No Time Like the Present: Four Longines watches perfect for Christmas
The season of giving, and therefore the season of buying, is now upon us and hopefully there is a lucky friend or loved one who will be unwrapping a present from you on Christmas Day. I thought it fitting to go through some of the major brands and pick out four of my favorite watches that I think would make excellent gifts this Christmas. Rather than restricting my choices by price, I instead went with four categories: Ladies, Sports, Dress and an honorary mention. I've approached this from the perspective of someone looking to buy a gift so whilst some of my points might seem elementary to watch fans, it might make the world of difference to someone buying a watch for the first time. Before you do go out and buy a watch I would recommend reading a guide I wrote last year on how to get a great price on a new watch.
Whilst choosing my selections from the Longines catalog I realized that I have never spoken about Longines at all on Timepiece Chronicle. For a time I couldn't figure out why as the brand produces some of the best value pieces currently on the market ; they have a genuine passion for their history and make faithful re-editions of some of their most popular watches so they seem like a perfect brand for a watch fan! However I believe my lack of talking about Longines is because for hardcore watch geeks who want all of the above, they will go straight to source and buy a vintage watch. For the price of the watches below you can get a time only Longines Calatrava (Like this one from Theo & Harris) with pocket change left over. However it's all well and good buying a vintage watch for oneself but one person's patina is another person's damaged dial so unless you're 100% certain, buying a new watch is the way to go. For that person in your life who likes a classic look without being too flashy and wants a reliable modern watch then Longines is a perfect choice. The boxes that the Master Collection come in are a lovely brown wood lacquer that really displays the watch beautifully, the Conquest comes in traditional Longines blue box and the honorary mention...well that's another story.
Ladies: Master Collection Ladies 25mm Automatic, Ref. L21284786
Out of the many ranges that Longines produce, their most popular by far is the Master Collection and it's easy to see why. They are affordable, well designed watches with reliable automatic movements (The entire Master Collection is either automatic or manual wind) in traditionally sized cases. There are slimmer ladies watches available like the entire Les Grande Classique line or the recent Elegant range but I believe this Master Collection is superior despite the small addition of a few millimeters in height. It has a modest 26mm case which is small enough to be in keeping with the traditional watchmaking ethos that Longines aspires to but is large enough that you can actually read the damn thing without squinting. The dial has a really nice engraved pattern which Longines calls "barleycorn" and it adds visual interest to a very simple layout. It would have been nice to see applied rather than printed numbers but at this price point you can't really complain.
Like the ladies TAG Heuer Aquaracer, the aperture is quite small so the date can be at times difficult to read but never impossible. The crown isn't a screw down so quick date and time changing is a very painless process. The bracelet is a combination of polished links with a matte center and is suitable for daily wear especially with the secure triple folding buckle which lays quite flat against the wrist. There might be some initial struggle in figuring out this buckle but after a few tries it becomes second nature. Current price plus tax is $1850.
Sports: Longines Men's Conquest 39mm, Ref. L36764586
TAG Heuer focuses mostly on making sports watches so when it came to finding a dress watch it was a slight struggle and the same goes for Longines with sports watches. They produce two dedicated sports lines, the Hydroconquest which I consider to be utterly foul and the much more appealing Conquest range. As befitting to a company whose motto is "Elegance is an attitude", the Men's Conquest 39mm is a really elegant sports piece that can be paired with a suit and tie in the office just as easily as T-Shirt and shorts on the beach. Despite the small size of 39mm the watch does wear a little bit larger, due to the long straight lugs and the angular crown protectors on the side, but only by a few millimeters or so. There is a silver dial model available but I like the classic look of the black that has a good contrast with the hand-applied steel hour markers.
I will say that the links on the watch are quite large so depending on how tight or loose the wearer likes to have their watches it can take a while to find the perfect fit. If memory serves there are two half sized links that can be removed for finer adjustments. The links are connected with a pin and barrel so any competent sales assistant in a jewelers should be able to take a link in or out within thirty seconds. Being a larger men's watch means the date is a lot more visible through the larger aperture. If you want a sportier look then a black rubber strap would suit this piece but you'll have to look online as Longines do not sell a branded strap to fit this model. Current price plus tax is $1225.
Dress: Master Collection 41mm moonphase retrograde, Ref. L27385713
You'd think that picking a dress watch from Longines would be an easy task but actually it's like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. You have so many choices it's difficult to know where to begin so I decided to go for something different and almost unique to Longines, their Master Collection 41mm retrograde moonphase. What is a retrograde watch I hear you ask? Most watches have hands that will rotate a full 360 degrees on an axis whereas a retrograde watch will have hands that only move along part of a full circle before jumping back to it's starting position when it reaches the end. It's unusual and can take time getting used to but it's utterly delightful watching the seconds hand crawl its way along the track before flying back to start again. The hours and minutes are displayed normally on this watch with the two central hands. The day is at 12 o'clock just above the day/night indicator and the running seconds of the watch are just below the moonphase window at 6 o'clock. A twenty-four hour second time zone is displayed by a retrograde hand on the left side of the dial and is matched on the right with a date indicator.
The bumps at 2,4,8 and 10 are used to control the various hands and are activated by a separate metal pusher included with the watch. Setting up the watch can take some time to the uninitiated and the moonphase is especially important to set up correctly so either keep this on a watch winder or become very acquainted with the instruction manual (Or just never take it off). Each of these additional complications coupled with the unique display method mean the watch is not very thin and will stand up quite prominently on the wrist. However this is a watch that is guaranteed to catch the attention of someone at any Christmas party whether they are interested in watches or not, so prominence is perhaps a good thing? Current price plus tax is $3900.
Honorary Mention : Heritage Legend Diver, Ref. L36744509
In the specialized world of vintage diving watches there is one type of case that reigns supreme regardless of brand or price, the super-compressor. This special type of case utilized the naturally increasing pressure a case undergoes when plunging deeper and deeper in water. The deeper a diver would go, the more pressure was exerted onto the case back therefore increasing (in theory) the water resistance. Modern seals and construction have rendered this novel invention obsolete but the case shape still lives on in the Longines Heritage Legend Diver. The case is instantly recognizable as it has two crowns rather than one; the crown at 2 o'clock when unscrewed controls the inner rotatable bezel (Marked with the green arrow ,15, 30 and 45) and the crown at 4 o'clock has the traditional functions of winding the watch and setting the date and time.
This watch is perfect for the desk diver in your life as it stays true to the design elements of the original whilst still being a functional dive watch for today. Rather than go for a rubber strap, Longines have fitted a black synthetic strap that has a woven texture to it. The 42mm case is only 1mm bigger than the original which must have seemed like a behemoth in it's day but now this watch will sit comfortably in size in comparison with the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M and the Rolex Submariner. Something that is very much a behemoth is the box. Unless it has changed since last Christmas the box is gargantuan in size, standing about 18 inches wide by 10 inches deep. Some might say it's needlessly big as there are not any special books or extra straps tucked away inside however it is guranteed to throw off anyone looking for a watch box shape under the Christmas Tree. Current price plus taxes is $2300.