So it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks...
For the past few years, if you were to bring up an exciting new release from Longines, most of the time it would be followed by the words ‘Heritage range.’ And it's true, Longines excel at creating modern watches that rely heavily on their past.
The Heritage Military, The MN and the Classic Sector to name just a few. Longines are much more than that though. They’re one of the original brands to offer ‘best entry-level’ luxury watches within the sub £2,000 price point. Unfortunately though, if vintage inspired isn't your thing, their modern offerings have been relatively lacklustre, forgetful and simply the brand has been overtaken by newer kids on the block.
But during the summer of 2020, Longines dropped their new Spirit collection. Although these new watches couldn’t resist a few little nods and touches to the past, they’re quite distant from any sort of re-issue. So the real question is, have Longines been able to make a modern watch that not only competes with the rest of their modern range but also the wider, fiercely competitive sub £2,000 market? Their history is well documented, but can Longines continue to make their own today?
The Longines Spirit 40mm L3.810.4.53.0 - What it does
This watch is all about blending Longines’ knowledge and experience in making dependable, reliable horological pieces with modern styling, technology and usability. It’s a brief we’ve all heard before from various brands but where Longines differ is in their impressive execution.
This Spirit is the black dial 40mm option (L3.810.4.53.0) which as the name suggests, is 40mm wide with a lug to lug distance of 49.6mm and an overall thickness of 12.2mm. It's wonderful to see this watch available in a 40mm width as they also offer it in 42mm, but take note of that subjectively long lug to lug distance.
The case itself is wonderfully finished. When it comes to a split, the brushed finish takes up the majority of the watch but it’s how Longines have blended that with the polishing that is sensational. The whole two-sided bezel, the appropriate onion crown and the chamfered top edges of the case are all beautifully polished. You might think this is just an unnecessary detail from Longines, but it is quite the opposite. It’s an essential aspect of how this watch sits and feels on the wrist. It binds and ties everything together like the perfect pair of shoes do for an outfit.
The polished touches don’t start and end with the case though as it's a common theme which is carried through to the dial. For quite a simplistic looking piece, Longines have fitted this watch with a ton of detail and a clever use of depth.
Those polished details can be seen in three places. Number one being the surrounds of each raised numeral around the dial (note there isn’t a three on this watch as it has been replaced by a date window). The second inclusion of polishing is on those 5 stars at the 6 o’clock position (more on those in a minute). And lastly, surrounding the dial, almost in a rehaut placement we see a thin polished piece of steel framing the watch and pulling all of those consistent details together.
Longines’ expert use of polishing throughout this whole watch is truly something to marvel over.
We briefly mentioned depth and once more, Longines has taken this into account but in their own tasteful, subtle way. Sitting behind each set of numerals is a small, lumed diamond shape which is cut out almost in a sandwich technique, into the steel track. Complementing this is the applied numerals around the dial.
Take a look at this dial from the right angle and that depth is as clear as day. The watch has a generous dose of lume through the dial and hands, just what you’re looking for in a watch like this.
Powering this watch is the L888.4 from Longines. Based on the ETA A31.L11, this movement is exclusive for Longines and provides 64 hours of power reserve at a frequency of 25,600 vph. Oh, and those 5 stars on the dial are a great little nod to historical models from Longines as stars on vintage watches directly related to the tests and certification the movement has gone through.
Essentially, the L888.4 is a 5-star movement because it is COSC certified. Considering this watches £1,750 price point on the leather strap as well as the fantastic execution of the modern pilots watch, Longines is really showing these new kids how it's done.
Disclaimer: the watch we’re looking at here is a sample piece with a fixed movement, hence why we haven’t been able to comment on how this movement performs in the real world. However, our friends over at Monochrome, Fratello, ABlogToWatch and HODINKEE all have shared their thoughts on the movement so be sure to give them a read.
We’ve hinted at Longines’ history but haven’t gone into too much detail if you’d like to learn more about this be sure to click here.
Watch Straps for the Longines Spirit 40mmThe standard strap fitted to the Longines matches the style of the watch exceptionally well. The boxed off stitching around the top along with the versatile brown colour is a brilliant everyday look for the Longines. However, with a few other straps, this watch can be transformed.
It's worth knowing that this watch does have a lug width of 21mm which can make it tricky to find watch straps that fit and work, but I’m confident we’re up to the challenge…
ZULUDIVER 141 Nylon Watch Band in Black with Polished Hardware
Now, we know this pilot's watch from Longines is certainly more modern than it is vintage and the military style strap has experienced a similar rise to popularity recently. What was once quite the old fashioned way of attaching a watch to the wrist is now extremely popular. Here the 141 in Black keeps things simple but gives the watch a whole new language. We’ve even gone for the polished hardware to emphasise those polished details.
