Hands-On: The Longines Spirit Chronograph
You’re my boy, blue!
The terms “heritage” and “vintage-inspired” get bandied about often in the watch world. These words are meant to invoke feelings of a bygone era. Over the past decade, Longines has unleashed a torrent of vintage-inspired timepieces, from the Skin Diver to the Flagship – all mid-century designs updated for modern use and size preference. But heritage and vintage are not feelings. You know what packs a bigger emotional punch? Spirit. Enter the Longines Spirit line of watches, unveiled earlier this year
The Spirit line takes a different approach to vintage-inspired design. Instead of reissuing existing back-catalog models, Longines has gone back to the drawing board, creating an entirely new array of watches with a certain undefinable old-school charm that doesn’t speak to any one single vintage model.
The Longines Spirit Chronograph is the epitome of what the Spirit collection represents. This is a large, 42mm, aviation-inspired, aquatically capable chronograph with a modern blue dial.
While the Spirit Chronograph comes in a few colorways (including a retro-evocative matte black), the blue-dial variant does the best job of straddling two eras. The overarching design brings to mind crackled leather A-2 bomber jackets, near translucent patinated typewriter paper, and the smell of jet fuel. The blue dial, however, with its pronounced sunray effect, careens in the other direction, coming across as something entirely modern.
You might think that the 42mm sizing is another modern flourish, but it actually plays into the watch’s 1940s aviator aesthetic. Pilot’s watches are historically large – so large, in fact, that they were intended to be strapped to the wearer’s leg. While this watch won’t fit on your leg, its size is certainly a nod to those classic pilot’s watches of yesteryear.
This watch features three sub-dials: a small seconds counter, chronograph minute counter, and chronograph hour counter. The chronograph seconds hand is finished with a lacquer-like texture and a red flourish at the tip.
In terms of dial design, this one’s a bit – how should we say this – busy. The Longines wordmark and applied logo sit above the word Chronometer and a set of five applied star markers. Next are the sub-dials, a 4:30 date window, and curved text reading Automatic. Add to this the chapter ring containing stylized vintage numerals and the Swiss Made text, and you have quite a party of words, sub-dials, and numerals. To be honest, you might not want a pilot taking in all of this information while operating a plane, but hey, it’s there.
And yet, somehow, it’s still legible. The large white applied numerals give the dial an added depth. The radial pattern on the sub-dials makes it easy to differentiate them against the blue sunray dial beneath. The lume on the numerals is impressive, and activates even in slightly shaded environments.
One interesting feature is the screw-down pusher on the case’s underside. Unthreading and using this pusher changes the date. The crown, situated between the two chronograph pushers, features something that is becoming more and more present on watches nowadays: An audible ratcheting action during the unscrewing process, which adds a real premium feel to the watch overall.
Beating away inside is the L688.4, a chronometer-certified automatic chronograph movement. The L688.4 might be a modified ETA base, but it is nonetheless regulated to chronometer standards – an added benefit.
In true tool watch form, the Spirit Chronograph has a solid caseback with a nice globe engraving adding to the vintage-effect flare. Things get modern again, though, with the stitched blue leather strap (the watch is also available on a bracelet). The bracelet option might very well make this watch feel even more modern. After all, pilot’s watches of yore were fitted almost exclusively to straps.
The Longines Spirit Chrono makes a statement whether you want it to or not. But it also serves its intended purpose well. At its core, this watch is a modernized, retro-inspired tool watch. You might never fly an airplane with it strapped to your leg, or take it on a shallow dive (it boasts a capable 100m water resistance), but sometimes, it’s nice to know – if just for the fun of it – that your watch could handle those things if you needed it to.
The Longines Spirit Chronograph Ref. L3.8184.108.40.206is a 100-meter water resistant watch. The Spirit Chronograph is 42mm in diameter, featuring a screw-down crown and closed caseback. Leather strap with signed buckle. Automatic caliber L688.4 movement with a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and a power reserve of 54 hours. Sunray blue dial with applied markers and Super-LumiNova on hands and markers. Price: $3,100 For more, visit Longines.com.
Photos: Kasia Milton