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THE WORLD OF FINE WATCHES

SPOTLIGHT
www.watchtime.com

A HISTORY OF
LONGINES
WATCHES,
FROM THE PAGES
OF WATCHTIME
MAGAZINE

LONGINES
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

in the mountains. Messengers deliv- Pocket-watch (ca. 1840, with verge


ered components that had been manu- escapement), similar to the ones built
factured in the Swiss or French Jura re- in the comptoir of Agassiz & Cie.
gion and then returned several weeks
or months later to pick up and pay for
the finished articles. Comptoir work- Auguste Agassiz established a comptoir
From Agassiz to Francillon
ers also encased movements and as- in 1832, thus laying the cornerstone for
sembled dials and hands. Afterwards It was probably late in the summer of Longines
Longines’ manufacturing the completed goods continued on 1852 when Ernest Francillon arrived
site at the end of the 19th their way to customers. On February in Saint-Imier to begin working for
century 25, 1833, Raiguel and Agassiz signed a the aforementioned watch comptoir.

Pioneering Spirit, contract that established a business


whose name can be translated as
“Raiguel Jeune & Co., Manufacture
and Trade with Watches.”
After Raiguel’s retirement, the re-
A nephew of Agassiz, Francillon had
been born in Lausanne on July 10,
1834. He was expected to join his
family’s business, a profitable ven-
ture trading in household and iron

Precision and Elegance maining partners ran the business from


November 1838 onward under the
name “Agassiz & Compagnie.” The
excellent reputation of this company’s
timepieces extended far beyond the
goods. To prepare for this, he had
learned German in Stuttgart and had
studied various aspects of bookkeep-
ing and economics. But at some
point, Agassiz’ calls for help became
In 1832, Auguste Agassiz founded a comptoir that would a bank. During a business trip in the Swiss border. Its watches with cylinder so loud that Francillon’s father sent
Jura region, Agassiz received an offer escapements, of which several thou- him to Saint-Imier, where he initially
develop into the Longines company we know today. From from Henri Raiguel, with whom his sand were produced each year, were worked in the offices. He moved to
uncle’s bank cultivated a very cordial even known in the New World. Môtiers in Val-de-Travers in June
1852 to 1900, Ernest Francillon put the business on a path of business relationship. Raiguel asked As specified in the contract, Agas- 1853, where he spent a year learning
modernization leading toward its present-day significance. Agassiz to join him as a partner in his siz’ partner Florian Morel left the firm the fine points of manufacturing and
comptoir d’etablissage. The 23-year- on December 31, 1846. Agassiz now selling watches. He accepted leader-
old businessman didn’t wait for a sec- continued on his own, but after his ship responsibilities at Agassiz & Cie. Ernest Francillon enlarged Longines during
Text: Gisbert L. Brunner ond invitation. On August 14, 1832, he wife’s death, and with his own health in 1854, working under the aegis of the second half of the 19th century
became an active participant in the weakened, he moved to Lausanne at director Edouard Savoye, to whom

E very era has its mission, the


fulfillment of which leads to
the advancement of humanity,
wrote Heinrich Heine in his Reise-
bilder II (Additions to Travel Pictures)
Louis Rodolphe Agassiz and his wife
Rose, was probably already occupy-
ing himself with the theme of watch-
es. Auguste Agassiz had been born in
1809. During the course of his voca-
watch business known as “Comptoir
Raiguel Jeune” in the village of Saint-
Imier, in Switzerland’s Jura Region.
Comptoirs were small businesses
that acted as intermediaries between
the beginning of the 1850s and left the
operative management of his busi-
ness in the hands of Edouard Savoye.
Saint-Imier expressed its appreciation
of Agassiz’ dedicated service to the
he was related.
Francillon married a pastor’s
daughter named Ida Grosjean late in
August 1857. The business in its
previous form was dissolved in 1861.
and under his own responsibility. On
the morning of July 1, 1862, a new
sign appeared on the house at 11
Agassiz Street. It read: “Ancienne
in 1831 or thereabouts. This same year tional education, he worked for some various cottage industrialists, most of community by awarding him hon- One year later, Francillon began Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest
Auguste Agassiz, the son of the pastor time in Neuchâtel, where his uncle ran whom still worked small farmsteads orary citizenship. directing the comptoir on his own Francillon, Successeur.”
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

