March 22, 2023
Since the line’s initial introduction in 2020, the Longines Spirit collection has swiftly grown to become one of the modern cornerstones of the brand, with a sporting look that feels timeless without directly echoing any one vintage Longines reference. In the past three years, the series has expanded to include a broad range of case sizes, materials, and complications, ranging from diminutive three-handers to classic pilot’s chronographs and the wildly popular Zulu Time GMT model. For its latest release, Longines aims to combine the Spirit platform with one of its signature complications: the flyback chronograph. For those that are unaware, Longines made the first-ever two-pusher flyback chronograph in 1925, and has held patents surrounding the concept since the legendary 13ZN movement of 1936. While adding this exotic complication to the Spirit line is a sizeable step forward already, the brand also takes this opportunity to visually refine the Spirit platform at large, addressing many common community talking points around both the series and modern Longines releases as a whole. As a result, the new Longines Spirit Flyback is the most complete Spirit release to date, combining an impressive bespoke movement, attractive finishing, and a smartly balanced layout into a handsomely refined take on the classic pilot’s chronograph.
Although the 42mm-wide stainless steel case of the Longines Spirit Flyback is not small by any means, the brand makes this design wear impressively well through a series of thoughtful design decisions. The overall silhouette is deceptively simple, with athletic tapering lugs, a broad continuous polished case side chamfer, and a gear-toothed rotating bezel. While these are all deeply familiar sports watch cues, Longines plays with the overall proportions here to make this a balanced and surprisingly compact wearing experience. One of the most common complaints leveled against modern Longines is that the brand’s lugs are excessively long, leading to unsightly overhang and a ponderous stance on many wrists. The brand has taken this criticism to heart with the Spirit Flyback, and even compared to prior Spirit releases these lugs are remarkably well-proportioned. Rather than tapering long past the spring bar attachment point, Longines cuts these lugs off abruptly with a suitably tool-esque squared tip featuring a gently angled cut that further reduces the apparent length of these lugs on the wrist. Likewise, the apparent height of the case sides is minimized here thanks to both the wide polished chamfer, and the smooth utilitarian brushing of the wider case surfaces. In addition, the bulk of the case is split deftly between the case side itself, the bezel, and the deeply domed caseback. On paper, this case measures in at a total thickness of 17mm, which is immense even by pilot’s chronograph standards. In practice, however, the brand’s design wizardry allows this to wear closer to 13.5mm or 14mm-thick on the wrist. It’s still not a thin watch, but it’s far more wearable than the armchair pundits would have you believe.
Beyond the proportions, there’s commendable attention to detail in the Longines Spirit Flyback’s case. The matte blasted crown with its complex polished relief signature is a microcosm of the brand’s finishing philosophy here, but it’s the bezel insert that really steals the show. This glossy black ceramic insert features lumed numerals and square markers at five-minute intervals, but Longines also works with visual depth here. Each of the black square minute markers is deeply engraved into the ceramic surface, adding a second layer to the bezel design and breaking up the otherwise uniformly glossy insert with matte accents. Longines caps off the caseback with a sapphire display window, and rates the watch for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
Like the case, the dial of the Longines Spirit Flyback massages and refines previous Spirit series concepts into a more cohesive, balanced whole. The familiar Spirit series hallmarks are here, such as the narrow straight sword handset, the polished accent ring punctuated by diamond-shaped hour markers, the applied Arabic numerals, and the five-star chronometer branding at 6 o’clock, but Longines tweaks most of these familiar cues to work together more harmoniously. The most immediate change is to the dial hardware, which abandons the traditional polished yellow gold of previous iterations in favor of a warmer, more charismatic bronze tone. This bronze hue unifies the hands, the subdial rings, the applied numerals, and more while shifting the whole Spirit design in a more vintage direction, all without resorting to potentially divisive khaki lume. Furthermore, the dial surface itself takes on more nuance than previous Spirit iterations. From most viewing angles, this is a classic matte black pilot’s watch dial, but harsh lighting conditions reveal a faint, nuanced sunburst texture that rewards close viewing. Longines uses a clean, balanced two-register layout for the chronograph here, and both the 3 o’clock chronograph minutes and the 9 o’clock running seconds subdial nestle smartly between the surrounding numerals without any divisive cutoff designs. In a similar vein, the no-date layout of the Spirit Flyback is likely to be a popular one among enthusiasts, and it leaves the dial more or less perfectly symmetrical.
The L791.4 automatic flyback chronograph movement inside the Longines Spirit Flyback is made by Swatch Group sister company ETA exclusively for Longines, and like the rest of the watch, this new powerplant represents a significant step forward for the series. Of course, the complex and eye-catching flyback chronograph complication is a rarity on its own at this price point, but the L791.4 takes things further with an ultra-modern silicon balance spring, a column wheel, and COSC chronometer certification for accuracy. A 68-hour power reserve at a 25,200 bph beat rate rounds out an impressive list of performance figures. Visually, the L791.4 is also a step forward for Longines, with an attractive mix of finishes throughout. Not only are most of the prominent screws attractively blued, the L791.4 presents its column wheel front and center in a matching blued finish for added visual impact. The plates and bridges add tight perlage to the mix, while the rotor builds upon a base of Omega-esque arabesque waves with a gilt engraved globe motif and a central blued bearing screw. To complete the look, Longines fits this particular Spirit Flyback with a classic mahogany brown leather deployant strap featuring bright white box stitching. Like many modern Longines straps, however, this is a weak point for the Spirit Flyback as a whole, with a stiff wearing experience that tends to pinch the sides of the wrist.
With the launch of the Spirit Flyback, Longines builds upon the foundation of earlier Spirit releases while refining the series to new heights. From its new chronograph complication to the tweaked and balanced presentation, this is a major step forward for the Spirit series and points to a bright future for the line as a whole. The Longines Spirit Flyback is available now through authorized dealers. Starting MSRP for the Longines Spirit Flyback stands at $4,450 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.