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The Ultimate Watch!
on August 6, 2010
From the moment I first laid eyes on this watch four years ago, I became fascinated by it. At the time, my knowledge of watches, watchmaking, movements and brands was limited, and it was amazing to me that anyone had figured out how to construct a mechanical device capable of providing all these features at once. Intuitively, the watch represented something about human ingenuity - what can't human beings make if they apply their intellect to solving a problem? I mean, this watch didn't have a battery! It was powered by the movement of your wrist, and could somehow give you an indication of the day, date, month, hours, minutes, was a stop-watch, and gave you the phases of the moon. That's more than most quartz or battery operated watches ever do.
Since that time, I've done a considerable amount of research, mostly through the internet and a number of excellent sites dedicated to watches and watchmaking, and have come to understand a considerable bit more about automatic movements etc. And of course, I came to realize that "complications" such as seen in this model are relatively commonplace in the automatic watchmaking industry, and that the movement inside this beautiful little marvel is actually an old, almost unremarkable chronograph movement that is also quite ubiquitous. I mean, almost every brand uses some version of it and it's not all that complicated as movements go... So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "ah, he realized it wasn't all the special after all and decided to move on."
And you'd be wrong. This is a beautiful watch, and the fact that the base movement of the piece is based on the widely used and somewhat unglamourous ETA 7750 valjoux movement only increases my appreciation for the little miracle. This movement is everywhere because it's robust, reliable, and pretty good value for money. Nearly every Luxury Swiss brand has a model employing this movement, meaning that you can find it in watches costing from ten thousand US to less than a thousand. Allegedly designed in 1974, the other good news about this remarkable little workhorse is that it's wide availability means that you will likely always be able to find parts to repair it should your own timepiece need repair at some point in the distant future. But it's such a robust little soldier it's probably unlikely.
This particular model is by Longines, which is probably considered a "mid-range" luxury Swiss brand. These lables mean little to me, as I tend to buy whatever watches appeal to me on some emotonal level, irrespective of the "prestige" third parties might associate with it. Longines itself is a brand I do like however, due to the fact that I associate it with understated class. The watch is from Longines' Master Collection, and is a beautiful round case of 40 mm stainless steel with saphire crystal at the top and also at the back, through which you can observe some of the operations of the miraculous little engine that drives all the information available on the face of the piece.
From pictures, someone might be tempted to think the dial is too busy, with too many numbers and too much information, and that it would be difficult to read the time. It's amazing how pictures can mislead. This watch is absolutely clear to read on the wrist and takes no longer than any other piece to understand. The beautiful blue steel sword hands are perfectly balanced and nearly all are at the right length, although the minute hand could have been extended by a milimeter or two for aesthetic reasons. The watch case is perfectly round and very polished stainless steel, with a slightly domed saphire crystal that provides amazing clarity and little reflection. The dial of the watch is a study in intricacy, with what Longines calls a "barleycorn" pattern, but which looks like rows and rows of waves connected back to back. Together with the contrast of the sub-dials for the chronograph and other functions, the dial is a striking work of art that represents a perfect balance between the need to convey information and beautiful watch design.
The watch is fully automatic, meaning that it is powered by the movement of the wrist, but like most automatics, should be wound 30-40 times before being worn for the first time or if allowed to wind down for a while. All the functions are powered in this way, so that the day, date, phases of the moon, chronograph (stop-watch for Americans), 24hr and month functions all turn on and depend on the energy stored up in the escapment (the heart of the watch - an incredibly thin wire-coil, wound inside the watch that powers the movement). Bottom line, once you wind the watch and put it on and wear it, everything works automatically without having to think about it.
The chronograph measures time in increments of seconds, minutes, and hours. The chronograph second hand is located at the center of the watch while the main second hand for the time is located at the sub-dial at 9 o'clock. The watch has a 24hr indicator, meaning that the watch indicates whether it is 10am or 22pm. The day and month indicators are in the sub-dial located at 12 o'clock and are easy to read, while the date is indicated by a hand on the watch with a quarter moon at the end of it. The hands of the watch are all a highly polished, beautiful blue steel which are very striking in light. Despite its many functions, the watch is easy to set and can be ready to go out of the box in under five minutes.
This watch is the perfect weight and size. At 40mm, this watch will fit most men except the truly dimunitive in stature, and has a decent height. It will fit perfectly under a sleeve collar, but is robust enough in profile to give the impression of being both classic and sporting all at once, which is the purpose of a chronograph like this. (You wear a chrono for a sportive, slightly more energetic effect, but the lines of the watch itself can be very rugged, or rather classic and understated as with this piece.)
Although offered with a stainless steel bracelet, the best version of this watch is on the brown alligator strap with luxury triple folding clasp, as pictured. The advantages are two-fold. First, on the bracelet, the watch will be somewhat heavier, though not difficult by any means for people who are used to wearing quality watches on bracelets. But from an aesthetic point of view, the strap is just also far more beatiful, giving the watch that extra degree of refinement a serious or executive timepiece should have. On the brown strap, the watch is perfect for business attire and looks at home in the conference room or office. I think a steel bracelet is a waste of time with this to be honest.
As I hinted at above, the movement itself is quite impressive, with deadly accuracy and an admirably stubborn resistance to variations in performance due to overnight positioning. (The accuracy of many automatic watches is often affected by the position in which they are laid to rest at night. Depending on whether a watch is placed on its side, crown-up or down, or face down or face up, it can speed up or slow down noticeably.) Despite being placed in several different positions, my own model showed little actual variation in accuracy.
If I have any minor complaints about the watch, it is that Longines did not see it fit to include any superluminova (the cool usually green, blue or white stuff on watch hands and faces that glows at night) on the hands or indices. This means that the watch isn't always the best suited piece for use at night, although this is not a major problem in practical terms. But it is also probably a little impractical to have it. Something would have had to have been sacrificed, and the dial of the watch is quite beautiful as is. The alligator leather used for the strap is actually slightly stiff, and may take some getting used to if the wearer is used to softer leather. It took a few days for the strap to properly "hug" my wrist. However this is actually a plus for the model, since the tougher, stronger leather will mean that the strap will last a little longer than the porous, soft leather found in other models.
I love this watch. When I first saw it four years ago, I did not buy it as I became fascinated by other models that drew me away from it before I could purchase. As time went on, I tried to ignore it and told myself other pieces held more interest, but on every occasion I would pass a Longines dealer, I would find myself at the window, staring, staring, or actually walking in, asking to try it on. And that's how you know a watch will be a keeper; you see it and it takes your fancy, and you try to forget it, but you can't. Years pass, and some mystical bond between you and machine strengthens, and it calls out to you plaintively from the display cases of bemused dealers. After several years, I knew I genuinely liked it, and knew I had to buy it at last. Since I got it a month ago, I've worn nothing else since. If you like watches, want a classic swiss automatic with great features, a robust movement from a great luxury brand that isn't too ostentatious and will also paradoxically provide some real value for money, this is the watch for you.