was the welcome fruit of his efforts. stream so that the planned machinery
He was assisted by his uncle, who could be operated economically.
contributed advice, constructive criti- Fate smiled on the ambitious busi-
cism and shares of stock in the com- nessman in March 1866, when he was
pany valued at hundreds of thou- able to purchase two neighboring
sands of Swiss francs. plots of land not far from Saint-Imier,
The comptoir was soon delivering on the shore of the Suze River. An en-
more than 20,000 timepieces each tire year would pass before construc-
year. The lion’s share of these pocket- tion work finally began in the spring
watches were “Lépines” with cylin- of 1867. The masons labored and the
der escapements, but higher-quality brick walls of the new building rose
timepieces with Swiss lever escape- steadily. The permitted sluice was
ments gradually acquired greater im- built above a waterfall and a 10-horse-
portance. Francillon was also able to power turbine began to turn in June
sell a remarkable number of petite 1867. Its power would be the vital The engineer: Jacques David enlarged the The etymology of the brand name: a map of Saint-Imier showing the “Longines” or
ladies’ watches encasing 12-, 13- and force for an innovative machine park, factory and became technical director “Long Meadow” in the south of the town
14-ligne movements. which was primarily designed by the
During this time, Francillon de- watchmaker Edouard Châtelain and
voted considerable attention to find- the engineer Jacques David of Saint- Skillfully Overcoming protected trademark of this tradition- and dismayed by the subsequent
ing a way to eliminate the winding- Quentin, who was the talented son of al manufacture. travel report, which offered him plen-
key. Crown winding had been in exis- an industrialist. Because there were so Problems ty of food for thought. While in the
tence since 1820 or thereabouts, but many tasks to be done, a typical Châtelain was a practical man, but his USA, David had procured detailed
Francillon wanted to integrate this workday lasted at least eleven hours. personality included idiosyncrasies
A Journey to Philadelphia information about the innovative
principle into his inexpensive pocket- Gas lamps illuminated the factory that occasionally precipitated dis- Francillon’s never-say-die character manufacturing methods used there.
watches. By 1867, he had achieved during the evenings. And it went putes between him and the engineer and strongly pioneering spirit were Thanks to these documents, he was
this goal. All his movements operated without saying that the old-fashioned Jacques David. Despite their quarrels, manifest again in 1875. Well aware of able to include many notes and
entirely without keys. Francillon was comptoir operation continued to run the duo created an exemplary produc- the progress brought about by the sketches in his final report, of which
unpleasantly aware of the shortcom- simultaneously. tion facility that made efficient use of largely automated manufacturing Longines published a facsimile edi-
ings of comptoir-style watchmaking, The gears finally began turning to the available water power. methods which were being practiced tion in 1992.
which included limited ongoing qual- everyone’s satisfaction at the end of The ensuing years until 1873 were in the United States of America, he ini- David’s concluding remarks laud-
ity control, delays in customer serv- 1867. The first components became anything but easy. Doubts about the tiated the creation of the “Société in- ed the outstanding quality of mer-
ice, and the lack of a service-friendly available in March of the following future even sometimes plagued Agas- tercantonale des industries du Jura.” chandise manufactured using me-
spare-parts stockpile. year. Francillon summarized: “We’ve siz. But with their unshakeable faith in This specialized commission occupied chanical production methodologies.
Francillon wanted to replace the achieved a lot, but much still remains a successful outcome, Francillon and itself with the quest for solutions to the He praised the advantages of inter-
mostly handmade individual time- undone.” He commuted constantly David persuaded Agassiz to continue problematic situation posed by the changeable, identical, perfectly fitting
pieces with precise, serially manufac- between Saint-Imier and the “Lon- to be a limited partner. American competitors. The Société components, as well as the virtues of
tured products. If the artisans and the gines.” On the one hand, unfinished Customers were thoroughly satis- dispatched a delegation, headed by well-organized working processes
machines all worked under one roof, comptoir merchandise needed to be fied with the endurance, longevity David, to the New World in 1876. This and optimized quality-control meth-
he reasoned, this would surely result completed and sold; on the other and precision of the manufacture’s was the year when the U.S. Congress, ods. He argued in favor of comfort-
in greater competency and signifi- hand, he needed to administrate the own calibers. Faith in the potential to celebrate the first centennial of able temperatures in the production
Longines pocket-watch, Cal. 18B, from 1869 cantly higher efficiency. It would factory. To assure that the costly ma- of contemporary technology grew American independence, organized an facilities, suggested that it would be
also end the interminable waiting for chinery wouldn’t grind to a halt due stronger. illustrious world exposition in worthwhile to pay greater attention to
deliveries of movement-blanks and to an inadequate supply of water, he The new watches succeeded ad- Philadelphia. When the Swiss dele- orderliness, and opined that it would
components. arranged to have a second turbine in- mirably as first-class, high-quality gates saw the downright revolution- be beneficial to encourage employees
Turbulent Activities stalled below a 600-cubic-meter reser- products, but their success also at- ary developments on display in the to have a stronger sense of loyalty,
The young businessman didn’t hesi- voir. A second building was erected tracted unscrupulous counterfeiters. watch division of this exhibition on the pride and identification with their
tate to thoroughly reorganize his ven-
The Revolution Begins along the extension of the first tur- Longines was obliged to defend itself western shore of the Atlantic Ocean, employer.
ture, beginning with the personnel Francillon lengthily discussed his revo- bine. Francillon was ultimately able to against poor-quality imitations. One their breath was quite literally taken
and continuing through to the prod- lutionary plans with his uncle in the entirely close the offices and ateliers weapon in this battle was, and still is, away.
ucts and their prices. He concentrated autumn of 1865. It became clear to both on Agassiz Street. He and 40 employ- the winged hourglass that’s engraved, Despite his own progressive man-
A Process of Rethinking
on modern, high-quality watches. men that their new factory building ees settled into the opulent new in various versions, on the company’s ufacturing methods, Francillon must Thanks to his visionary personality,
And the resultant commercial success would have to be built beside a river or edifice. movements and cases as the legally have been simultaneously impressed Francillon had already implemented
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

