Hands-On: The Two-Tone Longines Spirit Zulu Time 39mm L3.802.5.53.2
This new Longines Spirit Zulu Time is yet another example that the St. Imier brand is on a roll lately. The people at Longines seem to listen to the watch community, which has clearly voiced a demand for smaller watches. After the initial Spirit Zulu Time debuted in a 42mm case, the watch also became available in a 39mm size. I went hands-on with the new 39mm reference L3.802.5.53.2, the gold and steel model with a brown ceramic bezel insert.
Longines Spirit Zulu Time in steel and gold
Longines shipped us this watch a few weeks ago, but I had the opportunity to try it on earlier this year. Although the 42mm version is not too big for me, I immediately concluded that the 39mm size was very comfortable. Perhaps I would call 39–40mm the sweet spot for my 18.5cm wrist. But in the end, don’t let on-paper specs blind you. Always make sure to try a watch on for size to see whether it fits your wrist or not. No two wrists are the same, so it’s impossible to state that the perfect size for all watches is X millimeters.
That said, the 39mm Longines Spirit Zulu Time provides a great fit. I like its dimensions better than the larger 42mm version, even though I can easily wear that one too. Additionally, I love the combination of the brown ceramic bezel insert and the gold elements.
A gold crown and a gold-capped bezel
Based on our introduction article for this watch, we noticed that there was some confusion about the use of gold. Admittedly, I was also a little confused. The press release stated that the crown and bezel ring were made of 18K gold, while the Longines website and case back indicated 200 microns of gold.
So what better way to find out than to ask the head of product development at Longines? According to him, “The turning bezel system inside is made of stainless steel, and the external visible part is made of 18K gold.” This means it is gold capped. He added that mentioning 200 microns of gold is a legal requirement for this. However, it is necessary to mention the minimum figure, which is why it indicates GC200. For some parts, Longines used 200 microns of gold, whereas other parts have more than 500 microns. “The crown is entirely made of gold, except the inner tube, which is steel,” he confirmed. It’s important to realize that the gold-capping process is not the same as gold filling or plating. Those are different procedures. Gold-capped components use solid gold for the parts you can see but often have a steel core.
A vintage vibe
The dial of this watch has an anthracite color, and the gold-tone applied indices, logos, and hands nicely match the gold bezel and crown. The GMT hand also has a gold-tone arrow tip to indicate the wearer’s home time on the 24-hour bezel. As mentioned, this gold-capped bezel holds a brown ceramic insert with a polished finish. It’s a very cool combination that gives the watch a bit of a vintage vibe. Some people aren’t fond of the five stars on the dial, which are a throwback to vintage Longines watches. The five stars indicated the high quality and reliability of Longines movements. I will get back to the movement inside this watch later in this review.
On the dial, you’ll also find Arabic numerals for all of the hours except 6 o’clock, where the date window sits. As you may know, I am not a big fan of date windows on watches. However, when a brand feels it’s necessary, I prefer it at 6 o’clock rather than anywhere else. The date disc on the Spirit Zulu Time is black, so it doesn’t bother me too much. The date is in sync with the local time and the 12-hour hand, while the GMT hand indicates home time. The hands, numerals, and the triangle in the bezel are all filled with beige Super-LumiNova that glows green. To top it off, you’ll see that the small diamond-shaped cavities in the dial have a Super-LumiNova filling as well.
Operating the Spirit Zulu Time
You can set the local time, date, and independent hour hand with the large gold screw-down crown. The GMT hand moves along when adjusting the home time. In other words, we are dealing with a flyer GMT here, as opposed to a caller GMT that only lets you set the GMT hand independently. I always prefer to have a flyer GMT, and it was once the reason I chose the Rolex GMT-Master II over the GMT-Master.
With the gold and ceramic bezel, you can read the 24-hour scale for your home time or rotate it to display yet another time zone (note: only two time zones can be read simultaneously). In my opinion, it’s all about making a watch’s main function easy to use, and that’s what Longines did here. The only debatable thing is the lack of a quick-set date. You need to pull the crown out to its second position and adjust the hour hand independently to set the date. At least, this is the quickest way to do it. The other option is just to set the date along with the time via the crown’s third position. In all fairness, though, the Rolex GMT-Master II functions the same way.
Longines L844.4 movement
Longines has a long history of developing and producing movements for its watches. Unfortunately, when the brand became part of the Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie in 1983 (which became the Swatch Group in 1988), the decision-makers quickly brought the production of movements to a halt. Since then, Longines has relied on movements from ETA, another company under the Swatch Group umbrella. However, for a while now, Longines has participated in the development of ETA movements that are exclusive to the brand. The movement inside this Longines Spirit Zulu Time is one such caliber, the L844.4.
