The Longines Spirit Collection watches hands on
With the launch of the Spirit collection, Longines is opening a new chapter in its product offering. After strengthening the Heritage collection's foothold, as proved by new chronographs and vintage-inspired pieces introduced throughout 2020, the brand has taken the curtain off an unexpected modern proposition geared towards bridging past and future. The Spirit showcases a new vision, a more assertive and evolved design to raise perceived and build quality, along with first-class mechanical movements. All in all, it seems the brand keeps moving upmarket while holding to a longstanding promise of adding value, with an acceptable price increase if you ask me. I do appreciate the strategy, from either a brand pedigree and a connoisseur's perspective. Longines is historically synonymous with stunning hand-wound chronographs and "Dirty Dozen" three-handers, to name a few.
The brand stands for chronometric precision and sports timing, too; hence the 2020 Longines Spirit summarizes the brand's legacy in timekeeping while placing itself as the new mainstream collection; let's, therefore, expect other complications to join the launching offering soon. How much will the Spirit be a "game-changer" for the winged hourglass brand is hard to tell; it'll take time, and long term marketing, to understand. I mentioned "Dirty Dozen" among the sources of inspiration, despite the brand claim, "The Pioneer Spirit Lives On" has nothing to do with military watches but draws inspiration from flight and exploration, a chapter which is not as known as Lindbergh's or Weems' endeavors, but is as relevant.
As you wrap a Longines Spirit around your wrist, you get a first idea of where the design team was heading during the development process. The case machining, how the parts are polished or satin-finished, the diamond-shaped mirror-polished applied indexes, and the polished ring surrounding the chapter ring prove that raising the standard was among the project requirements. The Spirit's dial offers a slightly multi-layer feel to it: the polished ring between the raised chapter ring and the mid-dial, along with the Longines logo and the applied Arabic numerals, add to the luxurious, superbly-executed dial. The Arabic numerals and the diamond-shaped indexes, including hour and minute hands, are filled with plenty of Super-LumiNova®, thus guaranteeing an intense glow from dim light to a full night. Placing the only-time variant (with a black dial) alongside the sunray finished blue chronograph, you get the former is all about sobriety, and the latter is a detailing amplifier. I think a Longines Spirit is terrific when sporting a sunray over a matte-painted dial.
The case's lugs are bold and straight, and, again, the Spirit chronograph showcases details as odd-looking, at first glance, as they look cool: the Chrono pushers taper towards the case side. As a stand-alone piece, the case has a monobloc feel to it with sharp edges and a polished line from top to bottom, enhancing the silhouette. I hardly understand why the winding crown is so big, instead. I guess it has to do with a kind of Longines' pilot's watches legacy. It is outrageously oversized and stands out; nonetheless, Longines has finished it with a fine-grained polish matching an embossed mirror-finished historical logo.
The screw-down crown placed at ten is a quick-date changer. From afar, a Longines Spirit Chronograph looks like a split-second Chrono; I believe Longines nailed it while attracting a split-seconds chronograph watch aficionados' audience. Conversely, most enthusiasts are ready to sign up for a Spirit rattrapante sometime soon, I'm sure. Unfortunately, this class of products has no or low profitability. Kudos for adopting a pin buckle over a folding clasp; the strap is super soft, and the 42mm large and more than 15mm thick steel case of the Longines Spirit Chronograph seamlessly tapers around the wrist. It works even better on the 40mm wide and 12,5mm thick Spirit base model.
From a technical perspective, both offerings are competitive, with the chronograph outperforming the competition. The L888.4 and L688.4 mechanical movements are the state of the art of the respective original ETA calibers they belong to. They come equipped with specifications exclusive to Longines, across the Swatch Group, come standard with a silicon hairspring (thus extending the products' warranty to five years), are certified as Chronometers by the COSC, and guarantee 64 and 60 hours of power reserve, respectively. The L684.4 originates from an ETA 7750 base (a 7753, in particular), whose kinematic chain has been intensively re-engineered and equipped with a column-wheel mechanism; the only letdown is a noticeable winding noise. Other than that, it is a workhorse, top-performing, and as reliable as it gets, outperforming the fiercest competition in the same class of products. The L888 caliber originally appeared on the RailRoad in 2016. Accuracy, quality, and brand awareness apart, I think Longines (ETA) should consider raising the bar, given this segment is welcoming new and challenging competitors, on the likes of the newly released Oris caliber 400, and the already-marketed Baumatic.
I think Longines nailed it with the new Spirit, and I honestly believe the chronograph deserves first-page news here. Additionally, I like the silver and blue dials over the black ones; they enhance the design team's efforts to make the new watches look luxurious. The 40mm Longines Spirit retails for 2,050 Euros, either on a black or white dial, and 2,160 Euros in the 42mm variant. There's no price increase if you're going for a steel bracelet. Longines also offers a Prestige Edition, available in both case sizes, including three easy-to-swap bracelets. The 40mm Spirit Prestige Edition retails for 2,670 Euros; add 100 Euros, and you'll make the 42mm Spirit Prestige Edition yours. At 2.770 Euros, the latter is almost in the Spirit Chronograph's pricing territory, which is 2,980 Euros, thus being, as far as I'm concerned, the one to go.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®