in the frequency of oscillation of its regulating organ marked a basic trend in the development of the mechanical movement, particularly in the context of the emergence of technological competition based on electronics and quartz. This progression, rendered possible by the independent development of the components, also had an impact on chronometry. In 1959, Longines developed a calibre specifically designed for observatory competitions.
Designated by reference number 360, this movement, rectangular in shape with rounded corners, was produced in a very small series. It was exclusively allocated to the precision competitions in which the major watchmaking companies so eagerly participated. The construction characteristics of the 360 reflected its function: although its total surface area was very close to the limits specified by the observatories, the large size of this calibre permitted the use of a large barrel mainspring and promoted good management of the distribution of energy. In addition, the dimensions of the 360 made it possible to use a large balance and spring assembly oscillating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, enabling a very precise rate. The 360 calibre set new records for precision in the wrist chronometer category at the Neuchâtel Observatory.
In 1957, Longines presented a timepiece which was named the “Flagship”. Fitted with a 30L calibre built by the technicians of the manufacture in 1955, this watch set the seal on the adoption of a new concept for marketing watches. Although the technical characteristics remained an essential parameter of production, the fact of giving a timepiece a name opened up a strategic field which had until then been little exploited. Longines used the production of this watch as a centre around which it planned all of its publicity in the context of a world wide advertising campaign.
At the end of the 1950s, Longines devoted significant resources to perfecting its mechanical movements. Calibres which were specially designed for wristwatches seemed at that time to have strong potential for advancement. Increasing the frequency of oscillation of the regulating organ formed at that time a technical trajectory which was systematically pursued. However, by contrast with earlier practices, the design of calibres was undertaken simultaneously with the creation of watch models.
At the Basel Fair in 1959, Longines presented a timepiece which it christened “Jamboree”; it was fitted with a calibre – available in several variants – also designed in 1959, the 280. In the same year, the Saint-Imier brand also brought out a new 11 ½-line self-winding calibre, the 290, which made the production of an automatic Conquest range possible. Following the example of contemporary movements, the 290 and its derivatives had a regulating organ oscillating at 19,800 vibrations per hour. In 1960, Longines developed the 340 calibre and its variants (341, 342, 343, 345) with which the Flagship timepieces are fitted. This 12-line self-winding movement is also fitted with a balance-balance spring unit which vibrates at a frequency of 19,800 vibrations per hour.
Within the factory, working methodology was being rationalised according to the principles of the scientific organisation of work. In the area of research and development, the second half of the 20th century saw the establishment of new rationales in the process of technical creation. At the Longines factory, engineering science was increasingly replacing the watchmakers’ technical expertise which had reigned supreme up to that time.
The company called upon specialised skills to deepen its knowledge in certain fields which were being explored at that time, such as electronics and chemistry. Thus new technologies for the measurement of time, specifically electronics and quartz, were juxtaposed with traditional watchmaking techniques. This technical dichotomy of activity necessitated recourse to new expertise from outside the watchmaking industry.
In 1954, the chronometry department, in collaboration with the engineers from the factory’s technical department, had developed a portable quartz clock which was connected to a camera. This device, known as the Chronocinégines, was frequently used by Longines in spite of the subsequent development of other systems for measuring intervals of time. For example, the Chronocinégines was used for measuring the time for the world land speed record set in 1964 by Donald Campbell from the UK. In the Bluebird, a racing car weighing four tonnes and measuring over 9 metres, Campbell attained a speed of 648.728 km/hour on the bottom of Lake Eyre, a dried up lake in Australia.
Thanks to an engine capable of 4100 horse power, the British driver did indeed break the world land speed record. To time the course of Campbell’s Bluebird, Longines used four Chronocinégines devices. Thanks to the cameras, which were filming at a hundred frames per second, the system used made it possible to determine the exact position of the car at any given hundredth of a second. Longines also measured the time for the speed record on water as set by Campbell at the end of 1964. In Australia, the UK pilot attained a speed of 445 km/hour.
