Hands-On: Longines Heritage Military 1938The oversized remake of an oversized original.
Longines has been cranking out vintage remakes at a furious pace over the last year, most notably the Heritage Classic “sector” dial and Heritage Classic Chronograph 1946. All of them share the appealing qualities of being well-priced and fairly authentic remakes.
The latest to be released is the Heritage Military 1938, a remake of an oversized watch Longines produced in the 1930s, often for Eastern European markets. It’s as good as the other remakes in terms of value – Longines excel at making value-for-money watches – but falls a bit flat with the dial.
The ref. 4092
The inspiration for the new remake is the ref. 4092, a wristwatch that is exceptionally large for its time, with its steel case measuring 43 mm in diameter. Such extra-large watches with military-style dials appear to have mostly been sold to Eastern Europe; Zipper, the Longines agent in Poland at the time is often named as the recipient in archive extracts.
The rarity and remarkable size of the ref. 4092, along with its appealing military-style dial, makes it a fairly valuable watch today. Even an example with a severely-aged dial sold for 23,750 Swiss francs at Phillips in 2017.
So unlike other modern-day remakes that are enlarged versions of vintage originals, the Heritage Military 1938 is just right; it is exactly the same size as the original, but priced at just a tenth of the auction result.
Though the remake is the same diameter as the original, it is significantly thicker, due to the modern movement inside. As a result, it is a heavier and slightly chunkier watch, but that’s not a bad thing – the remake has a good weight on the wrist.
Another detail that appears to deviate from the original is the width of the lugs. On the original the lugs appear to be slightly closer together, making the strap narrower, than on the remake. But it’s hardly apparent, and makes no difference to the look and feel of the remake.
Height aside, Longines got most of the case details right, including the short lugs, onion-shaped crown, as well as the sloping bezel with a narrow step at its top. And the domed sapphire crystal helps with the vintage feel.
And as it is with most Longines remakes, the case finish is simple but sufficient, with brushed sides and polished top surfaces.
Where the watch falls a bit short is the dial. It’s wide, empty, and feels a bit flat. That’s because the dial has a finely grained surface that gives it a matte finish but almost no texture, especially at arm’s length.
In contrast, the original probably had a more pronounced texture on the dial surface, although other similar models from the 1930s also featured “gilt” dials with a glossy surface and gold markings – a missed opportunity here.
Even though the original did not have a glossy dial, the remake is actually perfect for a “gilt” finish, especially since the numerals and tracks are already printed in beige. A glossy finish would have taken the aesthetic to a whole new level, historical accuracy be damned.
That being said, Longines did get everything else about the dial right. The proportions and layout are great, not exactly the same as the original but one would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Even the font used for the numerals on the seconds register replicate the typography on the original, as does the retro “Longines” logo.
Mechanically the Heritage Military 1938 is basic. Unlike other Longines remakes that are powered by latest generation ETA movements, this is equipped with the L507.2, which is actually a stock ETA Unitas 6498-1 (ETA is the movement giant that is also owned by Longines’ parent, Swatch Group).
It’s a low-cost movement that’s easy to service, robust, and functional, so there isn’t much to critique or compliment. And fortunately, it’s hidden behind the snap-on case back.
Even though it’s no frills, the movement is ideal for an oversized watch like this, since it allows the subsidiary seconds to be perfectly positioned. A more advanced movement might be technically superior, but would result in the seconds hand sitting too close to the centre of the dial.
ETA will no doubt upgrade the Unitas one day with a longer power reserve or silicon hairspring, just like many of the other movements it supplies to Longines, but for now this is the only option.
Even though the dial looks flat, the Heritage Military 1938 is still an appealing watch in look and feel. And with a retail price of just under US$2,500, it is impossible to argue with its value.
Also important is the fact that it’s a limited edition of just 1,938 watches, in contrast almost all other Longines remakes that are part of the regular collection. With Longines producing well over a million watches a year, this is minuscule relative to the scale of the company, making it a little bit more special.
Key facts and price
Heritage Military 1938
Case diameter: 43 mm
Height: 11 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 30 m
Movement: L507.2 (ETA 6498-1)
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 46 hours
Strap: Grey calfskin, and additional light brown NATO-style strap
Limited edition: 1938 pieces
Availability: Already at Longines boutiques and retailers
Price: US$2,450, or 3,660 Singapore dollars
For more, visit Longines.com
Correction January 28, 2020: The case height is 11 mm, and not 10 mm as stated previously.
Correction February 3, 2020: The movement inside is an ETA Unitas 6498-1, and not the 6498-2 as stated in an earlier version of the article.Back to top.