As a little kid, I was a bit, ahem, obsessed with cars. Glancing out the window from the backseat of my parents’ car, I used to mentally recite the model, brand, and year of every vehicle we passed by on the streets. Now, as a well-adjusted adult just mildly enthusiastic about watches and operating systems, I have come to notice that, ever since then, I’ve always been intrigued by how organically industrial design evolves through time. One year it’s all about clean lines, the next is rounded corners, then squarish contours, aggressive silhouettes, back to clean lines again… Each and every generation gets the chance to freeze the current aesthetic in time.
I’m sharing this not just to reminisce about the past, but to preface the beautiful timepiece we’re inspecting today. The Longines Heritage Classic seems to have traveled through time all the way back from the 1930s, making some stops along the way to grab some much needed technical upgrades.
Before diving further, let’s take a quick look at its basic specifications:
- Full reference number: L2.8126.96.36.199
- Case material: Stainless steel
- Case diameter: 38.5 mm
- Lug width: 19 mm
- Lug-to-lug length: 47.5 mm
- Thickness: 11.5 mm
- Water resistance: 3 bar
- Movement: Longines L893
- Frequency: 3.5 Hz (25,200 bph)
- Power reserve: 64 hours
Often overlooked in favor of the usual suspects (divers and chronographs), sector dials are relatively scarce in the current horology landscape. Thus, it’s refreshing to see such a classic and elegant face come back to life. The specific reference we have today from Longines made our best sector dials list back in February.
Now, I’d be remiss not to explore the obvious Art Deco style of the watch. Originating in Paris at the dawn of the 20th century, Art Deco took over Hollywood over the course of the following few decades, reaching its peak in the period between both World Wars. Futuristic, colorful, and geometric, its deliciously decadent nature traversed all arts, and quickly became one of the most influential styles of the first half of the 20th century.
After the Great Depression, Art Deco became a little subtler giving rise to a new form of the style named Streamline Moderne. Exotic materials such as ebony and ivory were soon replaced by stainless steel, plastic, and chrome, but the futuristic, geometric nature of the original style prevailed. As the Longines Heritage Classic is a faithful reissue of a model released in 1934, I think the watch sits in this later era of Art Deco: subtler, gentler, and more mature.
It’s easy to see the allure of sector dials in the context of Art Deco. Two concentric rings enclose the center of the dial, while in this particular timepiece a crosshair adds an interesting geometric element to the mix. The result is a very pleasant symmetry which enhances legibility while preventing the watch from looking like a mere tool. I love to endlessly ramble about form versus function, but in this case I think both are treated as equals. The symmetry is compounded by the charming sub-seconds dial, which echoes the main dial with its very own railroad track and concentric guilloché. The area between the outer concentric rings is filled with a silver finish, which, depending on the lighting conditions, can look either lighter or darker than the creamish hue of the rest of the dial.
There are a couple of points of contention here. As is often the case with sub-seconds dials, the arabic “6” numeral is cut short. Also, a date window is nowhere to be found. Regarding the former, I really think the cut-off numeral adds quite a bit of character to the dial. As for the latter, even as a die-hard date window enthusiast who needs to be reminded of the date every passing hour, I have to say I am really glad Longines excluded it from this model. There is no spot in this particular dial where a date window would’ve looked like anything more than an afterthought.
True to style, the hands are spartan in shape and they both reach almost precisely to their corresponding outer concentric ring. As they travel around the dial, their pencil shape helps them create a myriad of satisfying angles against the centered crosshair, further emphasizing the overall geometric motif. Both hands are heat-treated to a wonderful shade of electric blue, which harmonizes amazingly well with the metallic finish of the sector and the black paint of the lines and numerals.
As with the Heritage Military reviewed earlier this year, the case is very austere and traditional… perhaps to a fault. To be honest, and please do forgive the nerve, sometimes I wonder whether both watches should swap cases. In my opinion, the brushed finish of the Heritage Classic case would be better suited for a military-issued watch, which should forgo any unnecessary glare in order to avoid detection by the enemy, whereas the opulent nature of Art Deco would better benefit from a bit of polish here and there. Be that as it may, I think the Heritage Classic case does a great job of letting the dial take center stage, which in all honesty is what we are here for, anyway.
On the back of the case we can find some important pieces of the history of Longines. The signature “EFCo” (alluding to the founder of the Longines factory, Ernest Francillon) and the winged hourglass logo are stamped on the center, while the name of the watch, along with the calibre number and some other specifications circle the edge of the caseback. Quite an interesting detail to admire when not wearing the watch.
The curved lugs accentuate the svelte figure of an already elegant timepiece. They hug the wrist nicely and make the watch really comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. My only complaint is that they are a little too long, negating some of the benefits of a reasonably sized case to us folks with smallish wrists. However, they are well proportioned to the rest of the case and help visually enclose the dial in an organic manner.
Unusually large and rather easy to grip, the crown is signed with the name of the brand and features the beautiful winged hourglass logo. Again, as with the Heritage Military, I would love to have an excuse to operate this enlarged crown more often, something that could be achieved by surrendering the automatic movement altogether in favor of a manual calibre, which would have the added benefit of trimming a couple of millimeters off the case. Nevertheless, the movement allows for manual winding, so one can always satisfy the urge to turn the crown whenever desired.
Inside the case, the automatic L893 calibre beats away at an unconventional frequency of 3.5 Hz (25,200 bph). Itself based on the ETA A31.501, the L893 yields an impressive 64-hour power reserve. Moreover, since the hairspring is made out of silicon, the movement offers some enhanced protection against magnetic fields. Not too shabby for a $2,000 watch.
The sapphire crystal is treated with several layers of antireflective coating on the underside, which guarantees a great deal of legibility out in the sunlight. It protrudes nicely from the case, and provides a firm sense of security against accidental scratches.
This watch is offered with either a black or a blue leather strap. Both are excellent choices, but in my opinion, a dark brown leather strap would work even better. However, as the lugs taper down to 19 mm, finding a strap that fits well might prove to be a little challenging. Meanwhile, the polished buckle features the winged hourglass logo once again.
It’s remarkable that a watch almost ninety years old looks this fresh in 2020. This is testament to the fact that fashions may come and go, but truly great design is ageless. Thus, I cannot commend Longines enough for bringing such classic timepieces to life again. At the moment, there is a huge demand for vintage-inspired pieces and Longines is certainly delivering. On top of that, all of the technical upgrades bestowed upon the Heritage line make these models even more future-proof, and demonstrate that timeless design and modern technology can go hand in hand. Here’s hoping that Longines continues down this path for many years to come.
To have a look at all of Longines’ watch offerings visit their official website here.