It tickles us to no end when folks lament the still-vogue practice of watchmaking companies rehashing old models from their archives in new dials, sizes and prices. The death of innovation, they say. Petrolheads should have it so good, but the car industry just doesn’t give a hoot. Besides, “death of innovation” cannot be much more than alarmists breaking wind when the very deed of trying something new is already hard-wired into our species as second nature. Re-releasing old hits is not all watchmaking companies do, and new new new all the time gets tiresome as a sentence without punctuation. A rhetorical question is in order here: how can raiding grandpa’s underwear drawer be wrong if it yields classics that look so right?
One of the most adept at raiding the past – its past – is Longines. In recent years, the brand has re-acquainted us with such stellar examples as the Longines Heritage Chronograph 1940, Heritage Diver 43, Heritage 1969, Heritage 1973 Chronograph, Heritage Military COSD. If we could collect them like stamps… the prettiest in this company yet, in our biased opinion, is the new Longines Heritage Classic.
The Heritage Classic is a sector dial watch. For more on what a sector dial is, read ‘The Watch Face: Sector Dials’ by Adrian Hailwood here. What a sector dial is not, is any lack of clarity. Its polar opposite would be glamour-puss watches with tiny hands on pavé or gemstone dials pointing to non-existent hour markers. On another extreme to which the sector dial is similarly opposed are slide rule pilot’s chronographs with more hash marks than arrows on a muddy battlefield. Great calculator, if one takes the time to read it. But for time-telling ease, there is simply nothing (jump hours don’t count!) to beat the clarity of the sector dial layout. Here, concentric circles are drawn for the hour (inner) and minutes (outer) with radial lines connecting the two to form ‘sectors’. Every hour and minute is precisely marked, there is no guesswork in reading the time. Conventional dials with the full set of hour/minute markers will do the job just as precisely, sans sectors, but the latter is a very graphical way of anchoring the eye in an instant and impressing upon the reader how far the hour has advanced.
Sector dials were a ‘thing’ in the past; some reports suggest that their popularity grew out of officers using them as a convenient reference in interpreting map sectors during the First World War. Would a large protractor not do better? Who knows. In war, people improvise. In any case, several manufacturers have and continue to make sector dial watches, including Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patek Philippe, Habring2, IWC. The Longines Heritage Classic sits very well among these, for a fraction of the asking price.
The Heritage Classic is inspired by a 1934 Longines watch that is presently exhibited at the company’s museum at St Imier. The contemporary re-issue is nicely sized at 38.5mm in steel, and is driven by the cal. L893.5 developed exclusively for Longines. As quaint as the sector dial, the movement beats at a unique 3.5Hz or 7 beats per second, which grants it a sizeable 64 hours of power reserve. The movement’s silicon hairspring bodes well for reliability, precision and resistance to magnetic fields, and having the small seconds on the 12-6 axis is a faithful representation of the 1934 original. Small seconds instead of a centrally mounted seconds hand makes for minimal distraction from reading the time, and in this respect, we also like that Longines kept to the original by omitting the date. At the same time, and very importantly, having cross-hairs at dial center not only fills up negative space without crowding, it also ensures that 3, 9 and 12 can be read precisely.
Longines has been most judicious also where aesthetics is concerned. Building upon the elegant, if Spartan, sector dial, having blued steel hands lifts the mood somewhat; and the choice of blue or semi-matte black straps make for an exceptionally versatile addition to one’s wardrobe that is as handsome as it is utilitarian.
Automatic cal. L893 with silicon hairspring; 3.5Hz; 64 hours power reserve
38.5mm stainless steel case; sapphire crystal; water resistant to 30m