Founded in 1832, originally as ”Raiguel Jeune & Cie” in Saint-Imier, Switzerland by Auguste Agassiz, it wasn’t until 1867 that the brand was renamed to “Longines”, after the local area (“Les Longines”) where Ernest Francillon, centralized all watchmaking enterprises under one roof.
Longines was a watchmaking leader in the late 19th and 20th century; compared to the Omega and Rolex designations, who made their entrance in 1903 and 1915 respectively.
More specifically, Longines’ most significant Chronograph, the ‘13.33Z,’ was introduced in 1913 – the first Chronograph movement designed for a wristwatch, which unlike most modern Chronographs, haa two distinct start/stop & reset buttons, and one button to run the timer.
Later, in 1936, the stunning ’13ZN’ introduced the “flyback” Chronograph that allowed the timer to be reset and quickly restarted, without having to pause first.
Although it’s difficult to point out how inventive those models were – in fact, monopusher and flyback chronographs are still technical achievements beyond the capabilities of most companies today, and at a time when watches were still necessary working equipment rather than jewelery, the advancement from preceding pocket watch timers was revolutionary, that allowed much easier ‘hands free’ operation, which became critical in early aviation and military endeavors.
Being able to identify the new factory-driven competition from America and evolving where British watchmaking failed, Longines were significant influencers in modernising the Swiss watch industry, inspiring the shift away from the “etablissage” home-based cottage industry to machine-assisted, mass parts production while maintaining their renowned Swiss quality.
Thus, vintage Longines watches from the 50s and 60s offer high quality and great value, and can be found at a much lower cost than their Rolex and Omega counterparts from the same era – compare movements, and the entirely “in-house” Longines stand out, elevated by fine execution, the absence of wire springs, and fine-bevelled plates.
Furthermore, Longines’ use of spherical, brass “chatons’” to hold the ruby-red diamonds within which the pivots of the movement wheels turn, is considered to be the most visible distinction. Chatons were once required when mass gem production was less advanced, allowing non-uniform diamonds to be more easily fitted into movement plates.
Longines kept the fancy, fussy settings, despite the fact that they were no longer necessary; because of the way they looked and stood out all sparkly and gold against the nickel-plated movement.
Longines’ heritage in the watchmaking era is undoubtable!
Although there was no “official” timekeeper designated for the first modern Olympics in 1896, Longines supplied the watches and fought with Omega for bragging rights in future Games.
Longines was a huge innovator in race timing, inventing the first finish-line ‘broken wire’ timing system in 1912 to stop the timer when the winner crossed, as well as the “Photogines” and “Contifort” systems that recorded contestants’ times on film that could be developed immediately to determine the winner.
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became a worldwide celebrity when he completed the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris, with Longines being the company who timed the risky 33.5-hour achievement.
In 1931, Lindbergh partnered with Longines to develop the “Lindbergh Hour-Angle”, a tool watch allowing aviators to estimate their position using celestial navigation.
Longines has also kept time for Formula One racing in the 1980s, the Commonwealth Games, the French Open and Horse Racing events such as Royal Ascot & the Melbourne Cup.
When the Quartz ‘Crisis’ hit in the 1970s, even giant Rolex built their own Quartz watch, frightened of being left behind by the Japanese.
Once again, Longines did not waste any time and introduced their ‘Ultra-Quartz’ as the world’s first serial manufacturing Quartz at that time.
Longines was sold to “Ebauches SA” the same year, and gradually surrendered their Research & Production before merging in 1983 with the watchmaking giant that would later become known as the “Swatch Group”.
And with that, Longines discontinued producing their own movements in the late 1980s, and while they miss the “in-house” movements of old and are lacking in high-end finishing, they do profit from a supply of rock-solid and dependable movements from the likes of “ETA” (also part of the Swatch Group).
What’s more interesting today is that every Longines movement reference nowadays begins with the letter “L”, indicating that, despite beginning as generic movements from ETA, they are further tailored for use exclusively by Longines.
Longines serves as a wonderful choice of accessory for everyday wear, and it appears that their customers agree, with purchases around 1.5 million each year, making Longines one of watchmaking’s big breasts.
While it may not be quite what it once was during its heyday, vintage or modern Longines watches still provide an opportunity to experience the classic history of watchmaking, as they overcome their weight by adhering to their historical principles of innovation, quality, and, most importantly elegance.
Find Longines, “The World’s Most Honoured Watch” at Onnik Time Center, at 50 Zinonos Kitieos Street in Larnaca. For more information regarding the collections, visit our website or contact us directly at 24 654506.