In 1954, with quartz timekeeping technology still in its embryonic phase, Longines launched the world’s first quartz clock with atomic precision, which was certified at Switzerland’s Neuchâtel Observatory. This week, that selfsame observatory was the stage for the unveiling of a new wristwatch with an all-new ultra-precise, high-tech quartz movement: the Longines Conquest V.H.P.
The Longines Conquest V.H.P. (the initials stand for “Very High Precision”) is the newest version of a watch Longines introduced in 1984 — which was in turn the product of many decades of Longines’ technical innovations in quartz-powered timing, of which many watch aficionados may be unaware.
That first quartz clock, which would go on to claim numerous subsequent precision records at the Neuchatel Observatory after its debut there in 1954, was integrated into a famous sports-timing instrument, the Chronocinégines (below). This device — which provided racing judges with a film strip composed of a series of pictures recorded at 1/100th second, allowing them to precisely record the moment an athlete crossed a finish line — represented a milestone in timekeeping history.
By 1969, quartz technology was beginning to find its way into wristwatches, and it was Longines that introduced the first quartz wristwatch that was developed for the mass production, called the Ultra-Quartz. And it was in 1984 that the brand launched the original Longines Conquest V.H.P., whose quartz caliber set a precision record. (Interestingly, the first Longines watch to bear the name “Conquest” debuted in 1954, the same year as the quartz clock.) In 1996 came the first Conquest with a perpetual calendar movement.
WatchTime attended the launch event for the new Longines Conquest V.H.P. at the Neuchatel Observatory. The watch, which is available in either a three-hand/date model or a chronograph version, is equipped with a quartz caliber developed exclusively for Longines by the movement-making colossus ETA, its sister brand within the Swatch Group. The movement — dubbed Caliber L288.2 in its three-hand-with-calendar version and L289.2 in the version with chronograph functions — is notable for its very high degree of precision for an analog watch (± 5 seconds per year) and its use of a so-called GPD (gear position detection) system that quickly resets the watch’s hands after an impact or exposure to a magnetic field. Longines has also equipped the movement with an exceptionally long battery life of nearly five years — which, the brand points out, gives this watch an advantage over its “connected” sports-watch competitors, which require regular battery recharging — and, like its 1990s predecessor, a built-in perpetual calendar.
The three-hand/calendar models of the Longines Conquest V.H.P. are available in 41-mm- and 43-mm-diameter stainless steel cases; the chronograph models are in 42-mm- and 44-mm-diameter stainless steel cases. Black, silvered, blue, or carbon dials are available for all models, with two applied Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock (the chronograph model has only the “12,” with the “6” replaced by a subdial) and nine applied bar indices, treated with Super-LumiNova, for remaining hours. All the dials are graced with a red “V.H.P.” inscription, either directly above or directly below the center; the cases are water-resistant to 50 meters.
The chronograph dial has a tricompax layout with a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock, and a 60-second counter in the center. Each model incorporates an “intelligent” crown to set and change the time and date, and an E.O.L. (end of life) indicator to signal to the owner when the battery is nearing the end of its life: when the energy in the battery ebbs, the seconds hand warns the owner by jumping in five-second rather than one-second increments. The Longines Conquest V.H.P. collection all come on stainless steel link bracelets, with triple-folding safety clasps operated by push-piece opening mechanisms.
Prices on the new Longines Conquest V.H.P. range from $1,000 for the 41-mm three-hand model to $2,000 for the 44-mm chronograph model. I had a chance to see and handle the watches at the launch event at the Neuchâtel Observatory. Here is what the carbon-fiber-dial three-hand and silvered-dial chrono look like on the wrist.