On his 48th year with the brand, 29 of which he’s spent as president, Mr. Walter von Känel remains a living, breathing icon of Swiss watchmaking.

Locking eyes with Mr. von Känel, he’d still be able to, easily, tell you about the many watches Longines has launched in his time with the company, without batting an eyelid.  Take the 1954 Conquest collection, for instance, the first of many wristwatches that marked the brand’s foray into watch collections, on top of manufacturing movements.

As such, his presence at the brand’s 185th anniversary celebrations, held at the historic and sacred Imperial Ancestral Temple in Beijing, China was incredibly special. Longines, also, took the event as an opportunity to launch their new Record collection.

Walter von Känel, President of Longines, welcomed Longines new Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying during a gala evening in Beijing, China
Walter von Känel, President of Longines, welcomed Longines new Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying during a gala evening in Beijing, China
Longines was celebrating its 185th anniversary in the Tai Miao temple in Beijing, China
A special exhibition allowed the guests to discover Longines 185-year-long history

“China is our biggest market,” Mr. von Känel says as a matter-of-fact, when the question of location was posed to him. “We were at home here, since 1867, when we sold our first watches in China. And this brings us to a situation where, why should I not be where I’m number one? In my biggest market?

“In terms of normal distribution, the e-commerce scene here is very big. Dennis (Vice President of Longines China) and I have been in discussion with very important people from Alibaba.

“It’s a booming country in many aspects and it’s good to be number one here. But we have to adjust to the locals. They don’t give a damn about the desktop computer; they are all on  smartphones. And their volume of activity on e-commerce, right now, is crazy.

Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, Walter von Känel, President of Longines, Longines Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying, Susanne Chen, President of Watch Group China, Dennis Li, Vice President of Longines China, officially open the 185th anniversary exhibition
(Left to right) Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, Walter von Känel, President of Longines, Longines Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying, Susanne Chen, President of Watch Group China, Dennis Li, Vice President of Longines China, officially open the 185th anniversary exhibition
A special exhibition allowed the guests to discover Longines 185-year-long history
A special exhibition allowed the guests to discover Longines 185-year-long history

The 2017 Longines Record Collection

The new Record collection comes in a range of sizes — 26mm, 30mm, 38.5mm and 40mm — in stainless steel cases, including diamond-set options.

The models are designed in an array of 13 different dials (7 feminine, 6 masculine) which comprise mother-of-pearl, lacquer, and black, grey, or blue sunray finishes.

The L592.4, made for the ladies’ watches with 40-hour power reserve and the L888.4 caliber, made for the men’s watches with 64-hour power reserve, are both made exclusively for Longines by ETA. Not to mention that both movements are also, Longines’ first ever fully COSC certified movements.

This accomplishment was much lauded at the unveiling, complete with an introduction of a published coffee book entitled ‘Longines Through Time’, which documents the brand’s history, evolution and the various trades the manufacture has held through the ages.

The milestone celebration was further supported with a historical exhibition held in the grand halls of Tai Miao, creating a juxtaposed scene that showcased Longines’ transition from past to present within the rich oriental interior.

Actress Zhao Liying, the newest brand ambassador, was also introduced and was presented with the latest Record watch, at the event, as a way to welcome her to the family.

This steel 40-mm diameter model from the Record collection displays a white matt dial with 12 painted roman numerals. Its L888.4 automatic movement includes a single-crystal silicon balance spring with unique properties and is certified as a “chronometer” by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). A stainless steel bracelet completes this exceptional piece
This steel 40-mm diameter model from the Record collection displays a white matt dial with 12 painted roman numerals. Its L888.4 automatic movement includes a single-crystal silicon balance spring with unique properties and is certified as a “chronometer” by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). A stainless steel bracelet completes this exceptional piece
This model from the Record collection displays a white mother-of-pearl dial with 13 diamonds indexes. Its steel 30-mm diameter case is set with diamonds. Its L592.4 automatic movement includes a single-crystal silicon balance spring with unique properties and is certified as a “chronometer” by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). A stainless steel bracelet completes this exceptional piece
This model from the Record collection displays a white mother-of-pearl dial with 13 diamonds indexes. Its steel 30-mm diameter case is set with diamonds. Its L592.4 automatic movement includes a single-crystal silicon balance spring with unique properties and is certified as a “chronometer” by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). A stainless steel bracelet completes this exceptional piece

185 years is a pretty mean feat and comes with a long list of achievements. The latest being a GPHG 2017 win for the Longines Avigation BigEye in the Revival Watch category.

Even so, the trophies of yesteryear does not keep Mr. von Känel in a state of reminiscence. He led our conversation in simple future tense. He hinted towards more goals he wishes to attain within his line of sight saying, “I was led to come to this part of the world, and step by step we made a success story. Our next step is to invest and give some priority to the USA.

“There are additional things in the pipeline, on top of the calendar movements, chronographs, etc. So let’s see if we can have yet another chapter of success in our history book.”

Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, Susanne Chen, President of Watch Group China, Longines Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying, Walter von Känel, President of Longines, Dennis Li, Vice President of Longines China
(Left to Right) Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, Susanne Chen, President of Watch Group China, Longines Ambassador of Elegance Zhao Liying, Walter von Känel, President of Longines, Dennis Li, Vice President of Longines China