Sunday Morning Showdown: Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium Vs. Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono
Whenever a new watch is released, we always try to compare it to another that already exists. The Longines Spirit Flyback was released in titanium last week, and we happened to have the complete Tudor Pelagos FXD lineup in the office for a photo shoot. Both the Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono and the new Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium are lightweight chronographs. We thought it would be a good idea to put these recently released watches up against each other to see which becomes the midrange king of their category.
The more appropriate battle here might’ve been the Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium against a Tudor Black Bay Chrono in titanium. That would make it a battle between two properly vintage-inspired watches. Tudor’s Pelagos design sure has some hints to the past, but it’s also the brand’s most modern-looking watch collection. Alas, since a Black Bay Chrono in titanium doesn’t exist (yet), we’ll put the Spirit Flyback Titanium up against the more modern-looking Pelagos FXD Chrono. Before Thomas and Daan come out of their corners, though, we’ll take a look at what happened in last week’s showdown.
To go two-tone or not?
In last week’s installment, RJ put the two-tone Rolex Submariner up against Jorg and the stainless steel Submariner. RJ already sensed it was going to be a difficult fight, and he was right. The stainless steel Sub won the competition with 64% of the votes. Some commenters thought the stainless steel Sub is a very boring version of that watch. They’d rather buy a Seiko for a lot less to get the same feeling on the wrist. But the majority of voters didn’t agree with them. According to them, the Rolex Submariner is the ultimate classic tool watch, and that’s why it should be made out of stainless steel, not a combination of gold and steel. All right, onto this week’s battle between Longines and Tudor.
Daan: Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium
When I first saw the pictures of the new Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium, I was immediately impressed. I like the Longines Spirit collection in general. I’m a fan of the large numerals, the diamond-shaped hour markers, and the golden touches on the dial. The bold Longines logo at 12 and the five stars at 6 o’clock are a bit over the top, but they suit the overall spirit (pun intended) of vintage styling. Overall, I think that the people at Longines did a very good designing this collection.
And then I saw the new titanium version of the Spirit on its nice-looking NATO strap. The new case material and that strap just work so well with the Spirit’s more classic design. The gilt tones on the dial are still there, but other than that, this is a proper modern sports watch. It even comes with a very nice-looking titanium quick-release bracelet, which is always good to have as an option. Due to the Pelagos FXD’s fixed lugs, unfortunately, a bracelet will never be an option for it. Don’t get me wrong; it looks great without it, but having the option would still be nice, right?
An impressive flyback
Longines was one of the first brands to patent and use a flyback chronograph movement in its watches. It’s a neat feature that makes it easier to quickly reset the chronograph to zero without having to stop it. The movement inside the new Spirit that allows this functionality is the Longines-exclusive L791.4 automatic caliber. It’s a modified ETA 7753 with a column wheel, a flyback module, and a chronometer certification. I like the fact that Longines put a flyback movement in the Spirit, but it also comes with an obvious downside.
As Mike already mentioned in his introduction article, the new Spirit Flyback Titanium has a 17mm thickness. Some of it is taken up by the domed sapphire crystal, but even when taking that into account, this is still quite a thick watch. Imagine putting it on the two-layer NATO strap that Longines paired with the watch. It will then easily reach 20mm in total thickness. The Pelagos FXD Chrono, at 13.6mm, is a lot thinner, and on the mandatory (single-pass) NATO strap, it’s about 15mm thick. That’s also not exactly slim, but it still beats the Spirit. I’ll just hand you this one, Thomas; you can thank me later.
Full titanium for me, please
This next argument is very subjective, but I don’t like the fact that the Pelagos FXD Chrono uses three different materials for its construction. I know that it’s a nod to the steel, carbon, and titanium used on the Alinghi Red Bull Racing boat. But when I have the watch in hand, it just doesn’t look good to me. The gray color of the titanium bezel and pushers is a bit darker than the stainless steel of the case back. And then there’s the black carbon mid-case, which is one more material with yet another tone. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that I’m not into black watches, but I simply don’t like the overall look of the Pelagos FXD Chrono. I much prefer the Spirit’s more unified full-titanium look.
Another feature of the FXD Chrono that I don’t like is the team’s name on the chapter ring at 12. It’s a bit too “out there” for my taste. I’m curious to see what a “regular” Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono would look like without the Alinghi Red Bull Racing branding. And I also get excited when thinking about that Black Bay Chrono in titanium. But we don’t know whether any of those watches are ever going to be released. So, until then, I’d go for the Longines Spirit Flyback Titanium over Tudor’s current offering. Take it away Thomas!
Thomas: Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono
Thanks, Daan! You make a compelling case for the Longines, but I am not quite beaten yet. Hear me out on this one. Your Longines is very pretty; I will give you that. However, to put it bluntly, it is pretty in a lazy way. None of what makes it so nice is from 2023. It simply takes the looks that we like from chronographs from the mid-20th century and reiterates them. So yeah, of course, it looks good…
…until you look at the 2023 additions to that familiar vintage design. I don’t know when someone decided that a 17mm thickness was acceptable for a watch, but I sure wasn’t asked. Maybe if you make a 6,000m-rated diver, sure, but not for a simple everyday sports chronograph. This may be a tad radical, but frankly, I consider this watch unwearable.
Other details got messed up as well. The squares in the bezel are a bit messy, and they clash with the details on the dial. Plus, have you noticed the height of the hand stack? Lastly, the bracelet doesn’t follow the case’s design language. So if you are going to take a vintage design and update it, I think we should set the bar a little bit higher.
The Tudor Pelagos FXD Chrono
Okay, that wasn’t very classy of me. Let me focus on my candidate from here on out before I step on any more toes. I have to admit that I didn’t care much for the FXD Alinghi when I saw the press images. But that changed once I went hands-on with it.
The thing is, the official pictures exaggerate the colors somewhat. In reality, the black and blue are much closer to each other. This makes for a cool, gloomy, and atypical color scheme. The crisp white printing and red details liven it up. Especially when next to the Spirit Flyback, the Tudor looks fresh and contemporary. It is a positively forward-looking watch.
Another thing that isn’t nearly as bothersome as it seems on the Tudor website is the Alinghi branding. Admittedly, I don’t like co-branded watches, and there’s no getting around the fact that this is one. But the name simply doesn’t stand out as much in real life. If you like the watch but dislike the branding, don’t let it hold you back.
Living with the Pelagos FXD Chrono compared to the Spirit Flyback Titanium
I criticized the thickness of the Spirit Flyback Titanium. The Tudor, on the other hand, is very wearable. Granted, 13.6mm isn’t exactly svelte, but it is for a 200m-water-resistant automatic chronograph. That’s right, you get double the water resistance of the Spirit Flyback Titanium at 3.4mm thinner.
Compared to the Longines, the Tudor’s bezel is another very practical feature. Think about it: the Longines pairs a chronograph with an elapsed-time bezel. Basically, that’s the same function twice. The Tudor adds functionality with a countdown bezel. So you use the chronograph to time events of unknown duration and the bezel to count down to known events. That is extremely practical in everyday life.
Granted, the stylistic versatility is greater with the Longines. It is the more elegant-looking watch, and it has the benefit of being able to take a wider range of straps. But, to beat a dead horse, how much of that versatility remains if you factor in the 17mm thickness? I’d have the Spirit Zulu Time over the chronograph any day of the week for that exact reason.