Chris Hall reveals how Longines is making the most of its deep and varied history.

An interest in watches is often accompanied by a respect for a bygone age when mechanical devices represented the pinnacle of consumer technology – so it makes sense that history continues to play such a big part in the look and design of modern watches.

It is also no secret within the watch world that the industry is at its most comfortable when channelling its golden age. We find ourselves in a period of acute nostalgia, where many brands have had great success bringing archive pieces from the 1930s-1970s back to life.

Arguably, no one does it with as much commitment as Swiss brand Longines, which has had its Heritage collection on the books for the past ten years, running to dozens of elegant, practical watches that tap into the brand’s storied past.

Longines was founded in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz, a businessman with strong family connections in the US. Through these, it provided chronograph timers to the East Coast horseracing scene, which would come in handy as the aviation age began.

By the 20th century, Longines was known for its work in sports timing. Mechanical chronographs were still the most accurate means of timing a race, and its 1910s and 1920s movements are revered by collectors. By 1939, it had a watch capable of measuring to one-hundredth of a second.

Longines embraced electronic and digital technology when it came along and, in 1954, invented the “photo finish” with a 16mm camera connected to a quartz clock. A decade later, it used an updated version to time Donald Campbell’s world land speed record in Bluebird II (reaching 403mph).

In years to come, when Longines and Omega became sister brands under the Swatch Group, their efforts in sports timekeeping were amalgamated to form Swiss Timing, the body responsible for timekeeping at the Olympics. Today, Omega gets the branding, but Longines contributes its share of expertise.

The brand’s early 20th-century watches found another audience among aviators. Pilots required clear, legible watches and their position on the wrist was vital when you couldn’t take your hands off the controls. Military pilots used chronographs to synchronise watches, as well as coordinate missions down to the minute.

The Avigation A-7, a handsome 41mm steel monopusher chronograph released into the Heritage collection at the end of last year, harks back to a watch from 1935, made for the US Army Air Corps. It was intended to be worn on the inside of the wrist, hence the skewed dial, which, thanks to the positioning of the crown at 12 o’clock, is easier to get used to than you might think.

Longines’ best-known contribution to the world of pilot’s watches, however, is a navigational aid developed in 1931 with the help of transatlantic record-breaker Charles Lindbergh. Crammed with numbers, it is as much a primitive computer as a watch, allowing the wearer to convert local time and GMT into degrees of longitude. A modern version of the Lindbergh Hour Angle has been in production for around 15 years now, and while I doubt any owner has put it to its once-groundbreaking purpose, it’s certainly a conversation starter.

If that all sounds a bit esoteric, fear not – the bulk of Longines’ Heritage line is enormously wearable. Case in point is the brand-new 1957 Flagship, a 38.5mm piece in gold or steel, with sharp “dauphine”-style hands and a small-seconds register at six o’clock.

Equally easy to grasp is Longines’ latest vintage-inspired initiative. To mark its 185th anniversary, it wants to track down the oldest privately owned Longines watch in the UK – and will reward the owner with a trip to the factory and museum in St Imier. More details can be found at

Chris Hall is editor of