ZULUDIVER Quick Release Sailcloth Padded in Black/Grey
With 100m of water resistance and a screw-down crown, the Spirit is actually quite the practical watch. It’s certainly capable and well built so there is no reason why you should be afraid to really test the watch. In that case, you’ll want to grab yourself a Sailcloth Padded from ZULUDIVER. With fantastic water-resistant properties (and quick release spring bars) this is a must-have for those seeking an adventure.
Vintage Otley Padded Genuine Leather in BrownAnd finally, we have dark brown covered with the standard strap and now we have light brown ticked off thanks to the Otley Leather. This strap introduces insanely soft padding which conforms to your wrist extremely quickly making for a ridiculous comfortable wearing experience. The leather is also pull up meaning it has a lovely texture to it. A brilliant day to day option.
On wrist thoughts - Longines’ ‘Black Bay’ moment?
The dial on this watch is one of the most exciting I’ve seen in a sub £2,000 watch for sometime. Okay sure it is pretty simple in its design, but it's how Longines has brought a sense of drama to it with the depth, polished details and refinement that really gets me going. Change the brand out for another Swiss company who are quite well known for making pilots watches and this watch is easily £3,000+.
Those dial details, the polished finishing and the unavoidable levels of legibility are a triumph. No matter the level of light the hands and indices on the watch are an addictive level of distinctive. And the best part? It doesn't feel like it’s stuck in the past. It is modern in its own right. The charm and character isn’t the same as a Longines re-issue, but it most certainly has its own flavour.
The watch has a 40mm case but it's worth knowing that this is quite a large watch on the wrist. Once again that lug to lug distance is an important measurement to consider and at nearly 50mm you certainly feel it.
We say it a lot with watches, but the Spirit is extremely versatile. Grab your favourite military style strap and your hiking rucksack and hit the hills. Or, throw on a shirt and tie, stick it on a black strap and you’re ready for the evening. Which leads me nicely onto my main point with this watch and somehow it involves Tudor.Back in 2012 Tudor released a new diving watch called the Black Bay. It brought everything they’d learnt over the years into one watch designed for the modern wrist. It was versatile, desirable and most importantly it was an open ended book. Since then the Pelagos (also released in 2012), the Black Bay 36, the Steel, the Chrono, the GMT, the 58, the Bronze and the P01. Tudor has released a lot of versions of the Black Bay as they leveraged the new release to essentially rebuild their brand on it.
And here is where the connection to Longines comes into play. I believe the brand is in the perfect position to do the same here with the Spirit. Similarly, it's modern, it has its own design language, it has a pleasing design that can move with the times and most importantly, it is an open-ended book. Longines can build on this. In fact, they already have the chronograph version but there is nothing stopping them also doing a sub 40mm Spirit range, a GMT version, dateless examples, different hands, dials, numerals. The ideas are endless. Longines have a brilliant opportunity to springboard here and really take their modern offerings to the next level. They're the right brand to do it as well. They’ve proved it's possible with this Spirit, so let's hope this marks the start of an exciting new modern line up for the brand.
Things to change
As always with our reviews, we like to highlight some aspects of watches that we would change if given the chance. Now, these points are purely here so you as the reader can be made aware of some points in watches that we’d like to see done differently.
‘40mm’ doesn't tell the whole story - as we mentioned earlier, although this watch is 40mm wide its near 50mm lug to lug does mean the watch is quite the beast on wrist. If you’re serious about this watch I’d recommend getting to an AD to try it on first as it feels closer to 41mm on the wrist.
Date windows... - Now on the 40mm Spirit, the date window is albeit a little lacklustre, when compared to what it could have been it, isn’t too bad. However the 42mm date window with its cut off 3 o’clock numeral seems a little odd to me. Of course, we all now know that Longines can take this watch in many directions and I’d love to see a super clean no date example soon.
Final thoughts on the Longines Spirit
I’ll be honest, I was excited but also a little concerned when this watch was confirmed to be arriving on my desk. The excitement came from peers in the industry who all shared positive words on this new release from Longines. I was also excited to spend some real-time with a modern-day Longines. Which is where the concern set in. Other models from Longines modern line up such as the Conquest and the HydroConquest leave me feeling hugely uninspired; something which I know the brand has the capacity to do the opposite. I’m pleased to say though I need not be concerned as Longines have done a fantastic job with the Spirit.
We’d like to thank Longines for sending the Spirit to us on loan. The Longines Spirit L3.810.4.53.0 is now available for £1,750 on the leather strap. To find out more and to order your very own be sure to head over to longines.com.