Longines – sporty elegance since 1832


By Kristian Haagen/timegeeks.dk

*“It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you have wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like you could fly without the plane.”*   The quote is from American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, who at the age of 25 crossed the Atlantic in his single-propeller plane ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’. The crossing from New York to Paris took 33 hours and 30 minutes – an unremarkable journey at an unremarkable speed to any modern-day globetrotter, but a sensation when the flight too place in 1927. On his wrist, Lindbergh wore a Longines watch.


Wings of fortune

The Longines company, based in Switzerland, dates back to 1832, but the name and winged trademark are the brainchild of Ernest Francillon, nephew of co-founder of the company Auguste Agassiz. When Ernest Francillon took over management from his ailing uncle in 1852, he set out a plan to relocate the company to Les Longines on the banks of the River Suze. The company then took the name Francillon adding the new company location as a quality seal – Longines, Suisse.   At the World Fair in Paris in 1867, Francillon introduced a revolutionary change in watch design. Until then, watches had been wound by use of a key. Francillon incorporated an integrated winding crown into the design making it possible to wind the clock and to set the time. The design was awarded a Bronze Medal at the fair, and the company soon established itself as a market leader under the brand name *Longines*.


The right angle

One of the most famous wristwatches by Longines is no doubt the one sported by Charles Lindbergh during his cross-Atlantic flight in 1927. Lindbergh flew without the use of navigational instruments or radio contact but had, in association with Longines, developed a timepiece to help him determine his position. In 1930, Longines launched ‘The Hour Angle Watch’ based on this prototype, a design that has since been relaunched in a number of versions, including a stainless-steel version, a combined gold and stainless-steel version, and in a limited edition gold version.


Pocketed by Einstein

Lindbergh is not the only notoriety to lend fame to the Longines brand. Albert Einstein – the father of the theories of relativity – owned a Longines timepiece too. That pocket watch, produced in 1943 and purchased by Einstein in 1946, is still ticking away.   Einstein gave the watch to his eldest son, Hans Albert, who left it to his widow, Elizabeth Einstein Roboz, when he died. She, in turn, gave the watch to a Swiss diplomat, Henry E. Bovay, who had been close to the family. Realising its remarkable history, Bovay donated the watch to the Historical Museum in Bern where it is currently on display. The watch is not only interesting due to its association with one of history’s greatest geniuses; it is also a truly magnificent design to behold.

Embraced by stars

Although few Longines owners can take credit for such highflying achievements as those of Lindbergh and Einstein, the brand has always been associated with fame. Longines ad campaigns have, for instance, featured Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn – Bogy representing the *Dolce Vita* men’s product line and Audrey the lady’s collection.   Since the celebration of the company’s 170th anniversary in 2002, contemporary celebrities have joined ranks in embracing the brand, including bad-boy actor Billy Zane, the gorgeous former Miss World from India, Aishwarya Rai, and the Chinese actress Carina Lau.


From stars to rings

Longines introduced two new timepieces celebrating the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The watches are available with large or small dial, with strap or bracelet, and with automatic movement or quartz. The two watches, in 40-mm cases, symbolise Longines long-standing involvement with the Olympic movement, reaching back to the first modern games in 1896. Back then, Longines was one of very few watchmakers to have developed a stopwatch, known at the time as a chronograph.   A year before the 1940 Olympic Games, which were to have been held first in Japan, then in Helsinki, before being cancelled, and for which Longines was to have been the official timekeeper, the company developed a timepiece – known as a *Chronographe à rattrapante* in French – which made it possible for users to stop one of its two second hands while the other kept running, thus facilitating the recording of split time.   Longines was the official timekeeper of the 2004 Athens Olympics and will also be the timekeeper of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the Winter Olympics of 2010.


21st-century design

Today, Longines is owned by the Swatch Group, which also owns other illustrious watch brands such as Omega, Breguet, Blancpain, and Glashütte.   Since the Swatch Group entered China with major investments, Longines has experienced a marked global increase in sales with, among others, the *Evidenza* collection introduced in 2003. These timepieces boast curvaceous, retro-design cases and Art Deco dial design. Several *Evidenza* models even have a 1.70-carat Top Wesselton diamond.   No doubt, had Lindberg, Einstein, Hepburn and Bogart been around today, they would have taken great pride in their association with the elegant, 21st-century design of the time-honoured watchmaker Longines.