Hot on the heels of the first portable quartz clock designed in Saint-Imier, major research into electronics and quartz technologies was undertaken and showed the first signs of success towards the mid 1960s. Having succeeded in miniaturising the technical principles of the clock controlling the Chronocinégines devices, Longines developed a quartz electronic movement, Calibre 800, which was used for on-board chronometers. Equipped with an electromagnetic motor and a mercury battery, this time-measurement device paved the way for a degree of precision entirely different from that provided by mechanical devices. This chronometer superseded the records obtained by mechanical devices in the observatories.
In addition to such technical aspects, Longines was pursuing its efforts in the area of watch design. Alongside the standard collections, the brand was creating prestige ranges displaying a certain aesthetic boldness. During this period, stylistic innovation became established as a new production dimension.
Strengthened by its status as a “manufacture” (a watch industry French term referring to companies capable of making their own calibres), Longines continued to develop watch movements, following the broad outlines of the advances made since the 1950s. However, in 1967, Longines developed a 11 ½-line self-winding calibre which took the development ideas which had been pursued over the previous twenty years to their technical conclusion. The 430 movement, of which several variations were produced, had a regulating organ vibrating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, resulting in a very precise rate.
While the frequency of oscillation of the balance and spring assembly increased from the 1950s onwards, it was generally limited to 19,800 or in some cases 21,600 vibrations per hour. At this level, Calibre 430 had the same characteristics as the movements designed specially by the company for the precision competitions at the observatories. Unlike these calibres, however, the 430 and its variants were developed for use in wristwatches that were generally available on the market. One special collection was in addition designed simultaneously with the development of this calibre; it was named “Ultra-Chron” in reference to the technical performance of the 430. This movement stemmed from a desire to create a mechanical countermeasure to the gradual (though at that time clearly perceptible) emergence of competition using electronic and quartz technologies.
Although quartz was gaining ground, the creation of the 430 movement did not constitute the “last stand” of the mechanical calibre, the centre of Longines’ industrial activity since the company was founded in 1867, but rather the conclusion of a technical trajectory that had been pursued for a good quarter century. Longines also continued to develop mechanical calibres up until the 1980s. At the end of the 60s, therefore, traditional watchmaking was the subject of intense and costly research. In addition, mechanical chronometers were also modified in accordance with the advances made in certain fields, such as 1966 Calibre 262, which provided sports counters with a sliding hand so that the time could be measured to 1/10 of a second.
At the end of the 1960s, the sustainability of the directions in which Longines was moving was also demonstrated by the company’s activities in sports timing. The winged-hourglass brand continued to provide timekeeping equipment for various sports competitions all over the world, including the Tour de France, a cycling competition for which Longines has provided chronometers on 33 occasions.
At the beginning of 1969, no official mention was made of the potential production of wristwatches fitted with a quartz electronic movement. However, a secret project had been initiated within the walls of the manufacture. Known as the “projet sablier” or “hourglass project”, its aim was to develop and produce a quartz Longines watch before 1970.
Nonetheless, Longines was associated, together with other watchmaking companies and other firms, with the work carried out by the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH), which was studying the design of a calibre using the piezoelectric properties of quartz. This joint research led to the development of the famous Bêta 21, but on the basis of its potential as a movement manufacturer, Longines had been conducting an independent study in parallel, more focused on the reasonably large-scale production of an electronic movement for wristwatches.
After eighteen months of research, the physicists, watchmaking engineers, electronics technicians and mechanical experts of the Saint-Imier factory had succeeded in realising the costly “hourglass project”, a challenge to which few watchmaking companies at the time were able to rise.
The creation of a quartz electronic calibre was well off the beaten track of the technologies developed for many years by Longines – and indeed by the Swiss watchmaking industry –in spite of the incorporation of electronics into the field of sports timing from the 1950s onwards, and the production of electronic on-board chronometers in the mid 60s.
