The Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye watch hands-on
There is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing the new Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye. All or almost all of Longines’s Heritage models have passed through my hands already despite the fact that, strangely enough, I don’t own a Heritage at all but rather the complicated timepiece par excellence crafted by this manufacturer; the Longines Master Collection Retrograde. After the exponential growth of volumes, diameters and dials, which have a foundation in the historical roots of the brand and its link with the world of aviation - as a visit to the Museum of St. Imier would easily show you – this year, Longines has finally squared the circle by combining together in a sublime way three topical issues: vintage, small size, and a modern caliber.
The Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye is the synthesis of these three concepts; a sentence that should be placed at the end of this article in between the general comments but that I decided to place as an opening line instead. Once again, Longines has re-opened its archives and found something that represents the best of its experience in creating chronographs; those chronographs named after the CH30 abbreviation for example that stands for the initials of the famous caliber with columns wheel that used to equip the cases of the brand’s watches.
In the case of the Big Eye it is difficult to trace back the true origins of the model it takes inspiration from, since Longines did not release any official images of the model that inspired it and, unlike the modern Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye, this timepiece comes in several references. Not all of these references feature the typical three-counter-layout, some of them sport two counters only; a layout that could confuse those who are not familiar with the collection and who were not as lucky as I was to visit the fantastic (it really is fantastic) museum dedicated to this brand.
To be honest, in the case of the Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye, it makes no sense to go looking for the origins of the model because the new one is extremely successful no matter what. The steel-made case measures 41mm in size; the perfect dimension for a chronograph that, when it was originally created, would have probably been defined as a sports chrono. The glass box is quite discreet, the central part is fully flat and treated with a double anti-reflection treatment (sapphire crystal), the black dial features a 30 minutes counter at 3 o'clock - the so-called "Big Eye" - that is oversized, the scale indexes have been filled with SuperLuminova and so have the Arabic numbers of the hours.
The brand had the guts not to add any dates to break these perfect proportions. This is not everything, however, because Longines has equipped its Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye with large mushroom-type push buttons, just like the ones you would use on a Spitfire if you were to action them while wearing big leather gloves. Elsewhere they would seem out of place, but, in this case, they are a perfect match to the definition of the general personality of this chronograph.
Technically speaking, the Heritage Chronos are not to be discussed and neither is the Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye. The timepiece is equipped with the automatic L688.2 caliber that guarantees up to 54 hours of power reserve and a switching of the chrono function through the columns wheel; the "ETA for Longines" evolution of calibers born under the Valjoux7750’s wing, completely redesigned to become the best in class at a competitive price.
To top it all, for its Big Eye, Longines has chosen a nice strap made of suede with a small pin buckle, the strap is extremely tapered from the lugs all the way down to the buckle sporting the winged hourglass logo, but, unfortunately, I cannot provide you with the correct distance between the lugs themselves. In any case, the Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye is the ideal watch to sport a customized strap and my thoughts go immediately to the many cordovan leather NATO straps with an aged look; an entire collection of these should be created for this chronograph!
The retail price? 2,750 euro. The availability? You should keep in mind that since the presentation of this timepiece at Baselworld 2017, the success of the Big Eye among retailers and end-customers has been enormous; something completely expected and understandable. Aesthetic balance, vintage touch and feel, modern mechanics and a very competitive retail price make this timepiece a dangerous competitor even beyond its price range, a potential undercut for brands that are positioned at a higher level on the market (price-wise rather than content-wise). It is a great tribute to the famous (and expensive on the vintage market) Longines historical chronographs and is clearly positioned a step higher than the current Heritage watches.
In the last two years, I have tried many Heritage watches, they were all different between them but all fascinating and rich in history nevertheless, the Longines Heritage Avigation Big Eye, however, gave me something that the other watches couldn’t give me and I am definitely thinking of wearing one of these watches around my wrist forever. The style is there and I think that Longines has created an aesthetic design that will last for a long time, the mechanics also please those who carefully read all the specifications and the crafting is perfect too. Moreover, this watch is exceptionally apt for customizations and, from my point of view, it is the perfect timepiece to turn into a split-seconds watch too; could you actually picture that?
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®