turn, enabled the company to estab-


lish its own workshop for silver cas-
es. And these cases brought the long-
awaited independence from perenni-
ally tardy case suppliers. The re-
sponse was overwhelmingly positive
when Longines joined other Swiss
watchmaking companies to present
its wares at a joint exhibition in Mel-
bourne, Australia in 1880. Above all,
the famous Lépine Caliber 18 L was
so immensely popular that, despite
expanded production capacity, the
factory could scarcely satisfy the de-
mand. This exemplary watch move-
ment was likewise a bestselling item
in the USA. In addition, Longines Production at Longines in the late 19th century
1878 dared the launch of the new
chronograph movement 20 H, which
marked the firm’s first successful pose of the business was to manufac- popular item was a new circular cal- Dynamically into
venture into the realm of horological ture precise timepieces. Arnold Vuille- iber with a lever escapement. A mere
complications. Roulet was entrusted with the task of 20 millimeters in diameter, it was a
the 20th Century
David deserves much of the cred- precisely adjusting the chronometers. natural choice for use in ladies’ pen- Longines’ top management was now
it for the company’s achievements His best pieces were entered in dant watches, which were very popu- embodied in the persons of Jacques
during this period. Francillon re- competitions at the Neuchâtel Obser- lar at this time. The same caliber later David, Baptiste Savoye and Louis
warded David’s dedication by invit- vatory, where they achieved remark- found its way onto the wrist. Gagnebin, on whose shoulders rested
ing him to join the company’s board ably good results. When the Duke of Abruzzi organ- the difficult task of maintaining the
of directors. Francillon likewise Longines’ collection at this time ized a polar expedition in 1899, grand legacy as Francillon would
reaped honors and accolades. The included pocket-watches with gold, his explorers relied on Longines have wished. The trio accepted this
community of Saint-Imier made him silver and nickel cases in ladies’ and chronometers to help calculate their challenge and mastered it with flying
an honorary citizen in 1881. He was men’s sizes. Due to American import longitude in the Far North. Despite colors. Official accreditation at the
later also elected to the Swiss Nation- restrictions, Longines offered only the extremely low temperatures, these chronometer tests administered by the
al Council. watch movements to its clients in the silver deck watches performed very Neuchâtel Observatory was forth-
USA, where these calibers were en- well in the Arctic. The affirmative re- coming in 1905. Prizes for the accura-
cased and sold as finished watches. ports submitted by the duke’s explor- cy of Longines chronometers fol-
A Wave of Success – lowed soon thereafter. These awards
Adequate supplies of well-fitting ers also served as welcome advertis-
With a Sad Ending spare parts were now available in the ing for Longines products. The world proved that even Longines’ serially
Longines sprouts wings: Ernest Francillon announced in 1874 that his watches were In 1883, the Swiss State Exhibition in USA, and this was an important pre- exposition in Paris in 1900 brought ad- manufactured movement-blanks were
authentic only if they bore an engraved hourglass Zurich awarded one of its coveted condition for long-lasting success in ditional positive results. When this ex- capable of achieving optimal preci-
diplomas to Longines in recognition the New World, where the name “Wit- hibition ended, representatives of the sion. The strategy of offering highly
of the manufacture’s trailblazing pro- tnauer” was heard with increasing fre- manufacture took home to Saint-Imier precise timepieces at affordable prices
many of the ideas suggested in was reviving in the USA, too. This sit- duction methods, innovative dy- quency. Longines grew speedily in “La Renommée,” the grand prize that proved to be exactly the right policy.
David’s report, but he nonethe- uation and the resulting supply-side namism and meticulously well-made this part of the world, thanks in large had been awarded to Longines for its Some 800 employees now produced
less took these recommendations to bottlenecks prompted Francillon to products. Longines enjoyed similar measure to the efforts of the brothers best product. This prize further 122,000 watches annually at Longines;
heart. After the death of Agassiz on initiate large-scale renovations and to success in Antwerp two years later. Albert and Louis Wittnauer. The brightened the gleam on Longines’ the corresponding volume a mere ten
February 25, 1877, Francillon was able begin new construction work in the The sun above the “Long Meadow” founding of “A. Wittnauer & Co.” in image. Unfortunately, this triumph years earlier had been only 39,000.
to preserve the shareholder relation- spring of 1879. He also improved the was shining brightly. Longines was 1904 as a joint-stock company further came too late for Francillon, who died Nevertheless, delivery delays still per-
ship with Agassiz’s heirs. A successful energy supply for the machine park. able to pay off Agassiz’ heirs in 1886, leveraged the upswing. of influenza at six o’-clock on the sisted because manufacturing capaci-
collection of watches shown at the The limited water power available after which the business could be Longines had become a force to be evening of April 3, 1900, soon after ty had once again reached its limits. To
world exposition in Paris in 1878 from the Suze River prompted transformed from a joint-stock com- reckoned with, especially in the field having given his characteristically rectify this situation, bricklayers were
earned the firm many medals, and Longines to install its first steam tur- pany into a collective company ac- of high-quality watches, where profit meticulous scrutiny to the collection summoned in 1905 to erect on the left
plentiful orders followed. Business bine and its requisite boilers. This, in cording to Swiss law. The official pur- margins are widest. One particularly for the Parisian exhibition. bank of the river a new building, of
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

