Longines’ Legacy of High Precision Chronometry

Longines’ Legacy of High Precision Chronometry

Unbeknownst to some, Longines traces its legacy back to 1832, when Auguste Agassiz and his fellow watchmakers opened a humble workshop in St-Imier. The success that Longines enjoys today is largely thanks to Agassiz’s forward-thinking nephew Ernest Francillon, who joined the company in 1852. Francillon opened the Longines factory in 1867, in a precinct named Es Longines, which translates to “long meadows” and from which the brand takes its name. Francillon desired a technologically advanced factory.

His brainchild incorporated the latest construction and crafting machinery, along with hydro-electric turbines, which made Longines one of the first Swiss watch brands to mechanize the production of watches. Incidentally, Longines also has the oldest trademark that is still valid today. The Longines brand name was filed in 1880, and the winged hourglass logo was registered in 1889. In fact, the winged hourglass logo has been used by Francillon and his watchmakers since 1867.

Auguste Agassiz (left) and Ernest Francillon (right), the founding fathers of Longines (Image: Longines)
Auguste Agassiz (left) and Ernest Francillon (right), the founding fathers of Longines (Image: Longines)

These superior instruments enabled Longines to build technically advanced watches and eventually paved the way for a legacy of precision instruments. If you want to visit this history-making factory, the good news is, it’s still there.

A History of High Accuracy

Today, Longines is known for its high precision chronographs, chronometers and high beat wristwatches. This began in 1878 with Longines’ first chronograph pocket watch, the 20H caliber. Soon after, Longines produced one of the world’s first wrist chronographs, the caliber 19.73N, in 1911 and the brand’s first compact chrono-caliber, the 13.33Z, which was unveiled in 1913 and would become a blueprint for modern chronographs.

1914: Stopwatch with 5 HZ high- frequency movement and split-second hand (Caliber 19.73N)
1914: Stopwatch with 5 HZ high- frequency movement and split-second hand (Caliber 19.73N)

In fact, Longines has invented many important timepieces that became important milestones for the watch industry. The maison developed the first wristwatch chronograph with two independent pushers and flyback function, and the world’s first dual time zone wristwatch — both watches were released in 1925. Then, in 1927, Longines released the Weems Second Setting Watch, which had an inner rotating dial that allowed the wearer to synchronize the seconds hand to a radio time signal. In 1931, record-setting pilot Charles A. Lindbergh inspired Longines to create a wristwatch with rotating bezel for astronavigation. The brand also produced the first serial chronograph with flyback function in 1936 and the first truly waterproof chronograph in 1937. In 1959, Longines wowed the horological world when it unveiled the world’s first high frequency wrist chronometer that clocked 36,000 beats an hour, which proved to be the most accurate wristwatch at the Observatory of Neuchâtel competitions in 1961 and 1962. The advantages of the high beat concept inspired the Longines Ultra-Chron in 1966, ticking again 10 times a second and guaranteed accurate to one minute a month, which translates to two seconds a day.

A vintage Longines Ultra-Chron 1966, the accurate high-beat wristwatch with Cal. 431Longines Ultra-Chron circa 1967
Longines Ultra-Chron (1966), the accurate high-beat wristwatch with Cal. 431

A Champion of Multiple Sports

What sports do you have in mind when thinking of Longines? Horse riding? Besides equestrian sport, Longines has also been the official timekeeper of many sports including skiing, cycling, Formula 1 and track and field, where even the smallest fraction of time matters. To this end, Longines developed devices that can measure up to a tenth (in 1914), a hundredth (in 1916) and even millionth of a second (2010).

In 1912, Longines developed the first system of electromechanical sports timing, which was introduced at the Federal Gymnastics Festival in Basel that same year. This system used wires that would start or stop a watch when a runner’s body crosses a wire. Longines would go on to develop an improved version of this finish line technology: the photoelectric cell-based light beam barrier device in 1945 and the Quartz-based Chronocamera in 1949. The 1950 World Alpine Ski Championships in Aspen did away with stopwatches and relied solely on Longines’ electromechanical gates, technologically superior systems that recorded start and finish times according to the action of each competitor.

Longines introduces the Chronocamera in 1949 (Image: Longines)
Longines introduces the Chronocamera in 1949 (Image: Longines)
Longines uses new electromechanical gates during the 1950 World Alpine Ski Championships in Aspen (Image: Longines)
Longines uses new electromechanical gates during the 1950 World Alpine Ski Championships in Aspen (Image: Longines)

Throughout the 1950s, Longines would develop improved devices that would record competitor timings and take photos to verify finish line crossings. This laborious research and development culminated in the Quantum Timer of 2010, which can record a millionth of a second. This historic technology is the basis of a lot of sports technology used today.

Longines Quantum Timer with a high precision of a millionth of a second (Image: Longines)
Longines Quantum Timer with a high precision of a millionth of a second (Image: Longines)

Longines technology has since been used in illustrious sports meets like Formula 1, Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Indianapolis 500, Tour de France, the Commonwealth Games and more.

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary

In celebration of its rich watchmaking heritage, Longines has released a special trio. These three Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in 40mm come in steel, yellow gold and rose gold. The steel version is priced at USD 2,400 and has blued hands set against a sandblasted silver dial, with engraved Arabic numerals for the hours.

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in yellow gold, ref. L2.793.6.73.2
Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in yellow gold, ref. L2.793.6.73.2
Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in stainless steel, ref. L2.793.4.73.2
Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in stainless steel, ref. L2.793.4.73.2
Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in rose gold, ref. L2.793.8.73.2
Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary in rose gold, ref. L2.793.8.73.2

Both gold versions are priced at USD 12,000. Limited to 190 pieces each, the yellow gold variant sports a vertical brushed gray dial and the rose gold version has a grained anthracite dial.

These anniversary special editions are driven by the self-winding caliber L888.5, which features a silicon hairspring — a horological innovation that is resistant to corrosion and temperature variations, and is unaffected by magnetic fields.

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary

Tech Specs

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary

Reference: L2.793.4.73.2 (stainless steel); L2.793.6.73.2 (yellow gold); L2.793.8.73.2 (rose gold)
Movement: Self-winding caliber L888; 72-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Case: 40mm; stainless steel, 18K yellow gold or 18K rose gold; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Silver, gray or anthracite; engraved Arabic numerals
Strap: Anthracite alligator leather
Price: USD 2,400 in steel; USD 12,000 in yellow or rose gold
Availability: Gold versions in limited and numbered editions of 190 pieces each

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