It uses the ETA A31.L01 (a successor of the famous ETA 2892-A2) as a base but features an independent hour hand, an additional GMT hand, and a greater power reserve of 72 hours, up from 65. It also operates at a 25,200vph frequency (or 3.5Hz). Caliber L844.4 consists of several antimagnetic components as well for more reliable performance when exposed to magnetic fields. Furthermore, the movement is a COSC-certified chronometer, which warrants an average performance of +6/-4 seconds per day.
Strap and folding clasp
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time we have here comes on a brown leather strap with a stainless steel folding clasp. The nice thing is that this clasp has a micro-adjustment system. I don’t tend to use micro-adjustment systems all that much, probably because the temperature changes are relatively mild here. But if this is a must for you when buying a watch, thankfully, Longines has you covered. The brown strap goes nicely with the brown ceramic bezel insert. The clasp of the buckle is engraved with the Longines signature, and you need to use the two pushbuttons to open it.
On the wrist
I have had the pleasure of wearing this watch for a while, and it’s a very easy one to get accustomed to. The 39mm diameter, 13.5mm thickness, and 47mm lug-to-lug ensure it’s very wearable for most people. The color combination of anthracite, brown, and several gold(-colored) elements make it very easy on the eyes as well, at least for me. Perhaps I would have picked the version on the steel bracelet (€100 more than the price of the Spirit Zulu Time on a strap) as it is easier to buy leather straps and NATO straps later than it is to purchase the matching Longines bracelet. Please note that the lug spacing is 21mm, but these days, it’s not an issue finding alternative straps in this size.
The finishing on the case is something I enjoyed while wearing the Longines Spirit Zulu Time. The case is satin brushed, with a nice thick bevel on the lugs. I’m somewhat “allergic” to too much polishing on a watch case since, in my opinion, it often cheapens the look. Giving this one a satin finish and just a polished facet on the lugs makes it more of a fancy tool watch. This is especially true when you opt for the all-steel models because, with the gold bezel and crown, there’s a bit of flashiness, of course. The use of gold adds nearly €1,200 to the price of the regular steel model, though, so it needs to be something you really fancy.
Longines not only downsized the diameter from 42mm to 39mm but also made the case slightly thinner. It’s still not a slim watch, but as a sports watch with a decent 100m water resistance rating, it’s okay at 13.5mm thick.
Winged Longines hourglass logo
On the backside of the watch, we find an engraved case back rather than a transparent one. In the center of the case back, you’ll see the Longines hourglass logo. It’s placed on an engraved image of a globe with the engraved “Zulu Time” text above both. As one of our commenters (Enuona) wrote below our introduction article, “The Z flag on the case back is artistic (like it should be), but on its own, as portrayed, its formal meaning is related to towing and fishing.” But it’s not the Zulu flag. It’s actually an artistic approach to the hourglass. In fact, this Longines logo is the oldest in the watchmaking industry and has been in use since 1889. Longines is very proud of that fact and has dedicated a special part to that in the brand’s impressive museum in St. Imier.
The case back of the Spirit Zulu Time is mounted to the case body with six screws. On the periphery of the case back, you will find some of the watch’s specifications. Please note that we used a prototype for this review with a case back that belongs to the all-stainless steel version. Normally, it has the indication here it has 200 microns of gold, as I mentioned earlier.
Some final thoughts on the 39mm Longines Spirit Zulu Time
It’s always relatively easy to criticize a watch based on the price or specifications, but I’ve realized that there’s hardly any connection anymore between a (luxury) watch and its price. It’s a number, and you either accept it or you don’t. More than once, I’ve heard myself mumbling, “Everything is 10K now” after receiving another press release in my mailbox. Longines is still one of the brands that often delivers a lot of bang for the buck. Especially when you look at the all-steel Longines Spirit Zulu Time, which retails for €3,400 on a steel bracelet, it’s a watch tough watch to beat. And that doesn’t just apply to the specifications but also to how it looks and wears on the wrist.
I think this is my favorite modern Longines watch I have seen so far, especially in this two-tone combination. Is it worth spending around €1,200 more for the steel and gold version on a leather strap? To me, it is because the gold really adds something to the aesthetics of the watch and makes it a little more special. But the answer to the question is, of course, up to you.
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time L3.802.5.53.2 retails for €4,550 on the leather strap or €4,650 on the steel bracelet. The steel models are €3,300 with a strap or €3,400 with a bracelet.
Let me know what you think of the 39mm Longines Spirit Zulu Time in the comments below.