Longines Celebrates Its 185th anniversary with a Big Birthday Party

A birthday party in the Imperial City.
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On a drab, wintry November evening in Beijing, Longines threw a grand party in Taimiao, or Imperial Ancestral Temple, situated next to the Forbidden City. Presiding over the event was Walter von Känel, the septuagenarian chief executive of Longines who has just marked his 48th year with the company.

The occasion was both a celebration and an ode to the world’s most populous country, given the watchmaker’s deep ties with China, with its first invoice to a Chinese dated 1867. Today, China plays an outsized role in Longines’ success – by some estimates, Longines has become the top seller by revenue in the country amongst Swiss brands.

The relationship between Longines and China was further evinced over the course of the celebratory evening. Once reserved exclusively for the imperial family to worship their ancestors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the vast walled complex of Taimiao was transformed with a massive transparent tent at its centre.

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The first order of business was the announcement of a new ambassador, Chinese actress Zhao Liying. Having ranked fourth in Forbes’ 2017 Top 100 Chinese Celebrities, she joins Longines’s all-star case of brand ambassadors chosen for their star power in North Asia – Hong Kong, China and Macau – putting her alongside Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok as well as Taiwanese film stars Chi Ling Lin and Eddie Peng.

But it’s more than just famous faces that underpin Longines’ success. Beyond having an early presence in China in the 1980s, Longines’ watches are earnest value for money. The brand makes no pretence of being a manufacture, relying on movements customised by ETA that are exclusive to Longines. And it prudently keeps the majority of its watches priced between US$1000 to US$4000, a robust segment that has been unaffected by the anti-corruption crackdown initiated by President Xi Jinping in 2012.

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From left to right: Kevin Rollenhagen, member of Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, Susanne Chen, President of Swatch Group China, Longines new Ambassador Zhao Liying, Walter von Känel, President of Longines, Dennis Li, Vice President of Longines China.

Fittingly for the occasion – and of greater interest to watch nerds – Longines also unveiled Longines Through Time, a book written by its in-house historian Ms Stéphanie Lachat. The 280-page tome traces the evolution of Longines from its founding in 1832 to the Quartz Crisis and its modern day renaissance – all while delivering an insightful account of the brand’s storied past as a a true manufacture that spanned every aspect of watchmaking.

That rich history was also on display in tangible form with the Longines 185th Anniversary Exhibition, set up just for the event. The expansive exhibition included a curation of vintage timepieces from the company museum, as well as highlights from Longines’ current line-up.

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The star of the show was a masterpiece from the museum: an early 20th century gold pocket watch with a minute repeater, perpetual calendar and chronograph function created for China.

Longines 20th Century Minute Repeater for China

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Gold-plated pocket watch from 1906, with Longines’ Chinese retailer “Carlowitz & Co.” on the dial. Longines manual winding cal. 18.80Z

No self respecting Longines showcase would be complete without its 20th century wristwatch chronographs. The anniversary exhibition delivered a display of the brand’s landmark chronograph calibers including the 13.33Z, the first ever Longines wristwatch chronograph calibre, as well as the most famous duo of them all, the legendary 13ZN and its successor, the 30CH.

Longines 30CH

A 1958 chronograph with the 30CH movement.

Longines 13ZN

A 1943 18k gold chronograph with the 13ZN movement.

All of these fine and historically important watches did not exist in isolation, the walls of the exhibition illustrated their historical background. They were covered in literature explaining Longines’ achievements and collaborations in different fields, including the relationships the company had with pioneering aviators Charles Lindbergh, which gave birth to the Hour Angle Watch, and Philip van Horn Weems, who devised the Weems Second-Setting Watch.

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Silver pocket watch from 1878 with Longines’ first chronograph movement, the 20H.

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A 1911 18ct gold hunter and minute repeater pocket-chronograph with a fine equestrian engraving. Manual movement, cal. 19/20

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An 1889 18k gold pendant watch, enamel case back set with pearls, in its original box. Longines manual movement, cal. 9.77

The 185th anniversary party was not just nostalgia-ridden, it also offered a glimpse into the future with the launch of the Longines Record,  a line of watches powered by COSC-certified movements that boast silicon hairsprings, making the technology more affordable than ever before. The watch is available in myriad dial variations and sizes, with prices starting from SFr1,875.