A different mode of operation, dissimilar development strategies, production equipment which was different from traditional structures and an entirely different manufacturing method: it is possible to view the irruption of electronics on to the scene as a clear break in the dynamic of the technical progress of the watchmaking industry. However, in the face of foreign competition, the adoption of quartz seemed to be regarded by watchmakers as an onerous necessity, complementary to the traditional mechanical approach.
In spite of the significant financing required, the manufacture approach which had inspired the creation of movements in Les Longines since the foundation of the factory had pushed the managers towards initiating the independent research project which was completed in 1969 when the company presented the 6512 calibre. Known as the Ultra-Quartz, this electronic movement for wristwatches was fitted with a quartz barrel and oscillated at a frequency of 9350 cycles per second. Powered by a 1.35V mercury battery, the Ultra-Quartz movement had a vibrating motor linked to the gears by means of a worm screw.
It was referred to as a cybernetic movement in that it was made up of two mutually stabilising oscillating circuits. The design strategy behind the Ultra-Quartz revealed the technological choices implemented with the aim of simplifying the production of the movement, especially by avoiding having to integrate the circuit by the use of 14 transistors, 19 resistors and 7 capacitors. Finally, priority had to be given to its production. However, the rapid progress made in terms of the miniaturisation of electronic components and integrated circuits discredited the technical options selected by Longines for its Ultra-Quartz calibre, the first ever electronic movement for wristwatches to be marketed by a watch company.
Meanwhile, Longines was trying other means of breaking into the market, with products that went beyond traditional watchmaking. In 1972, Longines brought out an avant-garde style wristwatch produced jointly by the company at Saint-Imier, Ebauches SA and Texas Instrument Incorporated. Unlike other products of the winged-hourglass brand, this timepiece, which became known as the “Longines LCD” (liquid crystal display) had a digital display using a screen with liquid crystals. With precision guaranteed to about one minute per year, this watch gained the high distinction conferred by the IR100 (Annual Industrial Research Conference and Awards). This was the first time a Swiss company had received an award for the best products of scientific and industrial research.
In terms of watchmaking creations, the start of the 70s revealed the existence of several distinct development trends at Les Longines. First of all, the classic mechanical wristwatch was to the object of further development, while attention continued to be devoted to the mechanical movement, in spite of the competition represented by new technical solutions for the measurement of time. Secondly, electronics and quartz technologies were gradually becoming integrated into production. Thirdly and finally, the role of design was becoming increasingly dominant in the creation of watch collections: in 1972 Longines entrusted the conception of a new collection to the designer Serge Manzon, who expressed a fresh artistic vision through creating solid silver timepieces.
While electronics and quartz were generally perceived as a regrettable necessity for the survival of the Swiss watch and clockmaking industry, Longines nevertheless did not abandon its traditional watchmaking activities, particularly those affecting the creation and construction of mechanical movements. During the 1970s, the factory at Saint-Imier studied new technical approaches to improving the functioning principles of the self-winding mechanical movement.
In 1975 the manufacture developed a self-winding calibre which was fitted with two series-coupled coaxial barrels, Calibre 890. This innovative solution made for greater constancy in the transmission of energy and therefore affected the rate of the movement and its precision. The idea of fitting a calibre with two linked barrels had an effect on the thickness of the movement, a problem which was resolved in 1977 with the design of Calibre 990, which arranged the two barrels on the same level.
The industrial strategy adopted at that time by Longines consisted of three pillars, comprising traditional watchmaking activities, sports timing and industrial electronics. Its status as an authentic manufacture endowed the Saint-Imier company with important research and development potential, which was mobilised both for the realisation of innovative mechanical movements and for the creation of quartz calibres.
Thus, alongside the mechanical watchmaking which the company had been continuously practising and improving upon since its foundation, Longines was also seeking to create its own quartz electronic calibres to use in its timepieces. In 1978, the brand brought out timepieces fitted with the 950 calibre, a quartz electronic movement powered by a silver oxide battery and fitted with a bipolar stepping motor. This movement, which went beyond the boundaries of traditional watchmaking technology, was entirely developed within the manufacture in Les Longines.
