Of the many companies drawing from their pasts to create new watches, few have been doing it as long and as successfully as Longines. This year at Baselworld was no different for the brand, with the release of four new vintage-inspired pieces in its Heritage collection. Among these is the Flagship Heritage 60th Anniversary 1957-2017, an homage watch that goes back to the roots of the brand’s Flagship series. Released in 1957 and named for the leading ship of a navy’s commander-in-chief, the collection has throughout its long history represented incredible value, combining high-quality manufacturing with classical designs (vintage model pictured below). Today, vintage Longines Flagship watches are still some of the most accessibly priced pieces for collectors, a testament to the fact that the series has long been overshadowed by other collections from the “Golden Age” of horology despite its excellent workmanship.
Available in steel, yellow gold, and rose gold, and measuring 38.5 mm in diameter, the modern watch channels many of the classic elements of the original, and at only a few millimeters larger in size. The case uses a simple crown and long, thin, faceted lugs, and features a stamped caravel (a 16th-17th Century Iberian Peninsula sailing ship) caseback that is the series’ hallmark. Below, you’ll find a photo comparing the casebacks of a 2014 Flagship (in steel) and that of an early Flagship model (in gold), courtesy of our friends at FratelloWatches.
The dial uses a two-toned layout of a brushed silver outer circle outlining an inner matte silver-white, with the brand’s logo and a script “Flagship” towards midnight. It uses applied gold hour markers with Arabic numerals at each of the quarter hours, and unique faceted indices for the rest (which I have heard described, accurately, as “coffin-shaped”). Moving over the dial are two dauphine-style hands with luminescent inserts, along with a simple indented subdial for running seconds toward the 6 o’clock position. Finally, powering the watch is Longines’s automatic Caliber L609 (based on an ETA 2892), capable of a 42-hour power reserve. Available in the coming months, this anniversary model will be limited to 60 pieces in both yellow gold (below) and rose gold, priced around $8,500, and 1,957 pieces in steel, priced around $2,175.
This new addition to the Longines Heritage collection doesn’t appear to be based on any one historical reference, but rather draws its inspiration from a number of early designs in the first few years of the series. The applied gold quarter numerals, long faceted lugs, stamped caravel caseback, and various logos all hearken back to classic features on Flagship models from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Meanwhile, some other features have appeared not only on early Flagship models but on other Longines watches, in other series, at different points in time. These include the two-tone silvered dial, the dauphine hands, and the 6 o’clock subdial — all of which, in combination, certainly add attractiveness to the modern anniversary model but do not seem to be commemorating any one particular watch.
Finally, some features—or rather the lack of them — are almost completely unique to this piece, but work well in contributing to its overall aesthetic. For example, while many different Flagship models through the years have had unique and interesting hour indices, I can’t recall any using the coffin-shaped markers like these. Also noteworthy is the lack of a date window and minute ring — both elements which have been highly prominent in many Flagship versions over its history, although by no means universal. In my opinion, this decision was for the best. On many previous models, these elements have served to clutter and create imbalance to the general elegance of the dial; check out, for example, the gold watch in the photo above (again, courtesy of FratelloWatches) with the date appearing at the rather unusual position of 12 o’clock.
So, while not all of the aesthetics are entirely historically consistent, the changes are by no means for the worse. The last differences of note are in the obvious refinement in the finishing of the watch due to modern manufacturing practices, the sturdier-looking case and crown, a slight size increase, and the use of an automatic movement as compared to the hand-wound calibers in the early models — all alterations so practical, few but the most ardent vintage-watch purists are likely to complain.
As a whole, Longines has done well in this vintage homage. By not directly referencing any particular model from its early years, the brand granted itself the opportunity (and subsequent shield from criticism) to take the very best features from the Flagship series’ long history to produce one of its most classical and graceful dress watches to date. And while the brand has undoubtedly produced some excellent vintage homage pieces over the past few years, this anniversary model might have actually set an even higher bar for the manufacturer — certainly not a bad problem to have.
For our most recent article, in which I look into the historical lineage behind the Hamilton Intra-Matic 68 Autochrono, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.