September 26, 2017
Swiss watch maker Longines has been among the many brands in recent years to dive deeply into the “heritage reissue” well. This time, they have released a vintage-inspired pilot’s watch which pays tribute to their longstanding history with aviation. The Longines Avigation BigEye features aesthetics borrowed from several of their vintage aviation and military pieces as well as modern watchmaking technology including a column wheel chronograph caliber, a highly domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and Super-LumiNova coating for the hour markers and hands.
Designed to complement the ever growing Longines Heritage collection, the new Longines Avigation BigEye is in keeping with Longines’ recent penchant for gently updating historical models while keeping the design language much the same. In this case, the Longines Museum’s recent acquisition of a pilot’s watch they produced in the 1930s provided the impetus for the new model, and the new dial shares certain design cues with its predecessor.
The semi-glossy black dial is a fairly straightforward and traditional aviation design with Super-LumiNova-coated Arabic hour markers and bead-blasted, rhodium-plated hands which should be familiar to Longines fans. A running seconds register sits at 9 o’clock while a twelve hour counter rests at the 6 o’clock position. An oversized thirty minute sub dial at 3 o’clock serves as the focal point for the dial, and the source of the BigEye name. Refreshingly, no date window has been inserted where it doesn’t belong and the dial is a clean and highly legible affair.
Aviation watches are known for large, utilitarian cases and the Longines Avigation BigEye’s case is pure tool watch, though not terribly large by today’s standards at a reasonable 41mm in width. Case surfaces are mostly brushed with the exception of the narrow, highly polished bezel sitting just beneath the well-executed highly domed and anti-reflective coated crystal. The polished crown and pushers are also oversized as an homage to the oversized controls of pilot’s watches of years past where the design was intended to make for easy use with heavy flyer’s gloves. Somewhat surprisingly, despite the intricate movement ticking within, Longines have foregone an exhibition caseback in favor of a special aviation-inspired caseback engraving.
Longines state that the self-winding mechanical column wheel L688.2 caliber used in the Avigation BigEye is produced specially for them by ETA (who call the movement the ETA A08.L01). Column wheel chronograph calibers are typically more respected by fans of vintage watchmaking and watchmaking in general for their highly mechanical and positive feel at the pushers and more intricate internal workings. The 27-jewel L688.2 beats at a familiar 28,800 bph and features a not insignificant 54-hour power reserve.
As they’ve been doing for a few years now, Longines have once again created an interesting proposition for a vintage-inspired modern watch with the Longines Avigation BigEye. The BigEye impresses with it’s straightforward and uncluttered aesthetics, column wheel equipped ETA caliber, and cost of ownership at a suggested price of $2,625. The Longines Avigation BigEye will come as standard on a brown leather strap. longines.com