lating effect on sales. Equally welcome hand in hand with a significant in- ple on Longines’ staff. The hostilities years. Innovative self-winding move-
were the awards and commendations crease in quality. also demanded plenty of imagination ments and wristwatches with water-
earned at the applied arts exhibition in The founding of Longines-Witt- to assure the export of watches tight cases were designed and con-
Paris in 1925, and at the world exhibi- nauer in New York in 1936 restored ordered by foreign customers. For structed. A renovated machine park
tion in Philadelphia the following the old dynamism on the American example, Longines’ Czech representa- made it possible to electrically weld
year. market. And plenty of welcome pub- tive, who resided in Bahrain, watch cases, to cut threads with
Accuracy and reliability made licity was forthcoming in 1938, when arranged to receive completed watch- greater precision, to true up the pro-
Longines watches ideal companions the pilot Howard R. Hughes flew es hidden inside hollowed-out Bibles. file of the teeth on gears, and to pre-
for pilots. The company’s timepieces around the world in an airplane that When each Good Book arrived, the cisely roll pivots with the help of
also proved themselves on numerous he had equipped with control devices Czech agent would remove its con- tungsten disks.
polar expeditions and scientific re- from Saint-Imier. Furthermore, Lon- cealed contents and insert gold into
search journeys. Charles Lindbergh gines created two special instruments the emptied cavity. He would then
shared with Longines the experiences explicitly for Hughes’ globe-girdling reseal the package and write “deliv-
The Post-War Years
he had gained during his solo journey: a chronometer with a stop- ery not accepted” and “return to Even before the end of the Second
transatlantic flight from New York to seconds function and the legendary sender” on the wrapper. Thanks to World War, Longines had already re-
Paris in 1927. The aviator’s know- “Siderograph.” Both devices facilitat- this trick, the watches and the gold sumed its participation in chronome-
how, combined with the manufac- ed the task of determining the mo- flowed undiscovered and unhindered ter competitions and tests. A steady
ture’s horological competence, led to mentary position of an aircraft. Avia- by customs agents. stream of prizes kept the name
the creation in 1931 of the famous tion was thriving, so demand for these By sending timepieces to exhibi- “Longines” in everyone’s mind. The
Hour-Angle Watch, which would ul- useful items was correspondingly tions in Milan, Bratislava and Bu- manufacture won the first serial prize
timately exert a stronger influence on high. dapest, Longines did everything in for four wristwatch chronometers in
the company’s history than any other its power to continue cultivating its 1944. A second such prize followed in
timepiece. contacts with former customers, who 1946. The chronicles record an indi-
Imagination and Foresight returned this favor by placing orders. vidual prize and another serial prize
The outbreak of World War II affected Meanwhile, Longines was already in 1948. These efforts were accompa-
An Eventful Epoch many of the approximately 1,200 peo- eagerly planning for the post-war nied by exemplary activities in the
Longines’ executives had nothing to
complain about in the early part of
Plenty of medals: Longines’ watches won numerous awards at various exhibitions 1929. When Commander Byrd and
his men carried Longines’ pocket-
watches along on their spectacular
which Longines remains proud today. ceived that production had to be in- expedition to the South Pole, these
The main complex was moved east- creased. timepieces blithely withstood the ex-
ward in 1906. Meanwhile, Longines gained still treme cold of the Antarctic. And after
The company’s directors always greater prestige in the USA. The rea- the jury at the world exhibition in
remained aware that Longines’ suc- son: the Naval Observatory in Wash- Barcelona awarded a grand prize to
cess rested on the pillars raised by ington had tested two Longines deck the manufacture, auspicious oppor-
Francillon, and sought to maintain watches and awarded them first prize tunities beckoned on the markets in
family involvement in the company. for their excellent performance under the Spanish-speaking nations of
This goal was achieved with the help severe testing conditions. South America.
of Adrien Francillon, the nephew of Orders increased 400 percent in the But this clement economic climate
Longines’ founder, who agreed to the five years prior to the outbreak of changed abruptly in October 1929,
company’s urgent requests and World War I. Longines’ staff in 1912 with the New York stock market
moved to Saint-Imier to assume an ac- numbered 1,167 onsite employees. crash. The resulting economic crisis
tive role on the executive team in 1907. Though Longines did not long remain soon spread to Europe, including
There was no shortage of work for wholly unaffected by the negative Switzerland and its watchmaking
the younger Francillon and his col- consequences of the war, the manu- industry. Stung but not disheartened,
leagues. The book of commissions was facture continued to perform extraor- Longines worked hard to thoroughly
brimful, largely because railroad com- dinarily well despite the conflict. First modernize existing movements and
panies had placed large orders for prizes at observatory tests in Neuchâ- to develop new ones. Better machin-
the company’s newest wristwatches. tel, Geneva, Washington and Kew ery, improved tools and stricter
These watches were so warmly re- Teddington naturally exerted a stimu- control of the manufacturing went A growth spurt: the factory underwent major expansions in 1910
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

