Longines Heritage Avigation BigEye Titanium
The devil is in the details, they say. And it perfectly fits in with the watchmaking industry. When you change a dial's color, increase the case's size by a mil, or add a Chrono register, you can easily make or break a new watch's design. Longines has this year extensively focused the communication campaign on promoting the new Longines Spirit product family but has also introduced a new cutting-edge timepiece, the new Longines Avigation BigEye, on this year's finish line.
The unexpected new BigEye has revived the 2017-introduced chronograph by adding new lure and scaled-up specs. The new titanium model proves the brand is steadily stepping up and is following up on the Longines Spirit. If the Spirit combines, as the brand managers confirm, multiple historical sources of inspiration rather than refer to a specific timepiece, the Avigation BigEye pays homage to a similar chronograph from the 1930s, whose style is distinctive in the industry.
The first reissue came with a steel case and black matching dial; as mainstream, as it gets, it was conceived to attract Longines Heritage fans, first and foremost. The new Avigation BigEye in titanium is a somewhat different watch; Longines adopted a (patented) petrol blue Pantone that gives the timepiece the wow effect the black one is missing, in my opinion. Paired with a smoked grained finish, you can appreciate it by taking a close look via our macro; it perfectly contrasts with the three registers' circular finish, something you can hardly perceive by watching the press clippings. Those pictures' background also adds a kind of avant-garde style that makes this BigEye feel more disruptive than it indeed is, in the flesh. Hands-on, the watch is charming while preserving a vintage foothold (thanks to hands and numerals filled with vintage Super-LumiNova® too).
However, the headline news is the first-ever Grade 5 titanium case on a Heritage piece in a lifetime. Compared to Grade 2, Grade 5 titanium guarantees superior surface hardness, thus addressing Grade 2's reduced scratch and dents resistance (here is why some Japanese brands developed in-house surface hardening treatments). Yet, machining a Grade 5 case requires specific tools and a manufacturing process twice as long as the one needed to mill an equivalent Grade 2 case.
Such assumptions result from several discussions with engineers whose companies produce Grade 5 titanium cases for boutique brands. How is Longines mass-producing Grade 5 titanium is hard to tell; what I can't deny is that a titanium BigEye requires tooling that increases manufacturing cost compared to its steel-made sibling. Again, I praise Longines for making such a choice, thus confirming that technical prowess is a top priority. The case body is brushed, whereas buttons, crown, and case back are polished instead; all the parts, tang buckle included, are in titanium.
Under the hood is the same Longines L688.5 mechanical movement found on the new Longines Spirit. Based on the L688.2 caliber, it comes with a silicon hairspring on top of a column-wheel integrated chronograph, thus achieving a five-year warranty. Conversely, the base model still comes with the L688.2. Titanium makes the 41mm case lighter and hypoallergenic but can hardly overcome this watch's biggest letdown, a notable 14,45mm thickness, still a constraint for those without a wrist as big as mine.
I see titanium as a trigger to develop lighter and, hopefully, slimmer chronographs along the way. With ETA designing Longines-specific calibers, my guessing is that the brand should develop hand-wound calibers anytime soon, thus closing up with vintage Longines aficionados, who would hardly buy a new timepiece from the brand in 2020. By doing so, Longines would set itself as the sole manufacturer of refined hand-wound chronographs, given that the only alternative, the Omega Moonwatch, is a different timepiece and will soon break the 5,000 Euros threshold as soon as the new one hits the stores. With a sticker price of 3,290 Euros, and as long as you are into titanium watches, the new Longines Avigation Big Eye ticks all the boxes technically and esthetically.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®