A few weeks ago, we took a look at the Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage watch, a vintage-inspired “super compressor” diving watch that has, along with a few other pieces in the brand’s growing collection, continued to garner Alpina a large amount of attention from media and consumers alike. And covering that piece got me to thinking about another brand’s “super compressor” that draws from similar heritage and still enjoys vast modern appeal among today’s vintage collectors’ markets. This week, we look at another piece in Longines’s vast Heritage collection, The Longines Legend Diver.
Super compressor dive watches, as a category, all draw their heritage from the same origin. Blancpain patented the very useful unidirectional outer bezel on diving watches, and in response to this, Ervin Piquerez SA (EPSA) developed its own system, the super compressor design, in the late 1950s. This development led Wittnauer, Enicar, Alpina, Longines, and many other brands to work in partnership with EPSA to produce unorthodox-looking diving watches to compete on the floors of watch boutiques. As time went on, and as Blancpain’s grip on the patent wore off, the super compressor design for the most part went out of style in the early 1970s in favor of more popular, traditional-looking diving watches. But, as Longines demonstrates here, the famously odd design is back in a heritage model, and possibly more popular than ever before.
The Longines Legend Diver Watch (Ref. L3.6188.8.131.52) is, for the most part, a faithful re-edition of the EPSA-designed and Longines-interpreted Super Compressor model of 50 years ago. At 42-mm in stainless steel, with two screw down crowns at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions, and a decorated scuba diver caseback, the case alone — before taking a look at the movement or dial — is itself a very interesting component of the watch. The dial boasts a number of vintage-inspired elements, such as an all-black dial with slightly off-white and luminescent accents, and the Super-Compressor-specific, inner rotating 60-minute counter for diving. At the 3 o’clock position is a date indicator, followed by tick marks for most other hour and minute positions, with the exception of the remaining quarter-hour marks. Powering this piece is the automatic Longines Cal. L633, based on the popular ETA 2824 movement, which features about 38 hours of power reserve as well as a hacking seconds mechanism. If you are in the market for this interesting watch, many dealers offer it for somewhere around $1,600.
Comparing it to vintage models of the Longines Super Compressor, there are naturally many shared traits, along with a few contemporary differences, between the watches. With respect to the general proportions and features of the modern watch, many of the qualities are meticulously similar — waffle design on the crowns, interesting Arabic numerals, and even the printed cursive word “Automatic” toward the 6 o’clock mark. The few modern differences are of overall benefit to the consumer, such as the slightly thicker case giving it a greater sense of sturdiness, modern finishing, a modern movement, and, finally, something not seen on the original Longines model: a date indicator. The date, which some might argue takes away from the clean look of the dial, is a feature seen in other super compressors (such as the those in the Longines-owned, vintage Wittnauer brand), and is a helpful feature for anyone planning to wear this watch daily, as the 38-hour power reserve of the movement seems to suggest.
In today’s world of horology, there is without a doubt a wide range of vintage-inspired timepieces available to consumers. The Longines Heritage collection alone boasts more than 30 distinct pieces, and plenty of other brands continue to churn out more and more fascinating re-creations and re-interpretations each year. But the Longines Legend Diver, in my opinion, stands out among that crowd. It is a watch that represents a fascinating era in the history of watches, and one that still offers plenty of modern functionality along with its unorthodox design. And in comparison to its vintage counterpart, which can often sell anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000, the modern watch is a steal at a much more accessible price point for the average vintage-watch enthusiast. To me, the watch represents a clear case of “having your cake and eating it, too.” And I ask you, who doesn’t like cake?
For our most recent article, in which I compare the modern Seiko Marinemaster Professional 1000m to its vintage counterpart, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer for various publications. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.