High Flying Eye: Reviewing the Longines Avigation BigEye

Inspired by a chronograph from the 1930s, the Longines Avigation BigEye unites aviation history and modern watchmaking and boasts a column-wheel movement manufactured exclusively for Longines. We review the watch in this feature from the WatchTime archives.

Longines Avigation BigEye - angle
Longines Avigation BigEye

Why is this chronograph named “BigEye”? You can see the reason staring at you when you look at the dial: a large counter at 3 o’clock on the Longines Avigation BigEye tallies the elapsed minutes. It also helps you time your 5-minute boiled egg for breakfast. But heads up! The long index strokes mark every third minute and not, as is more common, every fifth minute. So when the hand reaches the first stroke, your egg is still almost raw, and when it reaches the second stroke, that same egg is already hard-boiled. The gradual creeping motion of the arrow-shaped elapsed-minute hand is unusual also. You’ll need to look closely if you want to read elapsed intervals precisely, but the scales are neatly printed and easy to read. The subdial at 6 o’clock counts 12 elapsed hours. The hand above this disk also advances continuously over the subdivisions, where Arabic numerals with square dots mark the full hours, and slender white strokes show the half hours.

Longines Avigation BigEye - vintage
The model is based on a Longines pilots’ watch from the 1930s (above).

There is no date indicator, but the time display, the small seconds at 9 o’clock and the stopwatch cadrature all belong to Caliber L688.2, which is based on ETA Valgranges Caliber A08.L01 and manufactured exclusively for Longines. After undergoing modification and acquiring a co-axial escapement, this column-wheel chronograph is also the basis for Omega’s Caliber 3330. Several years ago, Longines was searching for a chronograph caliber with column wheel to power its lower-priced watches. The result, which was originally designated A08.231 and subsequently renamed A08.L01, was introduced in 2010 as Longines L688 and later as Longines L788. It works with wheel coupling and a two-armed return-to-zero hammer. The pressure points for operating the chronograph’s pushers, which look like they’re wearing old-fashioned top hats, are well balanced and reliable. The shape of these user-friendly push-pieces is influenced by the brand’s history, which has been the inspiration for Longines’s Heritage line. The Avigation BigEye is part of this series and is a reinterpretation of a pilots’ watch from the 1930s. The matte-finished and classically styled case with a terraced bezel, a strongly edged sapphire crystal and a fully threaded screw-in back embellished with special engraving underlines the historic look. The brown leather strap has a vintage appearance that recalls historical pilots’ watches, but the edges of the lugs are a bit sharp.

Longines Avigation BigEye - front
Luminous numerals and hands contrast well with the matte black dial.

The matte black dial is reminiscent of the early years of aviation and is easy to read thanks to its bold contrasts. And despite the presence of three subdials, the time display remains dominant: a pair of straight and well-proportioned hands sweep past Arabic numerals, all nine of which glow brightly in the dark. A few of the hour numerals are either entirely absent or slightly truncated to make room for the subdials, a minor blemish already seen on historical chronographs, but the time is visible day or night.

The Longines Avigation BigEye that we tested gained between 4 and 5 seconds per day. It maintained this slight gain whether it was fully wound or had been allowed to run for a few hours, whether the chronograph was switched on or off. The movement ticks with equilibrium and keeps time accurately when the watch is on the wrist. The stainless-steel case is nearly 41 mm in diameter and its ergonomically shaped lugs, as well as the handsome, supple leather strap with its pin buckle, contribute to the watch’s wearing comfort. The entire ensemble makes it a pleasure to recall a bygone era.

Longines Avigation BigEye - dial CU
The watch gets its “BigEye” name from the oversized 3 o’clock minutes counter.

Manufacturer:  Longines Watch Co. Francillon Ltd., Les Longines, 2610 Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Reference number: L2.816.4.53.2/4
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph (central elapsed- seconds hand, counters for up to 30 elapsed minutes and 12 elapsed hours)
Movement: Caliber L688.2 based on ETA A08.L01, automatic, 28,800 vph, 27 jewels, Nivachoc shock absorption, gold-plated nickel balance, Nivarox hairspring, bipartite index fine regulation, 54-hour power reserve, diameter = 30.0 mm, height = 7.90 mm
Case: Stainless steel, curved sapphire crystal with several layers of anti-reflective coating above the dial, water resistant to 30 m
Strap and cla­­sp: Leather strap with pin buckle
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours):
When fully wound +4.2
With chronograph
switched on +4.9
After 24 hours +4.5
On the wrist +4.0
Dimensions: Diameter = 40.94 mm, height = 14.61 mm, weight = 102 g
Price: $2,625

No Responses to “High Flying Eye: Reviewing the Longines Avigation BigEye”

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  1. Elie Francis

    Good day and thank you for the great review.
    I have an inquiry regarding the watch strap.
    The strap width at the lugs is 20 mm, what is the width at the buckle please?
    Thank you,
    Elie Francis

  2. Jahanzeb Chaudhry

    An esthetically striking watch! Reminds me of the Sinn Fliegers. A Swiss column wheel movement at this price is very uncommon. A correctly if not underpriced watch. Would love to add one to my collection.

  3. I own one of these watches and I have noticed that in the upper section from 9-2 the minute hand does not hit square on the minute indices as the second marker hits the 60 second mark it takes a further 15 seconds past the 60 second mark for the minute hand to hit flush with the minute indices. Why would this be so?

  4. Excellent price for a triple chronograph in stainless with a Swiss mechanical movement.

    So the quadrature sits atop (under the dial) the movement. I can’t tell from the picture, but are the pushers in a different plane to the winding crown, similar to the ETA 2892 plus Dubois-Depraz module found in the Omega Dynamics of the 90s.

    Also, the three minute indices on the minute counter dial were for the 3 minute charge rate for European phone calls. You didn’t mention this in your soft/hard boiled egg expose.

    In fact, from a friend of mine, the perfect thick steak (1.5 inches thick) should be flipped every three minutes:

    Cooking on a grill

    Three minutes turn,
    Three minutes flip,
    Three minutes, remove from heat and allow to rest for three minutes,
    Back on grill; three minutes.

    So it makes perfect steak grilling watch.

    I would like to see antiqued luminous however. This modern white shiny luminous is a detraction.

    Best regards, Geoff.

  5. George

    looks very nice 1930 vintage style but personally i think that this watch its overpriced caliber L688.-2 very reliable ETA movement

    • That’s an interesting comment. Most watch enthusiast think this watch is well under priced

        • Seconded, definitely far from overpriced and a hell of a deal if you ask me.

          • I got mine on Amazon, thru a grey dealer, for $1600 in October of 2019. It’s as functional as my 2008 116520 but much easier to tell time on and $7500 less than what I paid for the Daytona in 2008. I think it was a steal at that price. Haven’t worn my Daytona since I got this. The three minute BigEye timer comes in handy timing instrument approaches. Most ILS’s take around three minutes at my approach speeds. When the hand approaches the first three minute marker it’s time to start looking for the approach lights. At these price levels I’m not worried about wearing it to work and actually use the watch for what it was designed. Avigation, Aviate and Navigate.

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