ledgers, so the caliber, the type and the piece had an overall height of a mere the length of each month. This clever
weight of the case of almost every sin- 1.98 millimeters, and was available in chip assured, for example, that the
gle Longines timepiece can be identi- stores under the name “Golden date display automatically jumped
fied by referring to the fabrication Leaf.” Then as now, it had and has no from February 28 to March 1 in ordi-
numbers listed in these comprehen- need to hide itself. nary years and also guaranteed that
sive tomes. Another quantum leap dates from February 29 wouldn’t be forgotten in
1984, when the temperature-compen- leap years.
sated quartz Caliber L 276 achieved a The perfect trend-setting synthe-
Silently Vibrating Quartzes record-breaking minimal deviation sis debuted in 1996 under the name
While mechanical timekeeping ad- An early wristwatch: Longines built this of just one minute in five years, “V.H.P. Perpetual Calendar Con-
vanced from one acme to another at timepiece for the wrist in 1901 which is equivalent to 0.02 second quest.” This wristwatch combined
Longines, specialists in other divi- per day. Its outstanding accuracy the ultra-precise, thermo-compen-
sions worked feverishly on a technol- earned it the cognomen “V.H.P.,” sated quartz movement with a
ogy that would decisively influence logical insiders with a record-break- which stands for “Very High Preci- perpetual electronic calendar. This
the second half of the 20th century. ing quartz watch. It was small sion.” intelligent watch could be reset
The first transportable quartz clock, enough to be conveniently carried in Finally, in 1992, Longines elimi- easily for time zones and for sum-
which Longines debuted in 1954, ex- a trouser pocket. Of course, this was nated the need for the troublesome mer/winter times, and it could be
ceeded its era’s requirements for pre- only the beginning of an evolution- manual task of adjusting the date dis- triggered to indicate the month or
cision and reliability. Transistors ary process which would advance at play at the end of a month with fewer the leap-year cycle whenever need-
were still in their infancy at this an increasingly speedy pace, thanks than 31 days. The top-of-the-line ed. All these functions required no
time, so Longines used vacuum to the uncommonly strong innova- “Conquest Perpetual Calendar” con- fewer than 14,700 transistors, but
tubes inside this timekeeping instru- tive energy on the “Long Meadow.” tained a microchip programmed with with typical Longines ingenuity, they
ment, which measured 21.6 cubic European journalists were more than
decimeters. The device relied on a a little astonished on August 20,
temperature-stabilized quartz oscil- 1969, when Longines introduced
lator and could precisely depict time “the first quartz wristwatch suitable
to the nearest hundredth of a second. for serial production.” Its name: “Ul-
Eager to know exactly how accurate tra-Quartz.” The clockwork em-
the clock really was, Longines sub- ployed the latest microchips, and the
mitted its spectacular apparatus to timepiece’s oscillator had a frequen-
the Neuchâtel Observatory. The re- cy of 9,350 hertz. In retrospect, one
Precision instruments: first-class rate certificates for Longines’ chronometers sults of a meticulous rate test spoke would have to say that 9,350 hertz
for themselves: “After 24 hours in was “still” its frequency, because this
operation, the deviation of rate was value would become obsolete only a
field of time measurement for sport- powerful innovative potential. The equal to zero.” few years later.
ing events. “Vibrograph,” for controlling the rate The next task was to reduce di- In 1972, when energy-consuming
These achievements led to an un- of watches, debuted in 1946. A direct mensions without compromising luminous diodes were still the stan-
precedented boom during the post- user-to-user connection was estab- performance. But this feat necessari- dard in digital displays, Longines
war years. Explosive increases in de- lished in 1950 so that the Neuchâtel ly demanded modern semiconductor presented the world’s first quartz
mand made it possible to hire or rehire Observatory could continually trans- technology. The overall volume of wristwatch with a modern liquid
many employees and to enlarge the mit the precise time to the factory. In the first “cold” instrument was 6.4 crystal display (LCD) for the hours,
factory. New construction commenced 1955 the manufacture established its cubic decimeters. Its clockwork minutes, seconds and date. The re-
in 1947. The previous year, Longines own laboratory, where it subjected weighed four kilograms. Longines ward for these efforts was the confer-
had already begun an ambitious pro- metals, balance-springs, lubricants presented an electronic onboard ral of the American “IR 100” innova-
gram to build rental housing for its em- and other functional parts to strict tests chronometer with analogue time dis- tion prize, which was awarded to the
ployees. A free shuttle bus commuted in accord with the company’s criteria. play in 1964. The dimensions of its world’s hundred best new technical
between Longines’ settlement and the The stringency of these tests assured case had shrunk to a sensational 70 x products. On January 12, 1979, Lon-
factory. Longines even paid the travel that nothing was left to chance. 67 x 82 millimeters. Despite its small gines’ insignia and its winged hour-
expenses for employees who lived fur- Incidentally, Longines also reor- size, this quartz dwarf deviated by glass proudly appeared on the dial of
ther from the plant. ganized its archive at this time. Since only one second after a full year of what was then the world’s slimmest
Longines performed brilliantly in its earliest days, the company has pre- operation. Just two years later, the quartz wristwatch with an analogue
terms of technology, too, displaying its served nearly all of its manufacturing manufacture again surprised horo- time display. This paper-thin time- Navigational instrument: Howard Hughes used the “Siderograph”
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

