03/18/2024
 6 minutes

The Ultimate Longines Watch Collection

By Thomas Hendricks
Longines-Certified-Chronograph-Flyback-2-1

Brace yourselves: I looked through 17,000 Longines watches to find the five most essential models for any collection! But was it worth all the effort?

As many of you know, Longines had a hell of a year in 2023. They also have some of the richest catalogs of any watch brand – they’re a vintage lover’s dream. It’s estimated that they’ve recorded approximately 50 million serial numbers going back as far as 1867, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about your vintage Longines watch for free! After seeing just a few iPhone photos, they were able to tell me that a mystery watch of mine is a reference 4822 that was sold by a dealer in Spain in 1975.

Of course, Longines is known as an entry-level luxury brand, but if you go to Chrono24 and sort prices from high to low, you’ll see that Longines can count some rare, spectacular, and auction-ready pieces to their name. John Goldberger, perhaps the world’s most influential watch collector, even wrote a book on the brand. This all sets the stage nicely for our task: Building a collection of the five most notable Longines watches across all major categories.

1. The Diver: Legend Diver

The new Longines Legend Diver offers 300 m (984 ft) of water resistance, military heritage, and it’s frankly better-looking than the competitors from Tudor and Omega. This model dates back to the 1950s, and although Longines was relatively late to the game for dive watches, some of their early models are simply stunning (the early Ultra-Chrons are a personal favorite). Modern-day Longines has since caught up to the rest of the industry with their lineup of divers, and buyers can choose from popular options like the Skin Diver, the HydroConquest, or the modern Ultra-Chron, to name a few.

But the one that they’re best known for, and the one that I keep coming back to, is the Longines Legend Diver. The vintage versions of this watch are beautiful, but quite pricey and not suitable for day-to-day wear. Longines has re-released the model a couple of times over the years, although often in versions that were too large or too small, and with date windows wandering towards the center of the dial. However, the latest Longines Legend Diver eschews the date window for a cleaner presentation and comes in at that sweet spot of 39 mm.

The inner rotating bezel is not as practical as the standard dive bezel, but it does dress the watch up quite a bit. So, while you lose some of the underwater functionality, it won’t look out of place at the dinner table. And really, which is the more likely scenario?

Longines "Legend Diver" steel, milanese bracelet, black dial.
Only the cool kids are late to the party: The Legend Diver stands out in a crowd of diving watches.

2. The Chronograph: 13ZN

The 13.33Z, introduced in 1913, was the first chronograph designed for the wrist, with hands-free operation for military purposes in mind. It was also the first flyback chronograph and served as a tester movement for the more popular Longines 13ZN caliber. It’s also interesting to note that no other brand tried to create their own in-house flyback chronograph until twenty years later with the Breguet Type XX. There’s even evidence the 13.33Z was the first chronograph featuring two pushers. This is quite a spicy revelation when you consider that Breitling says publicly on their website that THEY were the originators of the two-pusher chrono.

While the 13.33Z was a groundbreaking caliber in many regards, the more readily available and more commonly collected chronographs are the later 13ZN and 30CH versions. These come in a wide range of dial and case variations, and like any vintage model, a wide range of prices as well, depending on the condition.

The modern Longines portfolio offers a wide array of chronographs for very reasonable prices, many placing the brand’s heritage front and center. But if we’re picking only the most essential Longines chronograph for this list, it has to be the 13ZN.

Longines Chronograph 13ZN yellow gold, black leather strap
The heartbeat of a legend: The Longines Chronograph 13ZN follows in the footsteps of the 13.33Z.

3. The Dress Watch: Dolce Vita

For our dress watch category, I’ll tell you about a watch that I’d choose over your typical Cartier Tank.

Longines has many dress watches to choose from, and they’re great options to consider if you want a dress watch in your collection, but don’t want to spend a lot of money on something you might not wear all that often. If you’re looking for something akin to a Calatrava, Longines has that, and if you want something similar to a Cartier Tank, they have that too. Searching Chrono24 for “Longines Calatrava” or “Longines Tank” is enough to get you started.

The model line that I would choose is called the Dolce Vita, but we need to be exact here. See, the vast majority of Dolce Vita watches are… fine. They’re pretty similar to what you’re used to seeing brands push to the women’s market: simple, elegant, but not a lot in terms of imagination or execution.

But then there’s the reference L5.669.6. This is an 18K white gold, manually-wound watch with some of the most classically beautiful hands and hour markers I’ve ever seen. The dimensions are very similar to those of the Cartier Tank, and it’s only about 7 mm thick. Considering that gold-plated, battery-powered Cartier Tanks sell for two or three times the price, you know you’ve getting good value here.

Not the L5.669.6 but the L5.512.4.71.7 version of a Cartier Tank alternative: The Longines "Dolce Vita
Not the L5.669.6, but a similar L5.512.4.71.7 version of the Longines Dolce Vita.

4. The Daily Wearer: Spirit Zulu Time GMT

For a daily driver, you have two main options: The Conquest and the Spirit Zulu Time. I personally like the neo-vintage 38-mm Hour Angle that commemorates the Longines watch worn by Charles Lindberg, but it’s a particular style that’s perhaps a bit busy for most people. The new Conquest is such a handsome watch, better-looking than it needs to be. There are chronograph versions too, but I prefer the clear vision of the time and date model. Even the date window, the element that ruins so many otherwise beautiful dials, is perfectly discreet here. Just keep in mind that the sizing is a little large at 41 mm in diameter and 49 mm lug-to-lug.

The Zulu Time is available in a more manageable 39-mm case size or a more substantial 42 mm. You have a choice of three colors on either a bracelet or strap. And while I know it didn’t get the best reception online, the titanium Hodinkee edition is pretty sweet. The details and finishing for the Zulu Time aren’t quite at the same level as the Conquest, but you do have the added functionality of the GMT complication.

Both of these are well-priced options at retail. I do hope Longines re-releases the Conquest in a sub-40 mm size, and until then I’m going to give the edge to the Zulu Time as our Longines daily wearer.

Spirit Zulu Time GMT green bezel, brown leather strap.
High versatility plus the GMT complication are cutting the deal for the Spirit Zulu Time GMT.

5. The Oddball: Serge Manzon Longines

With a catalog as deep as Longines, you know they’ve made some amazingly weird watches, and for the fifth watch in our collection, why not have a little fun? I’m a fan of the far corners of Longines’ archives, and there are two that I’m looking to add to my personal collection.

One is a mystery dial watch called the Comet. It features a bold arrow for the hour hand and a wandering dot for the minutes. They call this a mystery dial because at first, you’re not sure how the hands move. Oddly enough, it’s actually the discs underneath that rotate, not the hands per se.

But the most perfectly peculiar Longines watches come from the sketchpad of French artist Serge Manzon. In the 1970s, he created a sculptural collection of Longines watches that look like they belong in the Museum of Modern Art. They are not the best at telling you the time, but they are oh-so tasteful.

The oddball of this collection: the Serge Manzon Longines.
The oddball of this collection: the Serge Manzon Longines.

About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

Read more

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