Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire's weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.
In what may turn out to be another one of those blink-and-you-miss-it collabs, our friends at Hodinkee have teamed up with Longines to produce a belter of a watch available as of now on Hodinkee's website. The Heritage Classic Limited Edition for Hodinkee is a chronometer and takes its cues from the elegant chronometers in which Longines specialized in the first half of the 20th century first in pocket watches and later in wristwatches. But the true appeal of this watch lies in the great way it manages to merge classic and contemporary styling into one alluring package.
The most striking part is the distinctly reductive Art Deco two-color dial in cream and brushed silver. It is laid out with a classic quadrant dial pattern, a hallmark Longines detail that here includes slim black markers replacing numbers, leaving the dial starkly, beautifully flat. The 38.5mm stepped case—suitable for any wrist size—harks back to styles of the 1940s but is brushed to an almost matte finish for some masculine edge. There’s much going on inside it too. The chronometer is a caliber L893.4, a Longines exclusive that is based on an ETA movement.
Chronometers were invented to solve a major problem in the 18th century. Sailors could calculate their latitude easily by measuring the angles of the sun at a given moment. There was no surefire way to gauge the longitude. But if a ships clock could be made accurate enough—and remain accurate—over the weeks and months of a ship's voyage, navigators could keep in touch with the time at a base harbor. The difference between ship’s time and base time had to be accurately measured, as a wrong time could effectively throw a ship’s position off by hundreds of miles.
The answer was the Marine Chronometer. It’s a device now regulated by ISO technical standards at the modern COSC, an independent Swiss lab that certifies the accuracy of movements submitted by watchmakers. A battery of tests lasting 15 days determines whether a movement remains accurate to a maximum divergence of -4/+6 seconds a day, which for a manmade machine is a tall order. Fail the test, you can’t call it a chronometer. Getting there requires investment and time. For collectors it’s just an added thing to love about their watch.
Longines is an exception in the watch world. It has a long and illustrious history of making excellent timepieces in terms of both function and design; that’s pretty normal. But the odd bit is that it has kept the prices of its watches tethered firmly to the ground, meaning many Longines watches offer tremendous value, even with some fancy chronometer stuff going on under the hood. There are just 500 of these beauties, priced at $2,500, out there. A few will have gone just while you’re reading this. It’s hard to think of another chronometer from a serious big-name player at this price level, or frankly, anywhere near it. Those reasons to make it part of your collection just keep on piling up, don’t they?
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