It can be difficult to believe, given the ever-shifting nature of the industry at large, but the watch enthusiast community has been living in the age of modern reissues of vintage watches for over 16 years. Longines was a pivotal brand at the dawn of the broader vintage reissue trend in 2007, and much of the current continuing fervor for reissues can be laid at the feet of a single watch: the Longines Legend Diver. When it was first launched, the 2007 Legend Diver was a critical and enthusiast darling, and the Legend Diver series remains a cornerstone of Longines’ collection to this day. Over the intervening years, however, tastes have changed, and there are more than a few common complaints about the Legend Diver’s sizing and design from the watch community at large. Longines has been listening. For 2023, the brand has created a cleaner, simpler, and more focused Legend Diver platform, one that takes the late ‘50s charm of the original and subtly tweaks it to better appeal to current trends. With this in mind, the new 39mm wide Longines Legend Diver carries a heavy burden of expectations but delivers an exceptionally refined, characterful, and versatile sports diver experience aimed squarely at its most prominent modern rivals.
Ask most enthusiasts to list their complaints with the classic 42mm wide Longines Legend Diver, and chances are the responses will largely center around the case. This is clearly a focal point for Longines, as well, and the new 39mm wide stainless steel case addresses nearly all of the series’ common feedback. First and foremost, here are the unchamfered lugs. While they retain much of the slender, elegant taper and the polished upper surfaces of its larger sibling, these new lugs are far shorter than their predecessors (even proportionally) and feature a gentle downturn that works to effectively wrap the Legend Diver around even relatively small wrists. Likewise, a relatively modest 12.7mm overall thickness (largely taken up by the old-school tall box sapphire crystal) ensures a svelte and balanced stance on the wrist. Taken as a whole, the on-wrist dimensions are remarkably close to the fan-favorite Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, which should allay some critics of the 42mm model. That said, Longines still lets the more elegant, gentlemanly ethos of the Legend Diver line shine through in this case. A slim, angled smooth bezel leaves as much visual real estate as possible for the dial, while the line’s signature twin crosshatched crowns at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock continue to lend a sense of ‘50s sporting charm. Around back, the line’s familiar, crisply engraved spearfishing scuba diver caseback motif has been rendered in far greater detail, to the point where the watch on his wrist now sports the Legend Diver’s unmistakable twin crowns. Like previous iterations of the Legend Diver, the new 39mm model offers a hefty 300 meters of water resistance.
While the changes to the 39mm Longines Legend Diver’s case might be the most immediately obvious, the new model’s dial sports some substantial updates. For example, Longines returns to the early Legend Diver’s sought-after no-date format here, leading to a cleaner, more symmetrical feel on the wrist. In addition, the line’s familiar handset is almost completely revised for this model. The 42mm model’s straight lumed minutes hand now flares out slightly into a subtle Roman sword, while the spear-tipped hour hand abandons the small lume pip of previous iterations in favor of a more conventional fully lumed style. Even the central seconds hand gains a new lumed spear tip, as well. These changes make the new Legend Diver far more legible than its predecessors, but crucially, it also brings the line into compliance with the ISO 6425 standard for dive watches for the first time. The series’ signature rotating internal dive bezel also shows some visual changes, with a broader width in proportion to the dial than previous versions for a more open, airy look. In addition, Longines has fully abandoned the use of khaki lume for this model, instead opting for clean, modern-optic white. When paired with the deep, glossy black dial, it’s a stark and visually arresting combination. Through all these changes, however, the Legend Diver ethos shines through in a more focused, deftly proportioned way. But the loss of some of the line’s more idiosyncratic touches, such as the off-white lume and unique hours hand, might rankle long-time fans of the brand.
Longines powers the new 39mm Legend Diver with the L888.6 automatic movement, made exclusively for Longines by its Swatch Group partner company ETA. Equipped with a highly magnetic-resistant silicon balance spring, a beefy 72-hour power reserve, and an intermediate 25,200 bph beat rate, the L888.6 is a genuine contender among modern entry-level luxury automatics, with specs to match. Furthermore, Longines takes things one step further by having the whole watch (with the movement mounted normally inside the case) COSC chronometer-certified for accuracy.
To complete the package, Longines offers the new Legend Diver with a classic brown leather strap, a blue fabric NATO strap, or a new beads-of-rice-style bracelet in stainless steel. Our test sample arrived with the bracelet, and like the rest of the design, this feels like a substantial step forward for the line. Between the fine brushed outer links and the individually articulated, mirror polished center links, this bracelet is both excellently finished and exceedingly flexible on the wrist, with a comfort and satisfying weight that few options in this price bracket can match. It’s worth noting, however, that the abundance of polishing along with the relatively characterless two-button clasp might have some buyers reaching for alternatives.
For more than 16 years, the Longines Legend Diver family has been one of the pioneers in bringing vintage-inspired timepieces back to the market, but as times change, the original iteration has fallen somewhat out of favor. With the new 39mm Longines Legend Diver, the brand successfully reinvents the series for modern audiences while maintaining much of the idiosyncratic charm that made the line a success in the first place. The new Longines Legend Diver is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the new 39mm Longines Legend Diver as tested stands at $3,200 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.