high legibility. The basic movement edition to just 990 pieces: 390 watches Charles A. Lindbergh’s spectacular
already had a trend-setting feature: a with yellow gold cases, 300 with transatlantic flight, which had
directly propelled and centrally axial white gold cases, and 300 with red prompted the creation of the ingen-
seconds-hand. The central rotor gold cases. The comparatively few ious Lindbergh Hour-Angle Watch.
moved above the entire movement, collectors who were able to get their For the anniversary, Longines created
an unprecedented feature that in- hands on one of these ticking synthe- a replica of this timepiece in four-
creased significantly the efficiency of ses of the past and the present can in- fifths its original size, which was pre-
the automatic winding process. The deed count themselves fortunate. sented at Le Bourget in Paris on May
rotor’s motions were polarized via a Connoisseurs view these watches as 21, 1987. Manufactured in a limited
cleverly designed ratchet-wheel avidly covetable collector’s items. edition, the replica was equipped
alternator. If the watch was worn Aficionados who missed the chance with the same functions as the famed
regularly, its mainspring would in 2001 can admire one of these wrist- original. After pivoting open the
amass a reassuringly long-lasting watches in the Longines Museum or case’s hinged back, connoisseurs
power reserve of approximately 45 in the international watch museum in could peer through its glass back
hours, and this lengthy running the neighboring town of La Chaux- and admire the very fine automatic
autonomy would be unmistakably de-Fonds. Caliber 990. This spectacular caliber
displayed on the power-reserve indi- Incidentally: von Känel personally was also used in the golden “Ernest
cator. Unlike the basic Caliber 290, monitors the distribution of Longines’ Francillon” collection, which Lon-
Calibers 291 through 294, which were other wristwatches to assure that each gines issued in the mid 1990s to hon-
likewise part of the “Conquest” line, market is justly served in the 130 or this pioneer in the brand’s history.
The special feature of the 340 familiy of calibers, ticking amongst others in the watches also had distinctive power-reserve countries where Longines is currently For this elite collection, the caliber
of the classical “Flagship” line, was an off-center rotor with a toothed rim displays at the “12.” represented. was painstakingly skeletonized, thus
The special feature of the 340 A chance to purchase this perfect earning it a new designation as L 994.
family of calibers, which was movement in a “package” that’s And in accordance with the motto of Rapid oscillator: the “Ultra-Chron” self-
were packed into a single chip with a ogy and/or price play important launched in 1960 and which lent tick- steeped in history also arose in 1987, noblesse oblige, its rotor was crafted winding wristwatch debuted in 1967; its bal-
small footprint of a mere 19.1 square roles. As one of the pioneers of mod- ing life to the classical “Flagship” which was the 60th anniversary of from 21-karat gold. ance completes 36,000 vibrations per hour
millimeters. ern timekeeping, Longines has un- line and to other Longines watches,
Other “Conquest” models have an doubtedly mastered both technolo- consisted of an off-center, ball-borne,
additional liquid crystal display gies, each of which has been appro- heavy metal rotor with a toothed
which can be switched on or off by priately represented in the brand’s rim. With help from a patented plan-
pressing the crown, thereby offering a diverse product portfolio for many etary-wheel alternator, it wound the
variety of helpful additional func- decades. mainspring in both its directions of
tions. Not to be forgotten is the “Con- In the genre of self-winding me- rotation. The self-winding module
quest AHP,” which debuted in 1997. chanical movements, too, Longines was artfully integrated into the
This was one of the first Swiss-made has regularly given connoisseurs movement, thus minimizing the
quartz wristwatches that made do en- plenty to talk about: for example, the overall constructive height.
tirely without a battery. At first glance, 13-ligne Caliber 22 AS, which debuted The ultra-slim manufacture Cal-
its clockwork seems to be similar to a in 1945 with a rotor that wound the ibers 890 and 990 relied on double bar-
self-winding mechanical movement. mainspring in both directions of rota- rels. They and their derivatives are
But closer scrutiny reveals that its ro- tion. The ladies’ self-winding Caliber discussed elsewhere at greater length.
tor is connected to a micro-generator 14.17, which appeared in 1956, was The first of the duo was launched in
which produces electrical energy: an based on a shaped caliber. 1975, followed in 1977 by the second
ingenious idea that effectively weds The entirely new 290 caliber fam- caliber, which continues to prove its
ecology and economy. ily was introduced as a veritable au- high capability to the present day. The
tomatic delicacy in 1958. Longines best proof is an event which Walter
watchmakers developed an ingen- von Känel, Longines’ visionary presi-
Peaceful Coexistence ious power-reserve indicator for this dent, proudly announced in the
The decision to opt for either quartz series. The outstanding attributes of spring of 2001, when the traditional
or mechanical timekeeping is ulti- the 11 1/2-ligne diameter and 6 milli- brand celebrated its 30,000,000th time-
mately a question of one’s personal meter tall Caliber 294 included a cen- piece. This happy occasion called for
philosophy of life. Aspects such as tral disk and a rotating calibrated a commensurate jubilee collection. As thin as its name suggests: the Golden
design, convenience, precision, ecol- ring. This system assured especially Longines limited this commemorative A firm hold on time: the first portable quartz clock (1954) Leaf (1979) is just 1.98 mm slim
THE HISTORY OF LONGINES

