The new Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale revives a historic Longines from 1947 which gave the French Marine Nationale its timekeeping in the post-war years. This could easily be the best vintage remake watch yet.
When you think of France’s Marine Nationale, what do you picture? For many of us, the image will likely include a wetsuit-clad diver with a blue-dialled ‘Snowflake’ Tudor Submariner and a green and yellow elastic strap. However, long before the days of such watches, Longines produced ref. 5774: a deck watch which, today, captures a very different era of military horology.
Issued in 1947 to the French Navy, the Longines ref. 5774 was designed to be a multi-purpose timekeeper to be used around water. Its 33.5 mm stainless steel case and screwed caseback afforded it practical water resistance and blued hands gave contrast on a pale-cream background. A key characteristic of these watches was the large crown which was a product not only of the small size of the watch but also of the movement at its heart.
This movement was the Longines cal. 12.68N: a manually wound movement which, even upon brief inspection, is the product of a different era. From its large, weighted balance wheel to the bridge added, complete with bevelled edges and golden chatons, to provide central seconds, it’s a thing of beauty.
A Resurrected Watch
So, why is this relevant today? In recent years, Longines has, in this journalist’s opinion, become the authority on the creation of remakes of vintage watches. To continue this theme and to perhaps produce their best offering yet, they have chosen to recreate the ref. 5574 for a modern audience. Whilst this may sound like an excuse to slap cream Super-LumiNova onto the dial of an enlarged version of a classic watch, to dismiss the new Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale would not only short sighted but also incorrect.
In order to recreate this vintage watch, Longines have first recognised that, for an enthusiast, the details matter. In this way, every detail of the original has been replicated including the drilled lugs, double-step bezel and the brushed case flanks. The only major concession has been where the size is concerned: the Longines Marine Nationale has grown to 38.5 mm. Nevertheless, the similarity to the original is staggering as even the intangible appearance of a brushed mid-century caseback has been replicated. I am also pleased to say that the crown remains delightfully oversized.
A Unique Dial
The dial, however, is where Longines’ ability to revive the past is obvious. Underneath a box-domed sapphire crystal with multiple anti-reflective coatings, the dial is, in its most basic form, a perfect reproduction of the original. The printing is marvellous with the same font as a 1940s example along with ‘Swiss Made’ being replaced by ‘Fab. Suisse’ for authenticity. The final touch is the use of a matching second track around the dial whilst the spacing to the very edge of the dial has been kept.
Originality is one thing but accurately recreating an original watch is another entirely and something which Longines have achieved with this piece. The cream dial base is mottled with the gentle damage which moderate humidity and sunlight would cause over 73 years of use. Meanwhile, the markers of the Longines Marine Nationale have the brown or black appearance of Radium which has discoloured over the years. This is a long way from the tan colour of most vintage inspired watches but works perfectly for this watch’s demeanour. The only minor divergence (and certainly not a bad one) is seen in the hands. If one looks at the vintage examples still in existence, the thermally blued steel hands have corroded or discoloured. On this watch, however, they remain resplendent in vivid blue.
A Modern Movement
It will come as no surprise that this watch is mechanically entirely unrelated to the original Longines Marine Nationale. Where that watch features a beautiful but rather antiquated manual movement, this watch is furnished with the Longines L888.5 or ETA A31.L11. Like the L888.4 used in the Longines Spirit, this movement is based on the ETA 2892-2: one of the most successful, thin and refined automatic movements available. For this watch, however, Longines have increased the power reserve to 64 hours by reducing the beat rate to 25,200 oscillations per hour (7 ticks-per-second). Whilst some may prefer the sweep of a higher beat rate, one should remember that this remains a higher frequency than most Seiko watches and much closer to the 18,000 oscillations per hour of the original ref. 5774. To top the movement off is a silicon balance spring for magnetic resistance.
At this point, it may seem that this is a perfect hybrid of a classic military watch with all the necessities for the modern age. However, there remain some issues to address. Firstly, these watches do not receive the chronometer certification of some other Longines models. With a price of £1,480, though, this comes as no surprise and allows the Longines Marine Nationale to slot under more expensive models from the brand.
The second issue is, for me, more severe. Despite being a nautically-orientated watch, this watch only provides a splash-proof, 30-metre water resistance. In light of this watch’s price, its crown size and the enlarged case, this limits the product considerably.
Even so, this is a watch with an awful lot going for it. The pricing is well chosen and the design and construction are flawlessly executed. Perhaps the Longines Marine Nationale will have a smaller audience than, for example, the Avigation BigEye yet its character and undeniable quality should make it perfect for those who appreciate it.
Availability: Later this year for £1,480
- Dimensions: 38.5 mm x 13 mm (Including Crystal)
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Box-Domed Sapphire with Multiple Anti-Reflective Coatings
- Display: Off-White Matte Dial with Aged Surface / Dark Brown Super-LumiNova Indices / Thermally Blued Stainless Steel Hands with Matching Super-Lumi-Nova
- Water Resistance: 30 m / 100 ft / 3 ATM
- Movement: Longines L888.5: Hours, Minutes & Seconds / Automatic & Manual Winding / 21 Jewels / 64-Hour Power Reserve / Silicon Balance Spring / 3.5 Hz, 25,200 vph, 7 Ticks-per-Second / Hacking Seconds