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When I think of Longines’ current catalog, my mind first goes to their heritage timepieces. Often crowd-pleasers, these sexy throwbacks highlight cool watches from the brand’s 188 years of manufacturing (well, most really come from the mid-twentieth century, but that’s still an impressive run). Next, it jumps over to their modern watches. Less on my personal radar, but still wildly popular, they tend to have a classic Swiss-luxury flair, and occasionally some interesting complications. The new Longines Spirit collection, however, kind of fits into neither category. Slotted into their “sport” sub-genre, they are not part of their heritage line, but not nearly as modern as their “Conquest” siblings.
The Spirit collection is named for the “pioneer spirit” of early and iconic aviators and adventurers who are believed to have used Longines equipment in their excursions. As such, the watches are inspired by the watches of this period, being the early to mid-twentieth century. But rather than creating watches that could be mistaken as being from that era, Longines infused these concepts into modern watch designs. The results are vintage-inspired timepieces with a distinct early to mid-twentieth century pilot/military feel and appealingly modern trappings.
To kick this collection off, Longines went wide, offering three-hand models in three colors and two sizes, with or without bracelets. There are also “prestige editions” which include three straps. Further, Longines created chronographs in the same three colors, also available on or off bracelets. All chronometer rated, and with a starting price of $2,150, the Longines Spirit collection represents an exciting new, luxurious take on the early 20th-century pilot’s watch.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the Longines Spirit L3.810.4.73.2, which is the 40mm model with a silver dial and leather strap. At $2,150, this watch is at the entry point of the collection.
Review: Longines Spirit Ref L3.810.4.73.2
40 x 49.6mm
The case of the Spirit mixes classic lines with exceptional finishing for a handsome result. Featuring a tried-and-true design that speaks to classic pilot’s watches, the case comes in at 40 x 49.6 x 12.5mm for a happy medium size. From above, robust lugs and gently contoured sides are accentuated by sharp bezels and beautifully textured brushing. The bezel is reminiscent of stepped designs from the early 20th, sitting a bit in from the edge of the case. This too features the same high level of finish.
From the side, the case has slight curves and angles that lead the eye to a large domed sapphire. While from above the case has a more classic look, from the side it appears modern and sleek. The 12.5mm height is also hidden well by the crystal, various finishing lines, and case breaks. Off of three is a large screw-down crown that tapers into the case, making it stand out visually. It’s a nice aesthetic element, speaking to onion and diamond crowns. The outer face also features a well-executed and surprisingly detailed etching.
The case-back is relatively flat and held on by six small screws. In the center is an etching of a globe with longitude and latitude lines with a winged-hourglass Longines logo in front of it, speaking to the watch’s “pioneer” inspiration. Though one might expect a display case-back on a watch like this, showing off the likely well-decorated ETA chronometer inside, I appreciate that they went with a solid back. It speaks to the story of the watch and is a nod to the watches that inspired the design.
With regards to vintage-inspired pilot’s watches, it’s easy to be cynical and say “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” as they tend to stay pretty true to a core design vocabulary. However, this would overlook what sets them apart. Small details and design decisions, from typefaces to surface finishes, make all the difference, letting some standout while others fall flat. This is all preamble to say that while the overall design of the Spirit dial is very familiar, it is full of sexy details that make it one of the nicer pilot’s dials I’ve seen in a while. With that said, it’s also a luxurious take on the genre, rather than a practical one, which might not appeal to everyone.
Starting with the color, though in renders it almost appears white, it’s really a pale silver. In person the metallic nature of it is much more clear than in renders. The surface, which is split between a lower dial and a chapter ring, then features different finishing that emphasizes this. The lower surface has rough stamped texture creating a very fine noise of light and dark points for a light gray tonality. The effect is very attractive and a bit unexpected on a watch like this. The chapter ring then features super-fine brushing that gives it just a slight metallic sheen.
