As Omega moves into a higher price range and towards a different market, is Longines becoming the new Omega?
Omega’s Changing Position
It is no secret that Omega, having long played second fiddle to Rolex, is beginning to return to its position of superlative technical know-how in the price range of its becrowned rival. In recent years, prices have increased by no small margin; the new Seamaster 300M costs over £1,200 more than the previous generation. However, as much one can bemoan this change in market, it’s undeniable that Omega justifies the price impeccably.
Where other brands offer in-house movements with few advantages over 3rd party ones, Omega has used the might of the Swatch Group to engineer a unique range of movements which showcase genuinely useful complication. With their ‘Master Co-Axial Chronometer’ designation, Omega have used high-horology technology in the form of Daniels’ co-axial escapement with silicon parts to ensure long service intervals, accuracy and anti-magnetism up to 15,000 Gauss. To damage these watches, you would most likely need an MRI scanner.
However, irrespective of the technological value of Omega’s innovations, we are left with a dilemma. By leaving the £1,500 – £3,000 price range, they have left a customer group behind. Of course, many brands slot into this price range yet, as a replacement for a brand with such iconic design language and such an established position in the industry, that list is narrowed.
Could Tudor be a Substitute?
One might assume that Tudor is in the perfect place at the right time with a highly successful range of watches in this price range. However, with the majority of their marketing directed towards the ever-expanding Black Bay range and the rest of their line looking less than refined, I am inclined to think that this is not a product for the same customer. Don’t get me wrong, when Tudor get it right, they blow the competition out of the water. However, this is hardly a match for Omega’s broad appeal.
Longines — The Background
As you will have gathered from the title of this article, there is one brand which I believe to fill this gap perfectly: Longines. Suffering as a victim of the Quartz Crisis, Longines became an original member of SMH — the predecessor of the Swatch Group. However, under this leadership, this brand was forced to play second fiddle to Omega as a less prestigious brand: a peculiar position for the creator or arguably the finest chronograph of all time — the 13ZN.
Longines’ Current Offerings
After a few years of producing sub-£1,000 watches which were, with the best will in the world, unremarkable, Longines is now offering a unique range. This range is unique in that it caters to a clientele perfectly yet does not sacrifice individuality. In recent year, the trend for remaking vintage watches has formed Longines’ bread and butter. Their remake of their super-compressor dive watches, the Legend Diver, has become an absolute classic whilst the Conquest Heritage has become one of the most elegant dress watches currently available. In terms of execution, I don’t think that any other brand is able to conjure such elegance in vintage remakes as Longines. In models such as their Column-Wheel Single Pusher Chronograph this brand perfectly judges the quantity and spacing of print on the dial to create a discreet and handsome piece.
Furthermore, Longines has shown its skill at capturing the spirit and scene associated with their older watches. For example, the new Heritage Classic — complete with exquisite sector dial and blued hands — captures the graceful simplicity of 1930s Art Deco design and pan-European travel. By contrast, their Heritage Military COSD replicates simplicity in the heat of battle a design conceived for British paratroopers in the Second World War. Perhaps most importantly, Longines was one of the first major brands to produce ‘vintage’ models in the late 2000s yet has survived the trend.
From a Mechanical Perspective
Putting aside vintage design, Longines have also judged the level of mechanical complication very well to suit their price range. Considering Longines’ aim to offer a variety of complications whilst also satisfying serious collectors with unseen components such as column wheels and annual calendars, in-house movements would have been unrealistic. Instead, their inherent connection to ETA, the movement manufacturer. Where other brands have to make do with publicly available ETA ebauches, Longines enjoys a more interesting range. For example, the much-acclaimed Avigation BigEye pilot’s watch uses the L688: a variant of the Valjoux 7750 with a horizontal dial layout and column-wheel mechanism. More practically, Longines has not only extended its ETA 289x series movements’ power reserves to 64 hours, but has given complications such as silicon hairsprings and annual calendars: unheard-of features under £2,000. However, as much as I can praise these complications, the true marvel is that these movements — as a clear consequence of being historically popular designs — are widely serviceable.
A Modern Range
Even so, it would have been easy for Longines to fall into the trap of only making watches for one group, most likely the lovers of vintage watches. However, once more, they have looked to the whole market by offering genuinely modern pieces to men and, perhaps more notably, a wide collection for women. The former is shown in the new Hydroconquest range which gives modern specifications and one of the finest diver’s chronographs at any price range. These 300 metre dive watches were, it must be said, desperately in need of an update, but their refresh loses none of the brand’s charm whilst delivering tested formats as seen in Omega’s Seamaster range. These vary from a simple, three-hand setup with a steel case and ceramic bezel to a range-topping black ceramic variant without entering an inaccessible price range.
Women’s Watches to Rival Omega
Where women’s watches are concerned, Longines has always been a strong contender. Whilst the Swiss watch industry pushes forward with technical innovation, watches for women are often left behind with antiquated specifications and designs unappealing to their target audience. Longines, though, has avoided any issues by maintaining a range of both quartz and mechanical women’s watches which are not simply inferior men’s pieces but entirely different collections. To cover all angles, Longines also offers smaller versions of popular masculine models thus yielding a comprehensive range.
Of course, not all is perfect with Longines. A lack of model continuity has not yielded the long-term icons which are the Omega Speedmaster or Seamaster to name only a couple. The result is that their range appears, at times, disjointed and difficult to comprehend as variants of the same model are listed separately. This makes their catalogue absurdly enormous, especially on a relatively unhelpful website. A proviso which I will put forward, though, is that this philosophy is one which seems to be on the way out as they effect the changes and improvements which I have explained to be so beneficial.
If, however, your eye is caught by one of the new-generation Longines watches, it could be one to pay attention to. More interesting than most Tudors and better value than Oris, Longines might just be at the beginning of a new age as it develops into an Omega for a new age.
For further reading, take a look at other Longines-related content.
For more information, head over to the Longines website.