The luxury watch industry’s love affair with vintage-inspired sports designs shows no signs of stopping in 2022, and while this years-long trend has produced a sea of direct vintage reissues, it has also given rise to a whole subgenre of sporting timepieces that capture the spirit of years gone by without directly referencing any one historic timepiece. The Longines Spirit series is one of the most successful examples of this intermediate breed of watches, blending the warmth and easy legibility of a classic pilot’s watch with a versatile athletic shape and a clean, timeless execution. Given the brand’s long association with aviation and the pilot flair of the Spirit series, a GMT version of the Spirit was inevitable, and for 2022 the brand delivers on this front with a new family of releases named after the very first Longines wristwatch ever to display two time zones. The new Longines Spirit Zulu Time line brings rich, nuanced new colorways and a classically handsome execution to its take on the GMT watch, delivering one of the most attractive and charismatic vintage-inspired GMTs on the current market.
Overall, the stainless steel case of the Longines Spirit Zulu Time keeps the visual language of the series intact. Measuring in at 42mm, the Spirit Zulu Time is clean and athletic on the wrist, with flat horizontally brushed case sides and a continuous polished chamfer running from lug tip to lug tip. Although the overall thickness stands at a sizeable 13.9mm, the Spirit Zulu Time wears markedly slimmer than the numbers might suggest thanks to a gentle flowing wraparound curve echoed through the sapphire crystal, the bezel, and the lugs. Like many modern Longines sports designs, however, these lugs are notoriously long (49.2mm from lug tip to lug tip) and may cause overhang issues on smaller wrists. The Spirit Zulu Time sets itself apart from the rest of the line with its bidirectional coin edge bezel, featuring a classic engraved 24-hour scale. Longines offers this bezel with ceramic inserts in black, navy blue, or green, with a high-gloss finish that adds both depth and a sense of tangible quality to the overall design. Our hands-on sample arrived with the unique green bezel, in a rich mature hue that calls to mind Bentley’s famously dark interpretation of British racing green. It’s a color that doesn’t call undue attention to itself, fading to nearly black in most lighting conditions, but in direct sunlight, it forms an attractively nuanced complement to the dial’s gilt accents. Longines finishes off this case with a razor-sharp caseback engraving featuring the brand’s winged hourglass emblem above a stylized globe motif. In keeping with the go-anywhere, do-anything sporting character of the Spirit line, the Spirit Zulu Time is rated for a solid 100 meters of water resistance.
Available in matte black, matte charcoal gray, or a deep navy blue sunburst, the Longines Spirit Zulu Time’s dial takes a low-impact approach to bringing a GMT complication into the existing Spirit design. Our hands-on sample, with its smooth matte charcoal gray dial finish and striking gilt dial hardware, is a master class in how to make a brand-new watch design feel aged without resorting to fauxtina lume or simulated “tropical” dial surfaces. Everything here is warm and mellow, without the harsh sense of modernity that a deep black dial or bright white text might bring. While the pointed handset and applied gilt Arabic numerals are handsome on their own, it’s the slim gilt accent ring inside the raised outer seconds track that truly steals the show. Beyond framing the dial with a dynamic but balanced golden highlight, this ring also gives Longines a chance to showcase its impressive attention to detail, with miniature notched cutouts to perfectly frame the tiny diamond-shaped lume pips printed outboard of each applied hour numeral. It’s a simple touch, but with such a simple traditional design, minuscule touches can make a world of difference. The actual GMT hand itself fits almost seamlessly into the existing Spirit design, with a sparkling gilt arrow tip that makes for easy legibility at a glance. Although date windows are a controversial topic amongst enthusiasts, they form a nearly indispensable part of a GMT design, and the Spirit Zulu Time’s simple cutout date display at 6 o’clock offers crucial information with a minimum of disruption to the overall flow of the dial.
Longines powers the Spirit Zulu Time with the ETA A31.L411-based Calibre L844.4 automatic GMT movement. With COSC certified chronometer-grade accuracy and a silicon balance spring, this is an impressively modern powerplant, featuring performance to match. GMT enthusiasts can rejoice as well, as the Calibre L844.4 is a “true GMT,” with a convenient quickset local hour hand to allow for easy time zone changes while traveling. Like many modern Longines movements, this one operates with an intermediate beat rate of 25,200 bph, allowing the Spirit Zulu Time to reach a weekend-proof 72-hour power reserve.
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time is available with leather deployant straps in medium brown, caramel, or navy blue, as well as a three-link brushed stainless steel bracelet. Our sample was fitted with the optional bracelet, and Longines adds a more refined character to this familiar design with narrow polished bevels on both the center and outer links, creating a polished highlight wrapping all the way around the wrist. The engraved two-button clasp also adds six levels of micro-adjustment, but overall the bracelet has a slim, lightweight feel on the wrist that does not match the heavier, more solid character of the watch itself. In addition, the bracelet’s prominent “male” end links extend well past the watch’s lug tips, exacerbating the already-long lugs on the wrist. That said, the end links do feature a pronounced downturn that somewhat alleviates this problem.
With a nuanced blend of vintage and modern cues alongside impressive performance, the Longines Spirit Zulu Time is a timelessly handsome addition to the brand’s fan-favorite retro-modern pilot watch line. The Longines Spirit Zulu Time is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the Longines Spirit Zulu Time stands at $2,950 on leather and $3,050 on bracelet, as of press time. For more details, please visit Longines’ website.