Whereas in the early 1980s the technical aspect still occupied a position of fundamental importance for the watchmaking industry (from a commercial standpoint) the aesthetic dimension was definitively making its emergence felt. In particular, the distinctions awarded for the aesthetics and refinement of the timepieces bore witness to a more general acknowledgement of the importance of this parameter.
For long periods of time, the technical characteristics of the watch were perceived as more important than any artistic considerations, although aesthetics remained a determining criterion in certain quarters. In 1978, for example, a watch from the Volubilis collection was awarded the Baden-Baden Golden Rose, a distinction awarded to Longines four times. In 1975, the Saint-Imier brand had received an award for its “Cléopâtra” timepiece, inspired by oriental lines interpreted on a bangle bracelet.
Through its sports timing devices, Longines was actively involved in the early days of motor sports. The manufacturer in Saint-Imier had been adapting equipment to the requirements of racing circuits from the 1920s onwards, and provided the timekeeping equipment for the Brazil Grand Prix in 1933. By handling the timing for the first of the Grand Prix events in the history of Formula 1, in the mid 20th century, Longines witnessed and contributed to the emergence of this discipline. The brand also provided timekeeping services for other competitions in the field of motor sports.
For example, during the 1970s Longines provided the equipment for qualifying rallies for the World Championship (Corsica, England, Germany, Sweden, Mille Lacs, Ivory Coast, Portugal, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Cyprus, San Remo, Tulip, Alps, Acropolos, Zakopane Poland), as well as continuing to provide timekeeping equipment for the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race, a task which it carried out from 1960 to 1991.
At the end of the 1970s, Longines, with the assistance of Olivetti, developed an innovative timing process which was tested for the first time at the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix at Long Beach, in 1980. By dint of intensive study of the field of automated timekeeping, Longines created a system which operated by radio waves. By equipping each vehicle in a race with a small transmitter fixed to the front of the vehicle, the timekeeper was able – thanks to the finishing line being covered with a metallic paper strip acting as a receiving antenna – to determine the time clocked by each car. When a vehicle crossed the finishing line, the clock emitted a signal which was identified by a decoder and then directed to a computer and the corresponding timing equipment.
The computer, which was supplied by Olivetti, was then able to retrieve the name, nationality and model of car, the net time for each car (lap by lap), the ranking, the average speed, the number of laps and even the fastest lap completed. This information could also be circulated via a closed circuit television network available to manufacturers and racing teams. This timekeeping process required no human intervention and consequently was not open to dispute. The information provided was also made available to the press and the television channels, and constituted an indispensable working tool for commentators and analysts.
Alongside its involvement with chronometry for automobile and mechanical sports, a field whose emergence had been supported by the Saint-Imier company with its chronometry systems, in 1980 Longines signed a partnership agreement with Ferrari , thus becoming the official timekeeper for the Italian Formula 1 racing team. The nature of the Longines-Ferrari collaboration primarily comprised the development and supply of control and timekeeping equipment for the Italian team.
It was on account of the technical expertise of the Saint-Imier company that the collaboration was set up, but Longines was also to provide the staff for all the races in which Ferrari was participating. In addition, Longines was given the task of fully equipping the team’s private circuit at Fiorano, and in return the brand was permitted to use the trackside billboards for advertising. Secondly, a commercial collaboration was set up on the basis of the company’s underlying technical know how.
Ferrari granted Longines rights to the use of the image and the brand for advertising purposes. Alongside the technical partnership set up with Ferrari in 1980, Longines became official timekeeper for all the Formula 1 Grand Prix races between 1982 and 1992, while at the same time continuing its cooperation with the Italian team. In 1981, Longines also set up a partnership with the Renault stable, which also required specialised technical assistance in the field of timekeeping.
