Longines Master Collection
Over 180 years of history have gone into Longines’ top men’s watches – and they could be the best-value mechanicals out there, reckons Alex Doak.
Can you guess which brand – any brand, not just a watch brand – boasts the world’s oldest registered trademark or logo still in use? Yup, that’d be Longines, whose winged hourglass was first patented by the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 1867 and can still be found fluttering beneath the “12” or “XII” of every piece, and engraved on the movement beneath.
It was originally conceived as a bid to battle counterfeits, but has transpired to be an inspired stroke of marketing savvy – especially in a fickle world where any dip in profits can elicit a re-brand faster than you can say “KFC”. But not only does it show immense strength in the Longines brand, it also underlines the consistency that lies at its core; the consistency of its products’ appeal to a broad market, and the consistency of the products themselves. It’s no coincidence that Longines timepieces have been used to time all manner of prestigious sports events over the last two centuries – they are robust and trusted bits of kit to this day. Not to mention unfailingly elegant, whether it’s a column-wheel chronograph or a diamond-set cocktail piece. (The latter rather less likely to be timing an equestrian event, admittedly.)
Whether they be aesthetic or technical, the innovations introduced by Longines over the past 180-odd years have elevated the winged hourglass to the level of a true emblem of expertise. Since its foundation, 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.
And the Longines Master Collection is a true distillation of these values: always mechanical, its models balance a classical elegance with a certain masculinity, making them hugely versatile, be you chairing a board meeting, or wielding a lawnmower come the weekend. Indeed, on the basis of Master’s success since launching in 2005, Longines has now added a number of new models in pink and yellow gold, with black dials and new sizes, all of which have proved wildly popular. Not least for the gold pieces’ frankly baffling value for money.
It’s a broad range, encompassing chronographs, power reserves, second “GMT” time-zones, even a dual retrograde dial indicating date and GMT with two “flyback” hands. The idea being that it all alludes to Longines’ litany of horological innovations, starting with caliber L20A from 1867 – the first industrially produced pocket watch with a single winding and setting crown – and taking in along the way the first-ever single-pushpiece chronograph (1878), the first self-winding movement with bidirectional oscillating weight (1945) and caliber L990, issued in 1977 – the world’s slimmest twin-barrel movement with centre seconds hand and date calendar.
As long as the winged hourglass continues to fly, the rocksolid watchmaking foundations upon which Longines is built will continue to inform its watches. And if you’re stuck for choice, go for the Master Collection every time.