Longines, a watch brand that has long led the field in “neo-vintage” watches, has once again demonstrated its skill in this arena with the new Heritage Skin Diver. The dive watch — which comes on the heels of the critically-acclaimed Legend Diver watch, a 1960s super-compressor-style diver, and last year’s Avigation BigEye, based on a 1930s aviation chronograph— is a further expansion of the brand’s popular Heritage collection.
This new piece is based on a skin diving (or shallow-water diving) watch, commonly known as the “Nautilus,” produced by Longines from the late 1950s into the ‘60s (vintage picture above, via Phillips). This vintage model was Longines’ first dive watch, hitting the market at a time when hobby diving was entering the mainstream, along with the equipment required for it, specifically watches. During this era, countless new divers’ watches were launched, most notably the Omega Seamaster, Rolex Submariner, and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms series, though also other watches we’ve covered in “Vintage Eye” like the Zodiac Sea Wolf, DOXA SUB collections, and various Seiko divers, like the recently re-issued contemporary version of the Seiko Ref. 6159-7001.
The modern Skin Diver is a 42-mm steel watch with a 300-meter dive rating. With a thick, screw-down waffle crown, long trapezoidal lugs, a domed sapphire crystal, and a black PVD-coated steel bezel. The modern watch bears a clear resemblance to the vintage model, though it’s notably missing the applied circle at the top of the bezel. On the watch’s black textured dial, there are faux patina-accented hour markers, with Arabic numerals for the quarter markers and rectangular markers for each of the others; white tick marks denote the minute positions between the hours. Sweeping the dial is a rounded arrow hand for the hours, sword-style hand for the minutes, and a simple pointer for the seconds, all stylistically similar to those on other vintage-look Longines dive watches like the Legend Diver. Inside the watch, and protected by a commemorative caseback, is the automatic Longines Caliber 619/888, based on the ETA 2892 and capable of a 42-hour power reserve. The Heritage Skin Diver, priced at $2,600, will hit Longines boutiques later this Fall.
Like most of the watches within Longines’ Heritage collection, the “Nautilus” re-creation Skin Diver has remained faithful to its original design while focusing most modern adjustments on movement technology, finishing, and materials used. The similarities are seen in the style of steel case, with its prominent black bezel; the font and sizing of the hour and minute markers; the types of hands; and, most subtly, the simple Longines logo and 6 o’clock “Automatic” cursive script. Even the textured look of the black dial, while not a design feature on the original, is reminiscent (like the faux patina accents) of how the vintage models have aged over time with their original, lacquered dials.
However, while the new model is a very faithful homage, there remain several differences between the original model and today’s. The contemporary piece is slightly larger, at 42 mm compared to the original’s 40-mm, and its lugs are slightly longer; both of these traits have been points of contention for those desiring a more historically accurate sizing. Among the exterior aspects of the watch, the crown is somewhat thicker and the bezel is of a sturdier PVD-coated steel construction. Each of these traits, however, are to the benefit of the modern watch: the original used a flimsier crown and a Bakelite bezel, both of which are commonly found missing or replaced in available vintage models today. Finally, throughout the contemporary model, you’ll notice an increased focus on finishing, with the brushed-finish steel case, the unique texturing of the black dial, and the engraved caseback, all of which gives the watch a modern luxury feel.
As a whole, the Heritage Skin Diver is more differentiated from the original than other homage pieces produced by Longines, yet overall it remains a solid re-creation watch and another interesting addition to the larger collection of Heritage models. It keeps the overall style of the vintage Nautilus in its coloration, case style, and dial features— notably staying away from more modernized features like a date window or even a larger case — adding just a few contemporary alterations in its proportions, materials, and finishing.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Rado Tradition Captain Cook MKIII Automatic to its historical inspiration, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering 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.