Hands-On: Longines Spirit Chronograph Review
Earlier this year I shortly briefed you about the new Longines Spirit Chronograph. In this article, we go hands-on with the 42mm Spirit Chronograph with silver dial and leather strap, my favorite of the collection.
The new Longines Spirit Chronograph is part of the Sport collection. That surprised me a little bit, but it is indeed a sports watch. I have selected the 42mm version on a leather strap. Although I like the quality of the stainless steel bracelets of the Spirit collection, the leather strap gives it a bit more of a vintage look. It’s a very personal choice, of course, and I can imagine there are many of you out there that prefer a bracelet. Without further ado, let’s have a closer look.
Longines Spirit Chronograph
Normally, I am more a fan of (matte) black dials when it comes to chronographs and pilot’s watches. But, I also have a weak spot for dials like this. Grainy silver dials are, in my opinion, often things of beauty. I have and have had many watches with these types of dials in my collection. Models like my Rising Sun, Yacht-Master, and Royal Oak Chrono come to mind. I think it brings some variation to all the black-dialed watches in my collection. If this would be my only watch, for example, I probably would go for the Longines Spirit Chronograph ref. L3.818.104.22.168, with a black dial. That said, the Longines Spirit Chronograph with silver dial drew my attention and I went ahead and requested one for review.
Sport versus Heritage
I have been to Longines in Saint-Imier a few times. The brand’s passion for its watchmaking heritage never ceases to amaze me. Why does that surprise me, you may ask? Well, you have to understand that Longines produces a huge amount of watches per year and is, as such, a major player in the global market.
When some brands reach the upper echelons of volume production as Longines has done, there is a notable lack of passion for the watches themselves. Numbers take over and the lifeblood of a company can be forgotten. Thankfully, for Longines, that is not the case.
At Longines, there is a wonderful museum that’s definitely worth a visit. Additionally, there is a separate workshop for restoring vintage watches. With the Heritage collection, the brand introduces new watches inspired by its rich history to the market. It is exactly this collection that has my interest, being a watch enthusiast.
…they are part of the Sport collection…
So I was kind of surprised by the new Longines Spirit Chronograph and Spirit three-hander watches. Firstly, because they are very attractive pilot watches and secondly because they are part of the Sport collection and not included in the Heritage collection. In a very open (podcast) discussion with Longines’ Head of Product Development Xavier Ligero recently, we discussed the concept of the Spirit collection in detail (you can listen to it here).
When a brand puts a nearly €3,000 price tag on a watch, I expect a serious product from them in return. Whether that’s a diver’s watch or chronograph, it matters not. My opinion on this is constant. This Longines Spirit Chronograph feels very solid. Its 42mm diameter case has a very nice satin finish and polished facets on the lugs. The L688.4 movement is developed by ETA, but exclusively produced and delivered to Longines. It is based on the ETA A08.L01, a chronograph with a column-wheel mechanism as well as a date function.
…it is the oldest registered trademark of any watchmaker.
On top of that, Longines demanded a silicon balance spring and a chronometer certification by COSC. So it is not an in-house movement, but Longines made it very clear in the past that it doesn’t have ambitions to become a movement maker anymore (they were prior to 1984). I believe that this is the best alternative. Having basic (ETA) calibers customized to your own standards and have them exclusively made for you is a nice halfway house that should satisfy most customers at this price point.
The case back of the Longines Spirit Chronograph is stainless steel and has the winged hourglass engraved on it. This has been Longines’ logo since 1889 and is used on every watch. Interestingly, it is the oldest registered trademark of any watchmaker. As you can see in the picture above, there’s also some information on the case back. Things like the model name and reference are engraved, as well as the water-resistance specification (100 meters/10 bar).
In the picture above, you see a close up of the case band. The satin finish, when combined with polished facets looks truly magnificent in my opinion. The side of the bezel also has this satin finish, whereas the sloped angle has been polished. Details like this make you enjoy your watch even more, in my opinion.
…”nice action on the pushers”…
At 10 o’clock, there’s an extra pusher. This one is there to advance the date. Instead of a corrector (or micro pusher), Longines decided to make it user-friendlier, with a big pusher. It’s a screw-in pusher in order to avoid any accidental date change. You often see that elegant watches use these little correctors in the case band, which you need to handle with utmost care. They are designed in that way to prevent the case from scratching (you need to use a toothpick or some sort of small tool). The problem is, however, that these correctors are also known to get stuck after a while. Cleaning them with a soft toothbrush helps, but you’d probably rather avoid messing with it if possible. With this large pusher, there’s no such issue. And, I have to admit, it looks cool.
On the right side, you will find the start/stop and reset pushers for the column-wheel chronograph. There’s also the crown for setting/correcting the time. As Mike would say, there is a “nice action on the pushers”. That certainly applies to this watch. I also like the look of the pump-pusher-style of the Longines Spirit Chronograph.
I already touched upon the dial earlier on, but it is a pleasure to look at. That especially true during low light conditions, when the Super-LumiNova is glowing full-on. The small diamond-shaped markers have been treated with Super-LumiNova, as have the Arabic numerals and handset. You will also see that the outer (minute) track is a little bit elevated compared to the center of the dial. Together with the sub-dials that have concentric circles, it creates a lot of depth. Some might perceive the dial as busy, but it is very readable nevertheless. There’s a bit of clutter below the 12 o’clock marker, where the Longines logo, wordmark, chronometer indication, and 5 stars come together, but I quite like how technical it looks in this instance.
…the red tips on the chronograph hands give a nice contrast…
The date window is located at 4.30. The good thing is that it doesn’t overlap with a sub-dial or an hour marker, but it certainly does have an impact on the dial design. I am not a fan of a date function anyway, but I know many others can’t live without. Also, without a date, there also wouldn’t be a pusher at 10 o’clock. So if there needs to be a date, 4:30 is the best position in this case. Furthermore, the red tips on the chronograph hands give a nice contrast with the silver dial. It also immediately shows that these are for the chronograph complication, not for time.
Why are there 5 stars on the dial of this Longines Spirit Chronograph? I noticed that some people commented on previous articles on the Spirit that they could live without them. But in fact, these 5 stars have a bit of significance for Longines. The 5 stars are something from the past that Longines wanted to have on these Spirit dials as well. They represent the high quality and reliability of the movements used. If you search a bit, you’ll be able to find vintage Longines Admiral 5-star watches, for example. It had the highest internal rating Longines would give to its movements.
The Longines Spirit Chronograph we have here comes on a beautiful brown calf strap with a tang-type buckle. It gives a nice and subtle contrast with the watch. If you want it to be more outspoken, you can always opt for a black strap. I noticed that Longines also offers an extra-large version of the strap, in case you have very large wrists. On my 19cm wrist, the standard strap is just fine. The finish of the buckle corresponds with the case of the Longines Spirit Chronograph, brushed finishing on the large surfaces and polished facets. The lug-width of the case measures 22mm.
Price and Availability
This pilot’s chronograph has a price tag of €2,950 (including VAT). The Longines Spirit Chronograph collection includes three options. In addition to this silver model, you have the choice of either a blue or a black dial instead. Then, you can go for the leather strap or the stainless steel bracelet.
I would go for the steel bracelet model…
Interestingly enough, the version on the steel bracelet also costs €2,950. Although I am more in favor of the leather strap version (reference L3.822.214.171.124), I would go for the steel bracelet model (reference L3.8126.96.36.199) and add a 22mm strap. Another good thing to add is that this watch comes with a 5-year warranty because of the silicon balance spring. More information can be found on the official Longines website, and all specifications are listed below.