Longines’ watchmaking is one that is all at once inspired by its heritage and much as it is ambitious about its future. This philosophy as seems to divide how the company has laid out its watchmaking strategy. The demarcation is made particularly clear, when you consider everything that is produced under the Heritage collection versus every other collection that Longines has today. That is until the introduction of the Spirit collection, earlier in 2020, which takes a decisive step towards marrying the company’s heritage with its ambitions.
Longines is a company that has been in operation since 1832, therein, its archive is a treasure trove that the brand continues to look back to for inspiration, even in the 21st century. The question that maybe asked is, What are the tangible qualities about Longines’ design approah that has proved — time and time again — to be timeless?
Recently appointed CEO, Matthias Breschan sheds light in this regard saying, “Longines was born at a time when people’s relationship with time was becoming much more precise. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the general public relied on their watches to catch the train or get to work on time; chronographs were highly valued by athletes; and explorers put their journeys and their lives in the hands of chronometers and other precise instruments. For quite some time, the functionality of timepieces therefore had a large influence on their status, even for the most basic of watches.
“Nevertheless, for a brand like Longines, these functions have always been accompanied by a genuine interest in style. Elegance and classicism have always been at the heart of Longines’ watchmaking and have created, together with precision, the brand’s success.”
What Breschan is essentially relating here, is the age old story of aesthetics born out of function. The reason why Longines’ century old designs have proven to be relevant today is because they were born out of necessity. In fact, some of Longines’ most universally lauded new creations, in recent days, have been additions made to the Heritage Classic and Military families of watches. In many instances, these are watches that are very faithful to the past Longines watches they take inspiration from. Why do these watches continue to win over the hearts of modern-day collectors?
Breschan suggests, “Our past is an invaluable source of inspiration and we have been re-interpreting historical pieces for over 30 years. Our Heritage models are meeting a growing success and we think this is a sign that, for many people, and especially for younger ones, watchmaking and tradition cannot be set apart. With a Longines Heritage model on your wrist, you are not only wearing a watch. You are part of history. You have a story to tell. Today, an increasing number of people are looking for authenticity and this is what our Heritage pieces bring.”
It is important to keep in mind though, that a constant methodical carbon copying of designs from the past would be disrespectful to the company’s heritage, not to mention, detrimental in helping Longines realise its future ambitions. What then is Longines’ approach to respecting the designs from its past while trying to draw inspiration for modern creations?
“Honouring the past is what allows [us] to stay alive and Longines in particular enjoys an impressively rich history,” Breschan explains. “Longines will soon celebrate its 190 years of existence through three centuries. Our brand’s heritage is a true treasure we intend to cherish. Of course, it is not a question of confining ourselves to our history, but of using it as a springboard to ensure the pursuit of innovation, both technical and aesthetic, which has always been the driving force of the brand.
“Then, when it comes to creating a timepiece inspired from our past, our purpose it not to develop exact copies, but rather to pay a tribute to some of the most emblematic designs of the brand while enriching them with today’s watchmaking technologies. And this is exactly what we do with our Heritage pieces and our new Longines Spirit collection.”
The Longines Spirit collection clearly has some elements that are drawn from the watchmaker’s past. “The oversized crown, the flange, the pronounced step around the crystal, the font of the dial, the diamond shape indexes and the large, luminous “baton” hands are all elements drawn from historical Longines pilot’s watches,” shares Breschan.
“For instance, the oversized crown facilitated the handling of the watch — even when wearing gloves — while the diamond shape indexes helped pilots see the displays quickly and clearly. The font of the Arabic numerals on the dial and the luminous “baton” hands ensured optimal legibility under any circumstances, even in the dark.”
This is where the timelessness of Longines’ design philosophy of aesthetics born out of function stands true. These, however, are now executed with the 21st century in mind, in terms of proportions, finer details and, of course, watchmaking technologies as Breschan shared earlier. All of which in summation holds fast to Longines’ heritage and future ambitions, in a single collection.
There is yet another layer of inspiration that adds to the overall design approach for the Spirit collection. On top of seeking inspiration from Longines’ own archives, the brand also looked to daredevil aviators from the 1930s. When asked how, and why, this was done, Breschan responded saying, “Longines’ links to the history of aviation are rich and particularly fascinating. Aviation is indeed part of our past. Starting in the beginning of the 20th century, aviation pioneers, who were often referred to as the ‘flying fools,’ placed their trust in, and even entrusted their lives, to Longines. The brand has equipped a host of adventurers with their precision tool watches: Amelia Earhart, Paul-Emile Victor, Elinor Smith and Howard Hughes (and many more!) are foremost among those who benefited from its expertise.
“The Longines Spirit collection brings this heritage back to life. Linking history with innovation, the new models take traditional features from pilot’s watches and combine them with contemporary lines and codes. They come also with state-of-the-art technology to echo the reliability and accuracy of the historical Longines’ tool watches they draw their inspiration from. In this regard, they are fitted with exclusive, new self-winding movements with antimagnetic silicon balance-springs. All models are chronometer-certified and benefit from a 5-year warranty.”
However, what fascinated us most about this extra layer of inspiration for the Longines Spirit collection is the choice of aviators from the 1930s. Longines purposed for itself to seek inspiration for the Spirit collection campaign from both male and female aviators. When asked why this gender balance was important for the purpose of inspiration, Breschan explained saying, “This new creative concept emphasizes our impressive heritage – Longines’ pioneer spirit reflected in the aviators or explorers long associated with the brand. Amelia Earhart and Elinor Smith alongside Paul-Emile Victor and Howard Hughes have been chosen as the faces of our new campaign: two female and two male characters, since pioneers are not defined by gender.
“Moreover, our overall collection proposes a wide range of products, which appeal to a large clientele, female and male alike as we offer about 50% of ladies models and 50% of gent models. This balance is one of our defining characteristics that needs to be highlighted in our communication.”
More information: longines.com