February 22, 2023
There’s no shortage of great military pilot’s watches throughout history. Brands from Hamilton to IWC have made their mark on the air forces of the world over the past century, but there’s one that’s called to me above all others: the 1935 Longines Majetek. Short for “Majetek Vojenské Správy” or “Property of the Military” in Czech, this distinctive, elegant cushion-cased pilot design was made to order for the Czech Air Force by the Swiss brand from the mid-‘30s up through the beginning of World War II, and its impressively refined design has made it a favorite among collectors ever since. Longines has long been aware of the enthusiast following surrounding the Majetek, with multiple revivals over the years, and for its latest vintage-focused entry the brand has returned to this unique style for a new generation. In many ways, this is a release that fixes enthusiast concerns with previous Longines Heritage releases, but in others, this is a significant shift in what the historically-minded side of the brand aims to be. The new Longines Pilot Majetek is less of a faithful recreation of the original ‘30s design than it is a careful reimagining of the core concept, but with bold proportions, impressive build quality, and an excellent movement, this new iteration delivers its own intriguing presence on the wrist.
Like many previous vintage-inspired Longines offerings, the case of the Longines Pilot Majetek avoids directly mirroring the proportions of the original in favor of creating a similar wearing experience for modern sizing sensibilities. While the original model measures in at a massive-for-1935 40mm-wide, the new Pilot Majetek offers 43mm-wide, 13.25mm-thick sizing. As with the original, this is a big watch for its (modern) time, but the new Pilot Majetek also forges its own path stylistically. The first and most obvious shift from the original silhouette is the lug design. Rather than the long, sloping, outwardly played lugs of the classic Majetek, the new model opts for a more conventional lug arrangement with short, broad wedges that flow directly from the cushion case body. These shorter, undercut lugs help the Pilot Majetek to wear respectably well on the wrist, while addressing one of the most common complaints leveled at the broader Longines Heritage family – excessive lug-to-lug measurements. Outside of these lugs, the overall case form largely follows the 1935 Majetek’s lead, with a rounded-square outline emphasized by a brightly polished upper case chamfer.
However, unlike the original, the Longines Pilot Majetek draws attention away from this central shape with the inclusion of new crown guards. These broad, angular crown guards heavily shift the silhouette of the Majetek away from the sleek, open elegance of the original towards a beefier, more purpose-built ethos. On the 9 o’clock side, Longines adds an engraved case side plaque celebrating the original 1935 release of the Majetek. Like most case side plaques, this will likely be a love-it-or-hate-it inclusion for most enthusiasts, although it is admittedly well-executed here. Of course, one of the defining features of the original Majetek is its coin-edge rotating bezel, and Longines updates this distinguishing concept for the modern Pilot Majetek design. While the 1935 model’s narrow bezel rotated the bezel, the internal pointer, and the crystal as a unified whole, the new Pilot Majetek instead keeps the crystal fixed by adding a new smooth inner bezel ring between the rotating bezel and the dial. Although this does allow for a massive improvement in water resistance, this wider coin-edge bezel with its inner ring works to visually compact the design on the wrist, further separating this from the open, dial-forward stance of the original. For the caseback, Longines keeps the design suitably pared-back for a military watch, with a handful of engraved lines of text above a basic, linear brushed backdrop. The Longines Pilot Majetek offers a solid 100 meters of water resistance, allowing this piece to step out of the cockpit and perform admirably as a general-purpose tool watch.
For the dial of the Pilot Majetek, Longines takes a straightforward, faithful approach. The dial itself is handsomely well balanced, with attractive attention to detail in the finely grained matte black dial surface, raised printed Arabic numerals, railroad minutes track, and deftly proportioned 6 o’clock small seconds subdial. However, while the overall presentation is attractive and largely faithful to the spirit of the classic Majetek, this design shies away from some of the original Majetek’s distinguishing features. Over the course of the original Longines Majetek’s production, the brand altered the design to streamline wartime production, abandoning the dramatic, complex cathedral handset of the original iteration in favor of elemental straight swords. The brand’s decision to use these later-style straight sword hands for the new Pilot Majetek is a confusing and potentially divisive one. Much of the character of the classic Majetek is tied to its ornate cathedral handset, and this simpler military-style affair gives the dial a restrained, less unique personality on the wrist. Of course, the real highlight of the Longines Pilot Majetek’s dial is its unique rotating internal pointer. Long before the advent of the modern dive bezel, the original Majetek used this similar design to allow pilots to track elapsed times or countdowns on the wrist, and this new model continues this concept with a splash of warm khaki lume. The bezel pointer system works well as a substitute for the classic rotating dive bezel after some mental adjustment, and the pointer itself is attractively polished. However, unlike an external rotating bezel, the pointer has a tendency to visually intrude on the dial layout unless placed at 6 o’clock. Once one has the chance to familiarize themselves with the way it works, however, this pointer feels like second nature and adds character to the design overall.
Longines powers the Pilot Majetek with the exclusive ETA-based L893.6 automatic movement. Like many other modern Longines powerplants, the COSC chronometer-certified L893.6 is an impressive performer, running at an average of -1 second per day throughout the testing period. In addition, the robust 72-hour power reserve and 25,200 bph beat rate make this a genuine contender in its market segment. To complete the package, Longines offers the Pilot Majetek with a trio of strap options. Our test sample came paired with a supple, impressively patinated leather strap in rich olive green, offering a comfortable wearing experience out of the box and a wealth of visual nuance. Other available options include a NATO-style recycled material fabric strap in sandy tan and a classic two-piece leather strap in deep brown.
Overall, the Longines Pilot Majetek is a starker visual departure from its inspiration than previous heritage-inspired Longines releases have been. This new evolutionary approach may find fans among some enthusiasts alienated by the highly faithful style the brand has taken in the past, but it may also lose favor among collectors looking for a more accurate representation of the Czech military classic. With that said, the Longines Pilot Majetek successfully establishes its own identity separate from its forebears and offers a refined, capable, and handsome wearing experience all its own. The Longines Pilot Majetek is available now through authorized dealers. Starting MSRP for the Longines Pilot Majetek stands at $3,750 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the Longines website.