The Swiss watchmaker Longines was first established by Auguste Agassiz in 1832 with partners Henri Raiguel and Florian Morel. At the time, it was called Raiguel Jeune & Cie. Around 1850, Raiguel and Morel had retired, and Agassiz brought his nephew Ernest Francillon into the company. The young economist-turned- watchmaker brought some innovative and impressive ideas, including focusing on the less prevalent crown wound pocket watches.
In the 1860s, control of the company passed to Francillon and he turned toward more modern production methods, including the establishment of a factory for mass production in 1867. The factory was built in southern St-Imier known by the locals as Les Longines, or “long meadows,” and inspired the name change.
The talented engineer Jacques David would become technical director and was responsible for a comprehensive 108-page report on everything he’d learned about the industrialization of American watchmaking at the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia. His insights confirmed that the Swiss watchmaking industry would need to undergo some major changes if they expected to keep up with the American production capabilities and remain relevant in an industry that was rapidly evolving.
By the 1880s, Longines had become world renowned for their quality and precision timepieces. By 1914, they were already using high-frequency movements in their stopwatches that were used at sporting events and were capable of measuring 1/10th of a second. The caliber 19.73N had a balance wheel that oscillated at 36,000 beats per hour, making the Longines chronographs popular with the military as well as sports and medical professionals as trusted timepieces.
Only a couple of years later, the Longines caliber had evolved to 360,000 beats per hour to deliver a measurement down to 1/100th of a second. Their expertise in timing watches led to the honor of the brand being named Official Timekeeper numerous times for sporting events that were growing in popularity and importance.
In 1938, Longines developed a larger movement that would allow more accurate timing. It was based on a navigational chronometer and was trusted to measure the incredible speeds found at ski races. The 24-ligne movement was recognized for its incredibly high accuracy by the Observatory of Neuchâtel.
In 1959, Longines was again feeling the need to innovate in order to maintain a competitive edge. The company completed and released the first high-frequency movement wristwatch, but this time optimized for the highest level of accuracy. The caliber 360 was a chronometer that oscillated at 36,000 beats and set new records on precision in the wristwatch category. It had an accuracy of ca. 1/10th of a second per day! All caliber 360 movements were handmade and specially tuned for the Observatory Chronometer Competitions. It took first and second place in the accuracy competition in 1961 at the Observatory of Neuchâtel — and was again winnng the first three places in 1962.
The Quartz Crisis
In the 1960s, the rise of the electronic watch threatened the mechanical wristwatch industry. Longines rose to the challenge and brought their years of expertise and engineering to the problem. The caliber 431 was the result with a design that maximized accuracy to within two seconds per day and extended life with a patented dry lubrication technology. The company named this model in 1966 the “Ultra-Chron.”
The line would grow to include a sporty diver’s watch that was resistant to 200 meters and featured a bright red minute hand. Another first for Longines, this was the first high-frequency diving watch. It featured a tonneau shaped case, calendar mechanism and tritium filled triangle, dial and seconds hands for legibility in the murkiest of water conditions.
Longines has a well-established relationship with many sporting events as Official Timekeeper thanks to their incredible skill at creating accurate and precise timepieces. In fact, they’ve served as Official Timekeeper for most prestigious sporting events around the world as well as fostered long-term relationships with numerous international organisations across a wide spectrum.
The first chronograph movements of the 1880s found great popularity in American racetracks with both the jockeys and the spectators, so much so that Longines released a chronograph case engraved with a jockey and horse. In 1912, Longines was invited to time a show jumping event in Lisbon, Portugal. The relationship has continued and grown to include show jumping, dressage and flat racing events today, including the world famous Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
It’s no surprise that a brand headquartered in a country with such beautiful mountains would have a special place in their hearts for winter sports, including downhill skiing. Longines was asked to time the “International Week of Winter Sports” in 1924 in Chamonix, France. They moved on to time the World Ski Championships there several years later. In Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Longines introduced a photocell light barrier on the finish line for the Military Ski Championships. The Kandahar downhill ski race in Sankt Anton, Austria, invited the brand to time the legendary event in 1948. Two years later, the Aspen based Ski World Championships asked Longines to be the Official Timekeeper. To this day, Longines can be found timing the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup as well as many downhill races all over the region.