In 1984, Longines added another model to the Conquest range, a timepiece made of two-tone PVD-coated steel, and fitted with a quartz electronic calibre developed in the workshops of the manufacture in Saint-Imier using a technology which had been developed in Les Longines. Once the issue of the thickness of the quartz movement had been resolved, towards the end of the 70s, the R&D department turned its attention to another field, that of high precision.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the focus of research for the engineers at the factory in Les Longines, as far as the design of the electronic movement was concerned, was on evaluating new perspectives, in particular finding solutions to the way variations in temperature affected the properties of quartz. The work resulted in the construction of the 276 VHP (very high precision) calibre, a thin quartz movement fitted with an oscillator thermo-compensated by a tuning fork type quartz oscillating at 262144 Hz. This additional device, i.e. a thermometer quartz, provided better functioning than other quartz electronic calibres. In addition, this high-precision movement benefited from development work carried out at the start of the decade to improve batteries by the use of lithium.
Now part of the Swatch Group, the largest watchmaking group in the world, Longines entered the 21st century in fine form. Although during the 1980s the continued existence of the Swiss watchmaking industry seemed to be painfully in doubt, the series of restructurings of production means (undertaken at the instigation of the SMH Group), the adoption of a strict and streamlined positioning on the market, and possibly also the fact of watches losing their status as functional objects, are doubtless sufficient to explain the globally positive development enjoyed by Longines up to the end of the 20th century. With the rationalisation of the production facilities carried out within the context of the Swatch Group, Longines saw a significant growth in its production capacity.
The beginning of the 21st century heralded a new economic trend for the watchmaking industry. The watch, having lost its status as a functional item and an essential piece of equipment in the modern world, is becoming an ”emotional” object. At the same time, the mechanical movement is being re-evaluated and perceived in a different light.
While the communication and marketing campaigns carried out by the Swiss watchmaking industry played an important role in this change of status – electronics and quartz having threatened its very existence – it is also important to note that mechanical watches are associated with values vastly different to those of quartz and of functional timepieces. Mechanical watches embody a set of significant values which include aspects of tradition, historical expertise and even a way of life. In the years since 2000, mechanical watches have experienced a success which is in marked contrast to the forecasts that managers of watchmaking companies might have issued in the 1980s.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the proportion of mechanical watches sold by Longines is clearly increasing. Within the context of the mechanical watch’s steady return to favour among customers, the Saint-Imier company has introduced a collection which is dedicated to its watchmaking tradition. This is known as The Longines Master Collection, and is entirely made up of mechanical watches (with manual or automatic winding).
In 2007 the brand also presented an entirely new timepiece to complete the range dedicated to celebrating the company’s watchmaking tradition, The Longines MasterCollection Retrograde. Conscious of the profound changes affecting the market for timepieces, such as the revival of the mechanical watch, Longines commissioned ETA, the company responsible for the construction and production of the calibre within the Swatch Group, with the development of a mechanical movement.
At the instigation of the winged-hourglass brand, ETA accordingly developed two versions of a completely new self-winding movement fitted with retrograde functions, and used exclusively by Longines. Also in 2007, Longines reaffirmed its links with the world of sport, investing in sporting disciplines that match the company’s values. In parallel, the brand launched a wide range of sporty watches, The Longines Sport Collection, representing a continuation at product level of Longines’ enduring commitment to sports timing.
In 2012, Longines celebrated its 180th anniversary.
In 2017, Longines celebrated its 185th anniversary and launched the Record Collection. With a powerful profile and advanced technical innovation, this landmark collection is symbolic of the brand’s commitment to timeless excellence. The entire series of automatic timepieces has been awarded a “chronometer” distinction by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). The models feature a single-crystal silicon balance spring with unique properties, ensuring the highest calibre of performance that can be achieved in a quality timepiece of today.
