Longines Master Collection Retrograde
Reviewing my very first Longines
This is the sixth article about Longines that I have written in a bit over a year and it is also the fifth live article that I have published, since I originally started talking about the famous brand from Saint-Imier on Horbiter. In this case there is a small difference between this article and all the other ones that I have previously published; the Longines Master Collection Retrograde that you can see in this picture is my first Longines. After testing the Longines Twenty-Four Hours Single Push-Piece Chrono, I dreamt about buying one for a while, I wrote about the Heritage Legend Diver and about the Heritage Avigation Watch Type A-7 also but, in the end, I decided not to opt for a timepiece from the Heritage collection, which is my favourite one, but for a Master instead. I usually write about every single brand out there but, like every watches fan, I have my favourite ones and despite trying to always keep my critical spirit, I am openly partial to Longines because I like its way of re-interpreting the history of horlogerie and of making accessible (or “democratize”) the most interesting complications available on the market.
The Longines Master Collection Retrograde is the concrete proof that even if you don't have a big budget available, or if you don't want to spend all your money on a timepiece, but you still want to try the experience of owning a top-quality complicated watch with top-notch finishings, you can still get yourself an authentic watch with a pedigree and a style that it is among the most appreciated ones for its sobriety, elegance and style coherence at an affordable price, the same price that you would probably pay for an automatic three-hands watch from a premium brand, whose expensive price is 50% due to the fact that the manufacturer is using a famous sport ambassador for advertizing and whose flair will immediately disappear as soon as you have left the watch boutique. To summarize; I consider Longines a real brand that aims at crafting the real essence of horlogerie.
The main reason behind my purchase lies in the French word "retrograde"; for those of you (and I am the same), whose watches collection is mainly made up of diver watches, timepieces with a reversible case, odd watches that are no longer getting manufactured, inherited pieces and so on, this adjective might make you think about the funniest horlogerie complications but if you feel the need to add something completely new to your collection, you should definitely consider the Longines Master Collection Retrograde. This timepiece has four retrograde indicators, three of them are used for the date, the day and the running seconds.
The first two countesr represent the date and the day, the third counter is the best example of what the concept of “retrograde viewing of the continuous second” is; the counter of the running seconds is located at 6 o'clock and, once the 60-second-cycle has been completed, the counter goes back and starts to count the next minute (for those who are not in the know). It sounds like a simple mechanism but it is actually a pretty difficult one to manufacture; ETA, who is the main supplier and probably also the “think tank” behind the mechanical movements of the Swatch Group, created a caliber that has been developed exclusively for Longines and that is something very similar, at least on paper, to an in-house-built-caliber. The first two counters can be set by simply pressing the two buttons that are located on the right hand side of the case (at 2 o'clock for the day and at 4 o'clock for the date.)
The fourth counter, which is symmetrically located on the left hand side of the dial, is used to set the time zone (or the day and night indication?), you simply need to unscrew the protection crown located at 10 o'clock and press a button to move the counter. This way the user can either use it as the local time indicator of their country of origin or they can move the hours counter to the new time zone by simply extracting the crown in its middle position. The L698.2 caliber also allows the user to separately set the hours hand (forward or backward) by leaving the position of the minutes hand unaltered. This is one of those functions that you usually find on timepieces that cost over 5,000 euro and the funny thing is that it is often not even state-of-the-art-crafted, while Longines conversely managed to achieve that the movement of the hours hand happens without any movement of the minutes counter. Well done!
When you extract the crown from its most external position, the retrograde seconds counter stops, the three retrograde counters move to a “neuter” position and they temporarily move to the side to allow the user to set hours and minutes. Once the crown has been locked, all the counters move back together to their original position. The counters are crafted using a strong blue colour, something that I struggled a bit to show in my pictures, since I took them in the natural light rather than in the perfect but aseptic light of my photo studio. Stylistically speaking, these counters are vaguely inspired to Breguet's Classique creations, the same thing goes for the style of the dial with its sectors sporting a silver scale and Arabic numerals on the grains d'orge dial.
Similarities stop here, because if you take a look at the caliber on the back case, you will immediately notice the industrial origin of the movement. Is this timepiece a vintage watch? Not at all, it is actually a classic modern watch with no vintage inspirations, it is not a Twenty-Four Hours that clearly pays homage, without any filter, to Longines's aviator watches. The Longines Master Collection Retrograde is the manufacturer's original interpretation of the retrograde complication but it doesn't take any inspiration from any model from the past, at least from what I could get through my research on the Internet. To give you a bit more information about, eventually, the story behind this watch, you will have to wait until my next visit to the Longines museum in Saint-Imier (unfortunately I have had to postpone my trip to 2016); a unique container of the most famous Longines collections.
(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)