In 1949, the first post-World War II Rallye Monte- Carlo brought cars from across Europe and Longines was tasked with timing the event. This relationship continued for more than 30 years. In 1955, the brand introduced an innovative new timekeeping device that featured a clock with an eight-day power reserve that allowed contestants to punch their own control card at checkpoints over a 5,000km distance. The device was so trusted that it was used to determine the winning times and was implemented in nearly all the most famous rallies, including the Coupe des Alpes, the RAC Rally of Great Britain, the TAP Rally in Portugal, the Thousand Lakes in Finland, the Rallye Acropolis of Greece and the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire in Africa.
In 1949, the new calibers were able to time to 1/10th of a second and Longines devised a timing system using a series of photos. In 1950, the International Automobile Federation certified the system for use in timing races. This same year saw the inaugural season of Formula 1. Longines was asked to time several events including the Grand Prix de Monaco, Barcelona in Spain, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Spa in Belgium, Zandvoort in the Netherlands, and Bern in Switzerland as well as the US based Indianapolis 500. Decades later, in 1980, Longines partnered with Olivetti to create a new method that timed each car independently using radio waves, and this earned them the title of Official Timekeeper for all Formula 1 races from 1982 to 1992.
The Tour de France invited Longines to time the 1951 race. The brand jumped at the opportunity to test a brand-new recording system that combined a camera at the finish line with a device that recorded each contestant’s time on film. This system gave an accurate “photo finish” timing that could capture the winner in a group of closely grouped competitors. Longines kept the title of Official Timekeeper for the event until 1982. They were also asked to time the world track and road championships, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta in Spain.
The 2022 Longines Ultra-Chron
Over a century of creating quality high-frequency movements has led to the release of the new Longines Ultra-Chron. The new movement oscillates at 10 beats per second for unprecedented precision. Stylistically, the model draws inspiration from the Longines Ultra- Chron Diver of 1968. The 43mm cushion-shaped case is crafted from stainless steel and fitted with a brand-new unidirectional rotating bezel that features a sapphire insert, luminescent accents at 15-, 30-, and 45-minute markers as well as the zero-marker triangle.
The dial is black with a light grained finish and has a contrasting white minute track with alternating Super- Luminova-coated batons and rhodium-plated appliques. Red accents on the minute hand and around the bezel create a bit of energy and color for a sportier look. In a final homage, the nifty original Ultra-Chron logo is applied on the dial and embossed on the caseback.
In the case is the new in-house caliber L836.6, which beats at 36,000 beats per hour, or 5Hz, and a silicon balance spring with an antimagnetic escape wheel and anchor. Building upon the concepts that began in 1914 with their first 1/10th of a second timing chronograph, the caliber delivers on high accuracy that is well established. The special position of the movement protects against shocks for a highly stable movement and the screw-down crown is rated to 300m of water resistance.
The accuracy of the Longines Ultra-Chron is confirmed by the chronometer certification issued by TIMELAB, an independent testing laboratory located in Geneva. The timepiece was subjected to a rigorous series of qualification tests over 15 days. The process includes tests at three temperatures in Fahrenheit, at 46.4 degrees, at 73.4 degrees, and at 100.4 degrees, to verify compliance to the strict criteria of ISO 3159:2009 standards. Longines and TimeLab took the qualification a step further by testing the watch with the movement inside the case rather than alone as is usual for COSC certification. This makes the certification more akin to the Bulletin de Marche de Chronométrie from the Besançon Observatory.
The Longines Ultra-Chron is available with either a brown leather strap or a classic steel bracelet and is packaged in a special presentation box that includes a black NATO strap crafted from recycled materials.
A Modern Classic
The Longines Ultra-Chron will give a thrill to anyone with a penchant for vintage watch appeal and modern technological advances. This watch harkens back to the heyday of discovery as watchmakers pioneered incredible new advancements in timekeeping at a rapid pace. The timepiece is elegant and sporty with a reliable, robust movement that delivers a wonderful mid-century vintage appeal at an attractive price tag.
Longines Ultra-Chron Box Edition, Ref L2.8126.96.36.199/9
Movement: Self-winding caliber L836.6; 52-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Case: 43mm; stainless steel; water resistant to 300m
Dial: Black; applied Super-LumiNova filled indexes
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet, or brown leather with steel pin buckle; additional black NATO made from recycled materials, with steel pin buckle
Price: USD 3,700 on bracelet; USD 3,500 on leather strap
For more information, please visit www.longines.com