Amongst the plethora of brands that fill the watchmaking industry with their beautiful designs, incredible innovations, and tremendous timepieces, there exist some brands that are unfortunate to miss out on building loyal fanbases like some other brands. While these brands might be historically significant and successful by all accounts, they lack the enthusiastic fervor that some other brands seem to have.
One of these brands is Longines. While Longines does make some excellent watches and are, by extension, a great watch brand, they seem to operate on the peripheries of the industry, or at least where public discourse and conversation around the industry is concerned. So, today we'd like to shine a well-deserved light on perhaps one of the most overlooked and underrated watchmakers in the industry, Longines.
Founded in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz in St. Imier, Longines began life as a pocket-watch maker that would make their own timepieces in their entirety, as opposed to the standard manufacturing methods at the time whereby parts were sourced from third-party manufacturers and assembled. With their value proposition nailed, demand for Longines' timepiece quickly grew, and so Auguste hired his nephew, an economist named Ernest Francillon, to take over the company in 1852. Just 15 years later, Longines developed their own in-house movement, the cal. 20A – which won the 1867 Universal Exhibition in Paris.
With the brand continuing to grow, Longines developed their first chronograph movement in 1878, the 20H. Rare even to this day, the 20H was a monopusher chronograph so that its start, stop, and reset settings were all operated by the crown's in-built pusher. Thanks to this, the 20H quickly became an incredibly popular movement in sports watches. Longines thus experienced a massive surge in popularity in equestrian sports, where the brand continues to dominate all these years later. Today Longines is a part of the Swatch Group after its owner ASUAG and SSIH merged in 1983 in a bid from the Swiss Watchmaking industry to combat the onslaught of the Quartz Crisis.
Best Longines Watches
A brand with a rich heritage indeed, let's explore some of Longines' most famous models and understand their history, what makes them great and what separates them from the rest of the watchmakers that fill the industry.
Longines Hour Angle Charles Lindbergh
Perhaps Longines' most historically significant model, there is no better Longines watch to start with than the Hour Angle. In 1931, 4 years after Longines timed Charles Lindbergh's pioneering 33 hour and 30-minute transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927, Longines released the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch. The Hour Angle was designed to be a large watch, weighing in at a colossal 47.5mm, to maximize legibility for pilots in low-light conditions. The watch's crown was equally enormous and deeply knurled to be manipulated easily while wearing leather gloves. Lindbergh designed the Hour Angle with the Weems System of navigation in mind so the watch could be used to determine geographical longitude coordinates. It provides this not as degrees but as the time difference between Greenwich and another point on the globe, typically the point you are at.
As the earth rotates once every 24 hours, and there are 360 degrees in a circle, one hour represents 15 degrees - every hour on the watch face is marked in 15-degree intervals to highlight this. If it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Greenwich and the sun is directly over your head, meaning it is noon where you are, you are 67 degrees and 30 minutes west of Greenwich. However, the Hour angle does not help calculate Latitude, as this was relatively easily calculated, especially for trained pilots. The Hour Angle's inner dial can also rotate to allow the local time to be subtracted from the time in Greenwich, simplifying the arithmetic.
Today recognized as one of the most iconic pilot's watches ever created, the very fact that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh decided to work with Longines on such a vital watch shows just how highly regarded they were at the time and still deserve to be. Moving on from the Hour Angle, let's explore a watch that is a bit more modern and something that fits with contemporary styling, the Hydroconquest.
Famed for their early chronographs and divers, Longines has a strong heritage in the watchmaking industry for just about every type of watch. However, the diver is one particular area of focus for the modern brand. While they have a recent addition to their ranks, the Legend Diver – which is one of the best Longines watches, they have another that has become an icon amongst their current catalog, the Hydroconquest. Released in 2007, the Hydroconquest is a mild-mannered dive watch with contemporary design cues that speak to the modern collector's needs. The Hydroconquest is an all-around timepiece fitting for casual wear, diving, and the ability to be dressed up or down, should the need arise.
Featuring a slew of different dial options, the Hydroconquest is an everyman's watch with plenty of lume, water resistance, an agreeable design, and the choice of a quartz or automatic movement. While Longines certainly have more important watches to their history, the Hydroconquest is one of the best modern Longines watches just on the grounds that there isn't much it can't do, and there aren't many collectors who don't like it. Furthermore, unlike the Hour Angle, a true icon in watchmaking, the Hydroconquest appeals to a far more significant portion of people, making it an excellent watch for Longines.
Vintage-inspired Dive Watches
In place of the contemporary styling that the Hydroconquest speaks to, the Longines Legend Diver and Longines Skin Diver are both equally important watches that blend the historical aspects of Longines as a dive watch manufacturer with their contemporary place within the watchmaking market with incredible success. Two of the best value propositions within the dive watch space, these two icons are tremendous value for money, gorgeous on the wrist, and incredibly capable. The two watches can certainly stand proud as some of the best Longines watches on the market today.
While it is always hard to tell what the best watch of any brand is, the Hydroconquest has to be considered one of the best watches from Longines, considering just how universally appreciated it is, how incredibly multi-faceted it is, and how it has held up over its 14+ year history in Longines' offerings. A great watchmaker that makes some of the best watches on the market for the money, rest assured, no Longines will let you down, no matter which you decide to pick up.