In 2017, the brand also launched the “Longines through Time”, a historical book, written by Longines International Brand Heritage Manager Ms Stéphanie Lachat. Retracing the evolution of Longines since its establishment in 1832, the book delivers an insightful account of its centuries-long devotion to elegance and performance. It serves as a tribute to the brand’s renowned approach to watchmaking and timekeeping, seamlessly embracing both heritage and innovation in the creation of all its timepieces.
Longines and Sports
Using the expertise it gradually acquired, Longines established a network of advantageous links with the world of sport which enabled it to offer its skilled services to various prestigious disciplines during the 20th century.
Longines’ passion for equestrian sport dates back to 1878, when it produced a chronograph engraved with a jockey and his mount. Seen on the racetracks as early as 1881 and extremely popular among jockeys and horse-lovers, this model enabled its user to time performances to the seconds. It was already being used by most sport judges in New York in 1886. In addition, the brand was involved for the first time in the Concours Hippique International Officiel de Genève as timekeeper in 1926.
Today Longines’ involvement in equestrian sports includes flat racing, show-jumping and endurance competitions. The company has set up numerous partnerships as the official timekeeper and partner for prestigious events such as the H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Endurance Cup and most of the CSIO and CHIO Nations Cup events, as well as the CSIO Barcelona, the Dubai Show Jumping Championship, the President’s Cup presented by Longines and the Emirates Longines Show Jumping League, the Longines Equestrian Beijing Masters, the Hong Kong Masters as well as some stages of the Global Champions Tour. 2000 saw the launch of the Longines Press Award for Elegance, which is given each year to the season’s most elegant and most successful male and female riders in show-jumping events.
The brand can also boast its involvement in some of the most famous flat-racing events in the world, such as the Prix de Diane Longines, the Dubai World Cup, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Royal Ascot, the H.H. The Emir’s Trophy presented by Longines, the Longines Hong Kong International races, the Longines Singapore Gold Cup, the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Gran Premio Longines, the Longines Handicap de las Américas, the Grand Prix Longines Lydia Tesio, the Longines Grosser Preis von Baden and the Kentucky Derby.
Longines’ commitment to gymnastics started in 1912, when the company first used its electromechanical or “broken wire” timing system at the Swiss Federal Gymnastics meeting. For over twenty years Longines has been the official partner and timekeeper for artistic and rhythmic gymnastics events organised by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). Set up in 1997, the Longines Prize for Elegance is awarded to the gymnast or team of gymnasts judged to be the most elegant in gymnastic competitions.
It was in 1933, in Chamonix, that Longines’ long involvement in Alpine skiing began. Since then, these winter competitions have been an opportunity for Longines to demonstrate a number of technical innovations. As the official timekeeper for the Alpine Ski World Cup and the World Skiing Championships organised by the International Ski Federation (FIS), Longines sees this mandate as a long-term commitment. The Norwegian skier Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic champion and winner of numerous titles including several Cristal Globes, represents the brand as one of its Ambassadors of Elegance.
Since 2007 Longines has also been the official partner for the prestigious French Open tennis tournament, which is held each year at Roland-Garros. The company uses this occasion to discover the tennis champions of tomorrow by organising the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament which is held at Roland-Garros during the two weeks of the French Open. The brand’s Ambassadors of Elegance also include two tennis legends, namely Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf.
Thanks to their incredible careers and their tireless commitment to helping disadvantaged children through the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and Children for Tomorrow, these stars of sport and elegance embody Longines’ own philosophy: “Elegance is an attitude”. Longines also strengthens its support to young tennis talent with the Longines Rising Tennis Stars, a program that aims to encourage the development of the career of young tennis players from every corner of the world aged between 17 to 23.
And finally, Longines is also the official partner for the World Cup and World Championships in archery, organised by the International Archery Federation (FITA). In this discipline, which requires concentration, balance, precision and skill, the Longines Prize for Precision is awarded to the top archers at the end of the season.
