What a Year! Reviewing the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar

In 2020, our extended test examined an annual calendar from Longines, a mix of elegance and superior functionality at a great price. Our test of the
Annual Calendar from the Longines Master Collection took place over a period of several months.

April 30, 2020: An excursion into the countryside. The annual calendar can also recognize a short month and advances in multiple steps to show May 1.

Some people, due to superstition, regard leap years as catastrophic. Better to wait before building a house or getting married. For them, a leap year, like anything deviating from the norm, is unlucky. Some rogue, then, must have scheduled our photo shoot for the Annual Calendar from the Longines Master Collection, our test watch, for leap day — Feb. 29, 2020.

But a so-called “annual calendar” has nothing to do with a leap year and day. In contrast to a perpetual calendar, it does not recognize the length of the month of February in any year, whether it’s a leap year or not. But for the rest of the year — from March 1 to February 28 or 29, depending — it does everything right. So, it’s a practical and, not least of all, more economical alternative to a perpetual calendar.

The annual calendar complication is often hard to find. Longines offers it at a sensationally low price. Watchmaking and understated elegance reflect the brand’s values.

The Annual Calendar from Longines is priced at $2,425. Omega’s Aqua Terra Annual Calendar is $8,400; IWC’s Portugieser Annual Calendar is $20,900; and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus with Annual Calendar can be had for $50,270. The most economical perpetual calendar appears to be the Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture from Frederique Constant at $8,795. Jaeger-LeCoultre offers its Master Ultra Thin Perpetual for $21,100 and other brands are more expensive.

The Annual Calendar Year Begins on March 1
It’s Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, and it’s not yet clear what this leap year might bring. It’s springtime in southern Italy. On this day — or no later than the next — an annual calendar needs manual correction. No problem at all with the Longines Master Collection Annual Calendar. Simply pull out the fluted crown to the middle position and turn the quick-date adjustment counterclockwise. When advancing the date from (non-existent) February 31 to March 1, the month indication will also advance automatically. This is surprisingly easy and convenient. If you’ve set aside the watch for a period of time and need to reset the calendar, the month can be adjusted independently of the date by pulling the crown to the middle position and turning it clockwise. This operation is simple and safe to do at any time.

March 31, 2020: Working from home. At the end of a long month (31 days) the annual calendar advances like any other date indication.

The following month of March ends with us working from our home office. Unspectacular, but unforgettable in 2020. While the visible date change on the Longines Annual Calendar begins about half an hour before midnight, the month disk begins moving only a few minutes before and then advances in tandem precisely at midnight.

One month later we dared go outside. The advancement of the Annual Calendar from April 30 to May 1 was the first exciting thing to happen this year because the Annual Calendar knows the difference between a short month with 30 days and a long month with 31 days. Like every normal date shift, initially the date advances (with a brief start-up phase) close to midnight on (non-existent) April 31. Then, it looks like nothing is happening at all even though the calendar mechanism is most certainly active. But then — right after 3:00 a.m. — the month disk slowly begins to move, which is hard to see since the hour hand is directly over the month display.

The dial has a sunburst finish and no luminous material for an altogether elegant look.

Around 5:00 a.m. the month and date advance to the new position, May 1. As usual, the date disk begins its movement about 30 minutes beforehand.
There was no real need to touch the Longines Annual Calendar at the end of April, but we pulled out the crown to the hand-setting position anyway to adjust the watch to the exact second. Over the period of two months on the wrist, the watch gained around a minute, which translates to only about 1.2 seconds per day — exceptionally good, even without a chronometer certificate. The timing machine recorded deviations of even less than 1 minute per day, which confirmed the results of our wearing test.

The ETA automatic Caliber A31.L81, a version of the ETA 2892, provides these good rate results. It is produced exclusively for Longines and is known here as the L897.2. Its balance wheel oscillates at a rate of 25,200 beats per hour, equal to 3.5 Hz — a frequency that one now often sees from exclusive Swatch Group ETA designs since it provides an extended power reserve of more than 60 hours rather than the 48 hours seen with conventional ETA movements.

