Hands-On: Longines Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946

A smart, classical remake.

Longines’ determination to churn out affordable vintage remakes is going strong, despite having just unveiled the Heritage Classic Sector Dial and then the Heritage Military 1938 late last year.

Previewed last year but only just officially launched, the Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946 sticks to the same formula – reproduce a desirable Longines wristwatch and price it modestly – but is unusual in being the first vintage-inspired chronograph since the Avigation BigEye of 2018.

More unusually, it’s a good-looking remake of an odd-looking vintage watch, purportedly from 1946, in the Longines Museum that combines elements not usually found together. Whatever the case maybe with the historical inspiration, the design of the remake has been sleekly refined.

Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946

Like other remakes, the 1946 won’t win any prizes for imagination, but it’s a good-looking remake that gets the details right. The basis for the remake is a watch from 1946 in the company’s museum, which was most probably powered by the famed cal. 13ZN flyback chronograph movement (which was succeeded by the equally famous cal. 30CH in 1947).

Introduced in 1936, the cal. 13ZN represented the cutting edge of chronograph technology at the time, being the first serially produced chronograph movement to incorporate a flyback function. Catered for sportsmen and aviators, the flyback function allowed the wearer to reset the chronograph without having to stop it first.

As a rather large, 13”’ (or 29mm-wide) movement, the 13ZN resulted in rather large wristwatches for the period, with cases ranging from 34mm to 38mm in diameter. These chronographs were produced in variety of dial and case designs, in both steel and gold; even the chronograph pushers came in a variety of styles, including the conventional oval or round as well as the desirable “mushroom” type that were wide and round with a lip around the flat top.

The peculiar original (left) and the remake. Image – Longines

Faithful design, modern dimensions

While the original is a bit of an odd watch visually, the remake looks good. The Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946 is nearly identical to the original, save for its size and importantly, the shape of the hands, which make quite a difference.

As with most remakes, the 1946 has been bulked up to 40mm, still a good, manageable size. The 1946 has an entirely polished case, with faceted lugs that are polished on both faces. The lugs are short so it wears smaller than the diameter suggests.

But it is thick relative to its diameter, both physically and visually. A good part of the height, however, is the domed sapphire crystal, which helps reduce the apparent height slightly.

More importantly, the dial, in an ever so subtle off-white with a gently grained surface, is a solid reproduction of the original – with a couple of improvements.

Instead of the plume (or feather-shaped) hands found on the original, the 1946 uses the widely favoured leaf shape – common but still elegant and beautiful – which improves the look and feel of the watch significantly as compared to the odd hands on the original.

Ordinarily such a dial would feel flat and washed out, but this is given life and depth with its blued steel hands as well as the stamped chronograph registers that are slightly sunken.

Notably, the 1946 is only the third remake chronograph in Longines’ present-day catalogue to do away with the date – the other two are the Avigation BigEye and the Heritage Chronograph 1940, both of which are larger. In other words, the 1946 is closest in size to a vintage original.

But the dial does contain an obvious, but relatively unimportant, difference: the running seconds sub-dial is at three o’clock, rather than at nine as in the original, due to the movement inside.

Upgraded and modular

Inside is the cal. L895.5, which is actually an ETA A31.L21 made exclusively by ETA for Longines.

The ETA A31.L21, in turn, is actually the widely used modular chronograph made up of an ETA 2892 with an ETA chronograph module on top.

While the movement is widely used, the version here is an upgraded variant made for Longines, in keeping with its parent company Swatch Group’s practice of retaining upgraded movements for only its own brands. Most notably, the movement has a lengthened power reserve of 54 hours as opposed to the standard 48 hours.

The self-winding movement is hidden behind a solid case back that has been stamped with the brand’s logo from 1889, featuring a winged hourglass and “EF Co”, short for Ernest Francillon & Compagnie, the historical name of Longines.

Concluding thoughts

At its price point, the design and build quality of Longines remakes are extremely compelling, and the 1946 chronograph is no different.

The styling is spot-on; Longines smartly kept it sweet and simple, avoiding any retro affectation beyond being a historical remake. And the quality of the case and dial are simple, but solid, and the improved ETA movement is an advantage over the competition (which has to rely on the non-upgraded movements, at least for now).

Key facts and price

Longines Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946
Ref. L2.827.4.73.0

Case diameter: 40mm
Height: 12mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: L895.5 (ETA A31.L21)
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 54 hours

Strap: Black leather

Availability: At both retailers and boutiques
Price: US$3,050, or 4530 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Longines.com.

Correction June 29, 2020: The L895.5 contains an ETA chronograph module, and not a Dubois-Depraz chronograph module as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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