The Longines Skin Diver is the Heritage we were waiting for
If we were to strictly abide by the rules governing anniversary celebrations then Longines should have presented the modern edition of its Skin Diver in 2019, so as to precisely mark the sixtieth anniversary of the presentation of its first diver's watch, but the manufacturer decided to anticipate the times instead.
We don’t know whether this choice is part of a strategy aimed at seizing the opportunities offered by the growing interest in the vintage market and its re-editions or, instead, is the result of a product roadmap that was defined years ago - it matters little to be honest. Longines’s managers are aware that the Heritage collection has great potential and that enthusiasts love this collection (especially in Europe) and they also understood that the secret lies in reproducing historical watches in the most faithful manner as possible to the original.
Among all the Heritage models that I have written about already, none of them is so faithful to the original as the Skin Diver (maybe the RailRoad could look quite similar to the original one) and this confirms that the 1959 Skin Diver that you can see in these photos belonging to the Longines archives is terrifically up-to-date.
The name indicates a product category in itself rather than a trademark because skin diver watches were very popular in the 60s – a time, when diving was at its early stage and those timepieces manufactured by different brands had a few elements in common - a symmetrical case, elongated lugs placed on a rubber strap, and a crown with no protective shoulders.
Watches produced by other brands belonging to the same group, like the Blancpain Bathyscaphe, fit exactly this specific category. The Skin Divers were thin, comfortable and easy to use despite being diver’s watches, they were commercial diver’s watches rather than tool-watches, and it is no coincidence that Longines nowadays sells them equipped with a leather or a rubber strap and with the same Milanese mesh bracelet that, some time ago, the brand also provided to its best-known vintage diver’s watch - the Heritage Legend Diver.
The Skin Diver has a pedigree that few other watches can also boast and it features three characteristics that confirm the almost religious attention that its designers paid to tradition – the case-back is equipped with a Super Compressor sealing, the date window – a detail that Longines and its competitors tripped on in the past - is absent, and the indexes are printed in vintage Super-Luminova®; a type of material that was also used on the hands.
Last, but not least, there is also an anti-glare sapphire glass-box that replaced the 1959 plastic glass (at that time there was still no hexalite glass). Another element that was faithfully replicated on this watch is the uni-directional bezel; it is made of black PVD-treated steel. The caliber 888 with 64 hours of power reserve that equips already the RailRoad is a brand-new component.
The dial deserves its own separate section because it is a full tribute to the vintage world; the printed indexes are longer than expected on the tens, while the small Arabic numbers arranged at the four cardinal points and the black grained finish of the dial are a true feast for the eyes. The case is well proportioned (it measures 42mm from one side to the other, excluding the crown) and it features a good thickness/size ratio (it wears like a 40mm watch).
The Longines Skin Diver is already a market success and yet its retail price, if we keep into consideration the average positioning of a time-only Longines watch, is not low, despite being competitive in any absolute sense; € 2,530. If I were to try and interpret this choice as an external spectator I would say that it fully gives you an idea of how much the Heritage collection is growing among the public and how Longines is bravely trying to increase its own positioning, while still paying full attention to the stern segmentation of the Swatch Group brands.
As confirmed by Walter Von Känel, whom I interviewed during the launch of the Conquest V.H.P. Flash Setting GMT in Rome, the sales volume of the Heritage collection accounts approximately 5% of the total sales volume of the brand and this figure automatically makes it a collection suitable for Longines’s die-hard fans. We are talking about people, who are willing to recognize the higher value of a collection, provided they are able to find the right mixture of ingredients in it. My hope is that Longines continues to work in this very direction by bringing back to life a Skin Diver Chronograph too - a close relative to the CH30, hopefully.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Simona Bertogliatti)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®