Longines bases the signature timeless elegance of its products on an aesthetic heritage which it updates and applies with a skilled balance between refinement and classical design. Its timepieces are inspired by the history of technical and stylistic daring of a company which has always been a vast laboratory that continually monitors its creations with a keen eye. Longines has been a world-wide brand since it was founded and, while respecting the company’s traditional values, it markets its products in over 130 countries today. Elegance – its fundamental value – remains the principle by which all its activities in every corner of the world are governed today, as in the past.
Today Longines produces timepieces adapted to the constraints of modern times but still respecting the values which it has always upheld and on which are based the four pillars of its collections: Elegance, Watchmaking Tradition, Sport and Heritage.
The timeless elegance of Longines’ watches is achieved through a skilled balance between refinement and classical design. The brand’s timepieces take their inspiration from its history, rich in technical and stylistic daring. For example, the company took into account the refinements of the Art Deco movement in the design of its tonneau, oval and rectangular movements used in watches that boasted a beauty typical of this sophisticated era.
This continuous awareness has marked Longines’s watch collections and helped forge the image of elegance that the brand still enjoys today. Incidentally, Longines has received several prizes for the sleek lines of its designs. The creation of Longines’ timepieces is thus inspired by continual technical innovation aimed at achieving a beauty that will always guarantee elegance. Today, the elegant aspect of its lines is exemplified in the Longines PrimaLuna, the Longines DolceVita and the La Grande Classique de Longines collections.
Whether they be aesthetic or technical, the innovations introduced by Longines have elevated the brand’s winged hourglass symbol to the level of a true emblem of expertise and elegance.
Since the founding of Longines, the ambition of the firm’s creators, Auguste Agassiz and Ernest Francillon, has remained intact: to be aware of trends, to risk technical and aesthetic innovation without falling prey to fashion fads and to achieve excellence with restraint.
Of course, it was also by designing and producing movements that Longines forged its watchmaking tradition, achieved the expertise it enjoys today and generated new technology such as its first self-winding calibre in 1945, namely the 22A, which was a major step away from the technological principles that had prevailed until then. In recent years Longines has brought out updated versions of some of its timing devices such as the column-wheel movement in 2009 and the new Single Push-Piece Column-Wheel Chronograph in 2012. At Longines, the mechanical chronograph with a column-wheel is thus a traditional and authentic technical device. Moreover, with The Longines Master Collection Retrograde the brand has succeeded in achieving sophistication in mechanical watches while simplifying their use.
The Longines Master Collection is a perfect example of the brand’s technical and aesthetic expertise, while the Longines evidenza was inspired by the Art Deco movement. As for The Longines Saint-Imier Collection, this series of exceptional pieces is intended as a tribute to the town that has witnessed the founding and development of this successful company.
Longines’ involvement in sport dates back to 1878 when it brought out its first chronograph movement, the 20H. Since then Longines has gradually established privileged links with the world of sport. The variety of timing instruments and systems that the brand has developed over the years has resulted in its involvement in many different types of sport. The Longines Sport Collection is a proud and well deserved tribute to its rich history in the world of sport. The Conquest and HydroConquest lines represent the quest for excellence while maintaining elegance.
The Heritage models are a tribute to the pioneering spirit that has inspired Longines’ designers since the company’s early days. The brand’s products accompanied many pioneers in their adventures in the air, on land and under the sea. The very core of Longines’ timepieces is based on this expertise. They demonstrate the continuity of a brand and that brand’s continual ability to pay tribute to history through refinement and elegance.
Among the exceptional pieces in the Heritage sector the most famous is without question the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch, a re-issue of the timepiece developed for the American pilot Charles Lindbergh in 1931. The Longines Weems Second-Setting Watch, a tribute to the navigation system devised by Captain Philip van Horn Weems, and the Longines Twenty-Four Hours, a re-issue of a watch designed in the 1950s specially for Swissair pilots, are also among the stars among the Heritage models.
Official website: http://www.longines.com