In 1967, which marked the 100th intrepid and visionary reorganizer ing,” affirms von Känel, who has lived from an institution known as “Le Bon ucts that carry the distinguishing
anniversary of Francillon’s debut, Nicolas G. Hayek and several banks, in the valley of Saint-Imier and thus in Goût Français,” i.e. “The Good French features of mature mastery and which
Longines provided jobs for approxi- this step led in 1984 to the founding the heart of the Swiss watchmaking re- Taste.” have therefore earned the right to be
mately 1,000 people. About 150,000 of SMH (Société Suisse de Micro- gion since 1945. “The big Longines XL* 18, a new alloy made of cobalt, described as genuine classics.
watches left the factory annually in this Électronique et d’Horlogerie SA), business already made an extremely chrome and tungsten and traces of Longines prepared to honor the
decade. The festivities in the buildings which is now the Swatch Group. strong impression on me when I was a carbon, began to assert itself against 500th anniversary of Christopher
on the “Long Meadow” were crowned As a member of this group, little boy. Most of the people in our gold and silver in 1981. The alloy’s al- Columbus’ discovery of America by
by the “Ultra-Chron” model, a self- Longines has continued to evolve neighborhood earned their living phanumeric appellation was given to releasing the “1492 Christobal C”
winding wristwatch with a balance during the past 23 years – exactly as there. Somehow I was convinced that an impressive generation of new collection of solar compass watches in
that oscillated at a pace of 36,000 Francillon and his successors would I too would work for Longines some- watches. And to top it all off, Longines 1991. From 1995 onward, internation-
vibrations per hour. This extremely fast have wished. Von Känel, who was day. Watchmaking shaped our whole joined the elite circle of Formula One al sales were almost completely verti-
frequency enabled Longines to achieve born in 1941, played an important – or region in those days, and I secretly racecars as partner of the renowned calized, with Longines independently
a degree of precision which was near- more likely a decisive – role in leading knew that it would one day offer me Scuderia Ferrari. handling distribution, sales, and on-
ly equal to the accuracy of electronic the brand along this glorious path in- the opportunity to discover the great Longines celebrated the 100th an- site servicing. This important innova-
timepieces. Two years later, the manu- to the 21st century. The holder of an ac- wide world.” niversary of the winged hourglass in tion also meant that Longines forth-
facture accepted the Diamond Interna- ademic diploma in business ad-minis- This wish came true sooner than 1989 with the launch of the “Solar with offered nothing but watches that
The limited “Solar Ephemerid” wristwatch tional Award, a prize that can justifi- tration, he joined as a sales assistant of von Känel had initially thought. Soon Ephemerid” wristwatch. This very had been completely developed and
was launched in 1989 ably be compared to an Oscar in the the Compagnie des Montres Longines after joining Longines, he traveled to special and naturally also patented manufactured in Switzerland.
world of movies. Francillon SA in Saint-Imier in 1969. the USA, where he acquired relevant astronomical timepiece was released The “Longines DolceVita” collec-
Despite many remarkable He was first promoted to the post of experience at Longines-Wittnauer in a limited, individually numbered tion followed three years later. These
