In High Spirits: The Longines Spirit CollectionBy Israel Ortega
In recent years, Longines’ strength focuses on the countless timepieces that celebrate its history and legacy. Every one of these watches recreates important references from its rich past and adds a good dose of originality and watchmaking value. Each of these watches does not necessarily seek to be a “faithful copy” of the model that inspired it, but rather be a kind of honest homage that takes advantage, above all, of the aesthetic beauty and gravitas of the original. Longines has a long history of creating instrument watches used by military forces, sportspeople, or pilots. Thus, watches such as the Heritage Military, Skin Diver, or the award-winning Avigation Big Eye chronograph have become established as sought-after and respected models by expert collectors who are always searching for maximum value.
The new Spirit collection breaks with this formula a bit since the time-only watches and chronographs that make up this line are new altogether. Its inspiration did not come from certain specific timepieces of the past, but from great characters of the 20th century — along with their extraordinary legends and stories — all of them closely associated with Longines and exploration.
The birth of aviation created a need for pilots to have precise instruments, and the brand became one of the most sought-after manufacturers by pioneering aviators. Charles Lindbergh is the most illustrious name associated with Longines. Onboard his legendary “Spirit of St. Louis”, he made the first solo transatlantic non-stop flight in 1927 with a Longines wristwatch to time his feat. Lindbergh then worked with the brand to develop the Hour Angle watch. However, more explorers and pilots, all of them pioneers in their field, also wore Longines watches. Figures such as Amelia Earhart, Paul-Emile Victor, Howard Hughes, and Elinor Smith are part of each Spirit chronometer’s soul.
Thus, Longines Spirit is part of the Heritage line, watches with a particular vintage inspiration but with decidedly modern execution, with clear aesthetic signs and contemporary features that confirm us that this is a range of new watches. I like to think that Spirit is the equivalent of the Longines timepiece that Lindbergh would be wearing in 2020 if he dared to cross the Atlantic for the first time.
The Spirit debuts in two versions: an automatic with date and a three-register chronograph — with date display as well — both with ETA mechanisms developed exclusively for the Saint-Imier maison and accompanying COSC chronometer certificates. This collection can be appropriately classified as a pilot’s watch. It presents most of the traditional features expected from a timepiece of this type: robust case, highly readable dial with luminescent Arabic numerals, large baton-like hands, and high accuracy.
Both models of the Spirit come in a classically shaped round, stainless steel case with well-defined lines and facets. The central part combines brushed surfaces with pronounced polished accents on the sides and is emphasized by the protruding bezel, also brushed and polished. Both versions have oversized crowns, and the chronograph is equipped with large mushroom-type push-pieces, as well as a screw-down date corrector.
The Spirit is offered with three dial colors: matte black, blue with a sunray pattern, and a granulated silver face. They all feature a combination of applied Arabic numerals —an excellent detail that reflects the care taken in the Spirit’s development- and diamond-shaped markers, with baton hands, all filled with SuperLuminova. The five stars applied at the bottom of the dial are a particular feature of this Spirit. For Longines, this signature has always meant an improvement in the quality and reliability of the brand’s best movements, as five stars are the maximum grade that can be achieved. In a way, this confirms the importance of Spirit as a new chapter in the watchmaking legacy of the house of the winged hourglass.
The three-hand automatic Spirit is available in two diameters, 40 mm and 42 mm. This time-and-date version can be worn on a leather strap (brown, black, or blue) with a pin buckle or a three-link stainless steel bracelet with a folding clasp that makes it look quite robust. To power this model, Longines uses the L888.4 caliber, a COSC-grade enhanced ETA base. Equipped with a silicon balance-spring, it has an unusual pulsation rate of 25,200 vibrations per hour, which, combined with an improved barrel, provides a comfortable 64-hour power reserve. The three-hand watch is available in a “Prestige” edition that comes with three interchangeable straps (steel, leather, and a NATO-style in brown calf leather).
The second model in the Longines Spirit collection had to be a chronograph, a complication often associated with pilots’ watches, and one of Longines’ areas of expertise. This version of the chronograph is only available in a 42 mm steel case, with the three dial colors as well (blue, black, and silver). Like its three-handed brother, the Spirit chronograph can be worn on a leather strap with a buckle or a steel bracelet with a folding clasp. This version features the tremendous Cal. L688.4, the star movement of Longines’ finest chronographs —for example, the no-date version L688.2 powers the Aviation Big Eye. Once again, this is a highly modified ETA base, made exclusively for Longines and featuring a column-wheel with vertical clutch engagement. This 28,800 A/h movement has a silicon spiral and an improved gear train that gives it a 60-hour power reserve. The Spirit chronograph’s L688.4 movement also holds the COSC chronometer designation.
For all references of Spirit, the nifty horological package is complemented by a nice domed sapphire glass with multilayered anti-reflective coating and a vertically aligned and engraved case back secured by six screws. Even in the most unassuming details, the technical flair of the Longines Spirit cannot be understated.
Longines Spirit represents a modern, eye-catching, and honest horological offering. With its genuinely competitive prices (at around $3,000), it emphasizes Longines’ message: to offer as many enthusiasts as possible a historic and inspired timepiece, only now wearing more contemporary clothes and featuring the best watch technology available. The new and distinguished Spirit collection celebrates the Longines heroes of the past and the adventurers of today. Fly on, Spirit.