A few years ago in 2007 Longines released its new Master Collection Retrograde watch collection. It was meant to be part of the brand's 175th anniversary and began to showcase some interesting movements made exclusively for Longines by ETA. Offered in both 18k pink gold and steel cases, the Master Collection watches are available in either 41mm wide or 44mm wide sizes. Well-finished and feature-rich, these timepieces offer a value-for-the-money that only a large brand like Longines can deliver.
For review I have a 44mm wide Longines Master Collection Retrograde watch in steel. This model is sometimes called the "Quadruple Retrograde" because in addition to the time, it has four retrograde hands on the dial. When looking at the Master Collection Retrograde watches it is important to note that they come in many versions. There are different movement options, as well as models with and without external pushers on the case (for adjusting the calendar). This version is the reference number L27174716. You can get the same version with external pushers if you like (and a smaller case).
This model with the more-or-less inset (I say that because their housing sticks out a little bit looking high-polished mounds) pushers offers the cleaner look of just having the crown. Longines actually throws in a nice steel stylus that you can use to correct the pushers yourself. I love that they included this - though how cool would it be if the stylus somehow could be stored in the case or bracelet? I already previously discussed how I think someone should modify an ardillon buckle pin on a strap to double as an inset pusher adjustment tool.
I am not entirely sure what the base caliber the Master Retrograde movement uses for this complex little piece. The movement - seen through the rear of the movement - is really nicely decorated with perlage. It is not only a wide movement but it is also a bit chunky. It gives the movement a durable look that I think so really becoming - especially in this 44mm wide version of the watch. The movement has a few interesting features. First is the time, which includes a retrograde seconds display at 6 o'clock and the main display which can be adjusted in one hour increments. This latter feature helps when traveling through time zones and is part of the GMT function. There is a retrograde GMT had on the left side of the dial. It uses most of the length of the dial so legibility is pretty good. Adjacent to it is a retrograde date indicator. Last is a retrograde date of the week indicator. There is a similar version of this watch that has a power reserve indicator where the seconds indicator is on this piece.
When pulling out the crown to adjust the time, all the retrograde hands reset to zero. The first time I did this I was like "no, I have to reset it all!" Then I realized that this was just a position they all go to when you pull out the crown. Once you put the crown back in they revert to their previous position. I believe that this has to do with the modular design of the movement, and the time and calendar functions are separate. It also allows you to mess with the time and it not effect the calendar (which is adjusted with the case pushers. All in all, for the price, the movement is very slick to operate and provides useful functionality.
Longines usually offers well-finished cases. I first noticed this in their women's pieces, but this Master Collection Retrograde really helps me see that for their men's pieces. The thick steel case is well-polished all over with crisp edging and even surfaces. It is a weighty watch, but I like that. There are versions on straps that will of course weigh a bit less. On the bracelet inner link is the only section with a brushed, rather than polished finish. The case uses a sapphire crystal and is water resistant to 30 meters.
The bracelet is comfortable and features a push-button butterfly clasp. I was impressed with the bracelet quality and found it to be a good fit for my wrists. However, the bracelet does lack any micro adjustments, so you might find it either just a bit too big or too small without a happy middle. Longines may offer a half-link option to solve this. Overall I give the watch case and bracelet good marks on fit and finish, as well as comfort.
It goes without saying that the dial is what first drew me to this watch. The beautiful symmetrical face with properly sized hands is a testament to contemporary classic watch design. Timepieces like this make it look easy - and has me wonder why so many people get it wrong. The face itself is machine engraved with various textures and sections. The face is actually deeply sunk into the case, which is helped a bit by the sloped flange ring. The shape of the dial and flange ring remind me of those round beer serving trays. Longines uses blued-steel hands, and even though there are six of them, the dial still has enough white space between the indicators. You'll really need the right light however to see the blue shine at its best.
As I mentioned, the Master Collection Retrograde watch is available in many versions. Another option is Arabic numeral hour markers instead of the Roman numerals on this model. You should know this because even Longines' own Master Collection Retrograde watch micro-website doesn't make it clear how many models there are in the growing collection. I recommend these as nice looking classically styled timepieces that don't require a ludicrous amount of cash to own. Even as a classic watch it makes for a nice daily wear (though lume would have been nice). Price for this enjoyable Master Collection Retrograde watch from Longines is a reasonable $3,200.