Paths into the Future achievements in the art of time meas- director of the sales division and later Watch Co. Upon returning to Switzer- edition. watches, which paid homage to Felli-
urement, Longines’ ship was towed became director of the entire sales and land, his career followed a steeply Starting in 1990, the extra-slim “La ni’s unforgettable film, enjoyed un-
After the death of Maurice Savoye in in 1982 by its mother company marketing division. He has shoul- upward trajectory. And in 1988, von Grande Classique de Longines” mod- paralleled success. And in 2003
1965, shareholders for the first time ASUAG into a maelstrom of grave dered the responsibilities of the presi- Känel found himself standing atop els, with their pure case design, “Honour and Glory” embodied an-
decided who would succeed him in events which capsized many dency since 1988. Von Känel also be- the uppermost rung of his career developed into inimitable representa- other high point in the 125-year histo-
the brand’s directorship. They opted other vessels in the Swiss watchmak- came a member of the augmented di- ladder. He and his dedicated team of tives of the brand. These sleek wrist- ry of Longines’ timekeeping for ath-
to make the Compagnie des Montres ing fleet. Only one sheet-anchor rectorship of the Swatch Group in watch lovers are now responsible for watches, which are still manufactured letic events. To coincide with the
Longines Francillon SA into a mem- remained to save the ship in 1983: 1990. a diverse collection of timepieces with great success today, number grand opening of an informative and
ber of the General Watch Company fusion with the SSIH (Société Suisse The exemplary successes that encasing mechanical or electronic among the first-rate exemplary prod- exciting exhibition devoted to sports
GWC, which was the distributing de l’Industrie Horlogère SA). The Longines celebrated under his aegis movements. Each Longines watch timekeeping, Longines offered a fasci-
subsidiary of the ASUAG watch merger ensued under the name are surely not mere coincidence. “I’ve embodies a long tradition that equal- nating set of watches consisting of a
concern. “ASUAG-SSIH.” With the help of the always been fascinated by watchmak- ly satisfies today’s and tomorrow’s practical wristwatch chronograph
demands and that’s characterized by and a rattrapante pocket-watch. The
praiseworthy quality and an excel- latter encased a 24-ligne movement
This watch, with the Caliber L 990, is part of the jubilee collection lent cost-benefit ratio. that traced its lineage back to the year
that celebrated Longines’ 30,000,000th timepiece in 2001 1939. No explanation is needed for
the fact that the 125 sets which com-
Masterful Achievements prised this edition instantly found
Nonstop their buyers.
The 1973 watch fair in Basel The Longines evidenza line de-
was the venue for Longines’ buted in 2003, Longines LungoMare
presentation of the “Serge followed in 2004, and the Longines
Manzon” collection, which Master Collection was launched in
featured watch cases of solid 2005: with each of these, and espe-
silver. cially with the third in the trio,
The Olympic Games in Mon- Longines put itself on a route that
treal challenged Longines to create will doubtlessly lead the brand
the “Ultronic” wristwatch chrono- toward a successful future.


graph with tuning-fork resonator in
1976, the same year that the manufac- Essence of the brand: the Longines Master
ture accepted its fourth “Golden Rose” Collection symbolizes the values of elegan-
from Baden-Baden and the gold cup ce, sportiness and watchmaking tradition