One of the standout details of the design is the very thin, polished and chamfered inner edge of the chapter ring. Though steel in color, the polishing makes it appear like a dark ring with the occasional highlight that separates the two surfaces. Visually it provides a nice point of contrast and breaks up the otherwise uniform surface color. While aesthetically pleasing, this is one of those details that puts form over function, as I doubt a pilot would want a distracting and potentially even blinding detail on their dial.
The primary index consists of large applied numerals on the lower surface of the dial, skipping three for the date. Big and bold, they look great and allow for easy reading at a glance. The date window at three isn’t great, however. It’s set a little too far towards the center of the dial, throwing off the balance of the numerals, and the black on white disk lacks the impact of a marker, making that space feel empty. An outline, or perhaps a smaller, non-numerical marker could have helped with this.
Outside of each marker are small diamonds of lume that sit in little cutouts in that chamfered inner ring mentioned before. This is a quirky, but stylish detail that adds some personality to the design. On top of the chapter ring, printed very finely in black, is a minutes/seconds index within a closed circle. Though the line weight is thin, this index remains legible. It’s also very well printed. Even under a loupe, the lines are crisp and consistent. Lastly, under twelve you’ll find Longines logos and “automatic”, while above six it reads “chronometer” and features five polished stars. This latter detail is a bit odd, but speaks to an old designation Longines would use for their better movements. If they had left this off, I don’t think it would have been missed, but it didn’t bother me much in practice either.
The handset is very straightforward but effective. The hour and minute hands are thin batons with lume fill rendered in dark, matte metal. The seconds hand is then a stick, also in matte metal that features red paint for its last third, and a small lume-filled diamond at its tip. The diamond floats perfectly over the edge of the chapter ring, lining up with the lume diamond. This detail ties the whole dial design together.
Inside of the Longines Spirit is the L888.4, which is a newer generation of Longines caliber. Based on the ETA 2892-A2, the L888.4 features an expanded power reserve of 64 hours and a silicon balance spring, as well as a frequency of 25,200. For the Spirit, this movement has been chronometer-certified by the COSC, meaning that it is accurate to within -4/+6 seconds a day in six positions. For a watch at $2k, these are some very decent specs.
Straps and Wearability
The Spirit comes mounted to a 21mm cognac-colored leather strap with rolled or rembordé edges, and a bit of padding. It tapers down to 18mm and features a chisel tip, for a more rugged look. The thumbnail buckle features brushed and polished surfaces, mimicking the case. It’s surprisingly well-finished for a buckle.
On the wrist the Spirit wears pretty well. The 40mm diameter gives the dial a nice amount of real estate and doesn’t look oversized, and the height is not noticeable at all. The lug to lug, however, is a bit long, for my wrist at least. It’s not quite in the red-zone, overhanging my wrist, but it’s very close. A bit more of a downward curve to the lugs would have prevented this. As is, it’s still totally wearable, but worth noting that on wrists smaller than mine it might be an issue.
In terms of looks and style, the watch is a winner. It deftly dresses up a pilot/military aesthetic, giving it some of the glitz you expect from a Swiss luxury watch at this price point, while maintaining enough rugged charm to not look fussy. As is, you can easily dress it up or down for the occasion and it will fit in. The silver dial looks great from every angle, and works well with any color you might combine it with. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the case finishing stands out in real world settings as well.
The Longines Spirit collection is not for people looking for a tool-pilot’s watch, it’s for people looking for a Swiss luxury version of a pilot’s watch at an approachable price point. While a hair over $2k is not cheap, it’s not at all surprising given the brand, the execution, and the movement. It’s also worth looking at this watch in terms of its specific competitive landscape, being retail Swiss luxury pilot’s chronometers. Starting at just over $3k is the new-ish three-hand Tag Heuer Autavia. At 42mm, these are larger and feature a bezel for a more rugged look, and feature a Sellita-based chronometer. At $3,445 is the Bremont Broadsword, which has a more severe, and modernized, military aesthetic, 40mm case, and an ETA-based chronometer. In comparison to these models, the value of the Longines is clear. Longines