Longines Record Collection 4


 

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Panerai Creates Unique Luminor Bronzo PAM 907 for Charity

Bronze case and brown dial.
Panerai Luminor Bronzo unique brown dial London

Probably the only Panerai wristwatch that still sells for more than its original retail price (oh how times change), the Luminor Submersible Bronzo has enjoyed remarkable robustness of demand. The third iteration was unveiled just earlier this year, and now the total number of variants is four, with the latest being a one of a kind variant put together for a British charity.

Soon to be sold online at Sotheby’s, the new Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo PAM00907 has a dark brown dial, in contrast to the military green and blue dials of the limited edition versions (the PAM 382, PAM 507 and PAM 671 respectively). Dial colour aside it is otherwise identical to the most recent Bronzo PAM 671 unveiled earlier this year, being powered by the P.9010 automatic movement that shows the time and date. Besides the watch, the winner of the lot will also get to visit the capacious, two-storey new Panerai boutique on New Bond Street.

Panerai Luminor Bronzo unique brown dial London 1

Named The Panerai Experience Online, the auction runs from November 30 to December 15, and includes several other watches made specifically for the event. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Royal Yachting Association to help support Onboard, a programme that helps young people from all backgrounds go sailing (presumably only those who can’t afford a boat).

Once bidding is open, the catalogue and online bidding will be available on Sothebys.com.


 

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Introducing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 25th Anniversary

An edgy look on its birthday.
Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 6

In a striking departure from the original design, Audemars Piguet just unveiled the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph, in an aggressive restyling for the 25th anniversary of its iconic oversized sports watch. Excepting the Royal Oak Concept of 2002, the 25th anniversary Offshore is arguably the most radical reimagining of the octagonal design to date.

Slated to mark its birthday next year, the Royal Oak Offshore was introduced in 1993, itself a commemorative model meant to mark the 20th anniversary of the Royal Oak. Designed by a Emmanuel Gueit, now an independent designer whose greatest triumph was the Offshore, the watch was a beefed up, 42mm version of the slim, original Royal Oak, making it almost abnormally large for the era. While it was met with criticism from the industry – Royal Oak designer Gerald Genta reputedly disliked it – the Offshore grew to become one of the most influential watches in contemporary watchmaking, surpassing the Royal Oak in pop cultural significance.

In the early to mid 2000s the Offshore was arguably the hottest watch of the era, acquiring a cult status among celebrities and athletes, especially in the United States, with over 120 iterations and special limited editions, including versions dedicated to Jay-Z, Arnold Schwarzenegger and LeBron James.

AP Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph

The Offshore undergone slight tweaks over the years – once in 2006 and again in 2014 – but never to the extent undertaken with the new Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph. Slated for an official launch at SIHH 2018, it is both edgy and open-worked, gaining a menacing profile thanks to an entirely redesigned dial, movement and bezel.

While the complications and movement are based on an existing model (the refs. 26388PO & 26288OR), the anniversary model is defined by a new bezel. The famous octagonal bezel was slimmed down and hollowed out around the exposed screw heads (which are actually nuts as Royal Oak fans will know). In turn, the dial has been reduced to a series of eight skeletonised bridges that are secured by the eight nuts. Four of the largest bridges secure each of the twin barrels, as well as the tourbillon.

Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 3

AP Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 4

While the case has retained its signature style, subtle changes have given it a more athletic profile. The bevels on the flanks of the lugs are wider and more pronounced, for instance. It measures 45mm in diameter, and is available in both stainless steel and pink gold.

And as with the second generation Offshore chronograph, the crown and pushpieces are now in black ceramic instead of rubber-coated metal. On the steel model the pushpiece guards are titanium, while while the gold version they are in pink gold.

Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph 2

While the cal. 2947 movement inside is new, it is a variant of the existing cal. 2933. It is hand-wound, with both an integrated column wheel chronograph and tourbillon regulator, as well as double barrels that offer a seven-day power reserve.

Price and Availability

Limited to 50 pieces each, Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph in stainless steel (ref. 26421ST.OO.A002CA.01) is priced at SFr275,000 and the pink gold (ref. 26421OR.OO.A002CA.01) at SFr310,000; prices exclude taxes.


 

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