The vintage market has seen a rise in demand in recent years, and many of the industry’s biggest names have taken notice. Brands, including Longines, produce reissues of successful or memorable models from their past, sometimes referred to as “Heritage” timepieces. These neo-vintage watches pay homage to a time long gone by combining retro design elements with modern watchmaking technologies. Longines is one of the brands that get the trend right with careful attention to its past and an attractive price point.
Their catalog includes three Heritage collections between their classic and sports watch categories: Heritage Classic, Heritage Avigation, and Heritage Military. This guide will focus on the Longines Heritage Military collection, which falls within the brand’s avigation sub-category. We will also briefly examine Longines’ fascinating history of producing military watches.
About Longines and Military Watches
Longines is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the Swiss watchmaking industry, with roots dating back to the 1830s. Their portfolio is impressive, to say the least, with such accomplishments as the world’s first chronograph wristwatch in 1913, the first wristwatch outfitted with a rotatable bezel released in 1931, and the first chronograph equipped with a flyback function in 1936, just to name a few. Many of these innovative timepieces were the foundation for the watches produced by Longines for military use.
Longines has a long history of making military watches, even becoming something of an innovator in that realm. They are credited with helping trailblaze the technology used in many pilots’ watches during WWII, including the Weems Second-Setting watch and Hour Angle (more on those watches below). In total, Longines produced as many as 8,000 military-issued timepieces for the British during the war, some of which are the inspiration for the Heritage Military collection.
Techniques used for navigation before World War II were primitive. One miscalculation would send the pilots off course by several miles, and that’s where the Longines Weems Second-Setting watch comes into play. It was developed by Captain Philip Van Horn Weems in the 1920s using Longines’ rotating bezel technology. It featured a 60-second scale on the bezel. The idea is that the wearer can rotate the bezel to coordinate with beeps transmitted on their radio for each passing second, thus allowing the wearer to synch with an outside source and determine their margin of error.
In 1931, Longines and Charles Lindbergh took the design of the Weems Second-Setting watch and built upon it to cater to RAF pilots even further. The result was the Hour Angle Watch, which essentially helped the wearer figure out where they were. While that sounds simple enough, the Hour Angle is a complicated timepiece that few know how to use. For the sake of brevity, it uses longitude and Greenwich Mean Time to navigate. As a result of the complicated processes involved, the design of the Hour Angle is one of the most unusual produced by Longines.
The next most notable military watch produced by Longines is what is now referred to as the “Greenlander.” The British Ministry of Defense commissioned several watchmakers during WWII to outfit their pilots and soldiers with reliable wristwatches. Their requirements were stringent. The watch could only be made from stainless steel and needed to be waterproof. Additionally, any watches produced for the British during the war were required to have legible dials, complete with luminous hour markers and hands. The watch made by Longines for that effort was the Greenlander, which featured a simple, easy-to-read dial, tough stainless steel case, and a reliable movement.
Longines Heritage Military ref. L2.8126.96.36.199
The current Longines Military collection houses two models. However, the company has produced several remakes of its watches developed for various military organizations for several decades now. Below is a brief overview of the two current-production watches: the Heritage Military ref. L2.8188.8.131.52 and the Heritage Military Marine Nationale ref. L2.8184.108.40.206.
We’ll start with the Heritage Military ref. L2.8220.127.116.11. We wouldn’t blame you for mistaking this watch for a genuine vintage Longines because the attention to detail is truly remarkable. Looking at the dial, you’ll notice that Longines has given it an aged look with random, hand-sprayed spots designed to resemble typical signs of aging. The beige hue, retro font, and bold chapter ring are also reminiscent of 1940s RAF timepieces. The blued hands and onion-shaped crown tie this reimagined pilot’s watch together. At the same time, Longines equips the watch with a modern scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and the caliber L88 self-winding movement with a 72-hour power reserve. The perfect blend of vintage and modern.
Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale ref. L2.818.104.22.168
The Heritage Military Marine Nationale adheres to a similar design code as the Heritage Military, featuring a practical stainless steel case and warm hues on the dial. But while the Heritage Military was modeled after the watches produced for the British Royal Air Force during WWII, this model was designed after the original ref. 5774 developed for the French Navy after the war. It’s larger than its 33mm muse, measuring 38.5mm in diameter, but still small by today’s standards. However, the dials are nearly identical, featuring similar railroad chapter rings, Arabic hour markers, and even similar hands. The dial also features the same text, “Fab. Suisse,” French for “Swiss Made.” It also features the same modern upgrades as its British-inspired counterpart, with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and the same caliber L888 movement.
It’s true that re-issued watches aren’t for everyone. They feature a retro design that caters to a very niche market. However, if the tribute watch aesthetic appeals to you, it doesn’t get much better than the Longines Heritage Military collection.