The exclusive, modern automatic Longines Caliber L897.2 movement offers an annual calendar and a 64-hour power reserve.

The movement is housed in a simply elegant stainless-steel case, for which the Longines brand and its Master Collection are known. The collection was created in 2005 and combines the simple elegance of a dress watch with traditional watchmaking, which is expressed in various complications such as an annual calendar. In contrast to versions with barleycorn dials and Roman or Arabic numerals, the blue sunburst finish and indexes on the dial gave our test watch a truly updated look. Polished anodized hands and 12 angular applied hour markers provide a nice contrast and good legibility in different lighting conditions — but only during the day. There is no luminous material on the dial, which gives it a more elegant appearance.

The stainless steel case attaches to a triple-link bracelet.

A steep, narrow bezel further enhances the look and highlights the dial. It is part of a three-part polished case that is attached to a triple-link stainless-steel bracelet with fixed lugs — not a perfect transition. These components also scratched easily over the four months of our test. Otherwise, it should be easy to wear this Longines throughout the year. The annual calendar mechanism functions perfectly and if you wear the watch all the time, you shouldn’t need to correct it very often. It lies elegantly and comfortably on the wrist and like any dress watch, it will fit under a shirt cuff. To shorten the strap, there are screwed attachments at the end of the bracelet for adjustment and a sophisticated double folding clasp.

Manufacturer: Longines Watch Co. Francillon Ltd, 8 Rue des Noyettes, 2610 Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Reference number: L2.910.4.92.6
Functions: Hours, minutes, central sweep seconds, annual calendar with month and date
Movement: Longines L897.2, based on ETA A31.L81, automatic, 25,200 vph, 21 jewels, nickel gold-plated balance, Elinchron II hairspring, fine adjustment via two screws, Nivachoc shock absorption, 64-hour power reserve, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 3.60 mm
Case: Stainless steel with sapphire crystal above the dial, sapphire crystal caseback, water resistant to 30 meters
Bracelet and cla­­sp: Stainless-steel bracelet with double folding clasp with two push-buttons
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours, fully wound/after 24 hours):
On the wrist +1.2
Dial up +3.6 / +8.3
Dial down -2.2 / +0.7
Crown up -2.8 / +3.7
Crown down +1.3 / -6.1
Crown left +1.5 / -3.3
Greatest deviation 6.4 / 14.7
Average deviation +0.3 / +0.7
Average amplitude:
Flat positions 282° / 241°
Hanging positions 249° / 206°
Dimensions: Diameter = 39.91 mm, lug width = 22 mm integrated, height = 10.94 mm, weight = 156.0 grams
Variations: With leather strap; with barleycorn dial in various colors and combinations
Price: $2,425

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  1. Chris Shepley

    I also got this watch in the final days of February, though this year.

    I am now waiting patiently for April 30th for the annual calendar’s first true dance performance. I definitely feel it was worth the money at under $1800 US for my blue sunburst dialed model (same as reviewed). Another thing to note about the watch is how deceptively thin it appears even with a movement module. I say deceptively because the chapter ring only dips about halfway down into the bezel where the dial sits. Thus, the main part of the case is only 5mm thick and the bezel housing not just the dial but part of the movement actually seems about the same height.

    My only gripe is the display caseback, which is friction fit. I can only assume this has a lot to do with its abysmal water resistance.

    I would definitely recommend this watch for anyone looking for watch with a useful and rarely seen complication at an excellent price. The only thing that comes close with similar functionality is the now discontinued MIH watch or the Zenith Captain Windsor, which while being thousands more both include a chronograph and famous movement maker’s pedigree.

  2. Kai Man

    I always wondered why Watch Maker do not place the Month/Day Window over at the 9 O’clock side while the Date Window remains at the 3 O’clock.
    This would give the a More Balance Dial appearance.

  3. Chrono

    Personal preference I know, but the white background to the date wheels doesn’t work for me. Otherwise,

  4. Jake S

    The caption for the first picture reads “…advances in multiple steps to show May 1.” I may have misunderstood, but shouldn’t this be March 1, because February is the short month?

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