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Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

What’s the first thing you do when you step off a plane? Check your phone. Fire off a few text messages. Maybe check your Instagram feed. And with the new Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting, you’ll quickly set your watch to the new time zone – a step that takes two quick clicks of the crown somewhere between the aforementioned, resulting in the hands zipping around the dial to the correct hour in admittedly satisfying fashion. But the real party trick here, and what makes this new V.H.P. truly groundbreaking stuff beyond its impressive accuracy, is how the watch records and saves ‘home’ and ’travel’ time zones. And the hint is right there in the name of the watch itself, “Flash Setting.” Spoiler alert: while clever, the V.H.P. GMT is not a smart watch by traditional definition – it’s 100% analog, with no Bluetooth connectivity at all. The secret sauce lies in a centuries-old communications medium that should make your inner scout leader proud: Morse Code.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Hands-on images by Zach Pina

So when I heard that Longines was preparing a sequel to 2017’s impressive V.H.P. high-accuracy quartz (a subset of quartz watches collectively referred to by the community as “HAQ”) designed specifically for travelers, I had to know more. Convenience and ease of use when on the move is, after all, king, right? However, I couldn’t help feeling a little like Longines buried the lede on an innovative new proprietary movement. Yes, the watch’s most unique feature – the “flash setting,” is right there in the title. But the speed and ease of setting is only half the story, because the literal interpretation is the actual punchline: the V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting lets you synchronize multiple time zones via a smartphone camera flash, which communicates the time to the watch’s dial using bursts of light in the form of old-school dots and dashes. Seriously.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

At the launch of the new Conquest V.H.P. GMT, Longines CEO Walter Von Känel restated his position of having no interest in creating a fully-fledged smartwatch. But the brand needed a movement that could expand upon the legacy of technical innovations within the V.H.P. line, without directly competing with purebred technology brands – a move that could ultimately compromise Longines’ commitment to the slower-paced traditions of classic Swiss watchmaking. They found their answer in the V.H.P. Flash Setting, a quartz movement that took ETA four years to develop, which adds a high degree of globetrotting utility to the original V.H.P. (Very High Precision) caliber released in 2017. It’s important to note that this new ETA calibre is exclusive to Longines, and while Von Känel played coy about allowing a growing number of interested brands access to the movement, it did seem that he’s keen to keep it in the family. For now, at least.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Despite the core functionality being reliant upon the new Longines smartphone app, the operation of the V.H.P. GMT is still pretty simple. First, you select two city references via the app from the column for ‘home’ and the column for ‘travel’ (your destination, essentially). And the app does have all 40 of the world’s time zones – including a few unique zones adjusted for 15 and 30-minute offsets. But rather than pairing the watch directly with the phone like most connected devices, the interaction is only top-down. To save your chosen zones to the watch, simply point your camera at the dial and press ’Start’ on the app, which quickly translates both times to Morse code, then rapidly fires the camera flash in a sequence of dots and dashes. Those signals are then read by a light sensor hidden inside the tiny aperture in the ‘1’ at 12:00 on the dial. Once fully transcribed (it only takes a few seconds), the seconds hand flicks to the “home” indicator at 11:00 to acknowledge the new time received, before the hands automatically whiz around the dial to the correct position. Two clicks of the crown cycles the entire time display between home and travel times, and a single click briefly jumps the seconds hand to either the ‘home’ or the ‘travel’ marker (at 2:00) on the dial, letting the wearer know which time is currently being displayed.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

What’s particularly cool, is that since the watch saves both times indefinitely, if you’re regularly traveling between specific time zones (ie: New York and London), there’s no need to perform the flash setting every time you travel – just two quick clicks of the crown when you land, and the watch does the rest. Of course, with multiple connections, or a multi-city travel itinerary, you would need to perform the setting of two new times at some point during your trip, but the whole process takes all of just a few seconds, and is far from an inconvenience no matter how short your connection might be. As noted in the name, the new V.H.P. is also a proper GMT watch, so you have two persistent time displays – one in 12-hour, and one in 24-hour formats, always at a glance.

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Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The real beauty of the GMT Flash Setting is that it’s a fully modern, digital device that borrows the same language used by turn-of-the-century maritime navigators sending ship-to-shore signals with sound, lamplight, or electric torch, yielding a highly practical, innovative solution, but one that’s still deceptively simple and oh-so-very-Swiss in this application. I particularly appreciate how despite the technical nature of the app integration itself, there remains a genuine analog charm and lo-fi novelty that’s notably absent from many connected, or Bluetooth-enabled watches. Of course, a traditional time-setting option exists for the purist – the watch can still be set and operated sans-phone via the crown, essentially future-proofing it for operation for as long as the watch is running.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The new Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting isn’t just a groundbreaking release from its novel setting features, it’s also an extremely precise watch, maintaining the impressive +/- 5 seconds per year accuracy of the standard thermocompensated V.H.P. released in 2017. It also adds in an anti-shock countermeasure that automatically repositions the hands after an impact (Casio has similar technology in its Master of G collection G-Shock watches), is unaffected by external magnetic forces, and maintains a perpetual calendar through 2399. It’s worth noting that ultra-accurate thermocompensated quartz movements, like Longines’ ETA-developed V.H.P. caliber, are a bit of an enthusiast’s niche, but they’re not exclusive to the brand. Other notable competitors would be Grand Seiko’s 9F quartz, Breitling’s Superquartz movements, or Citizen’s Chronomaster collection. Fellow Swatch Group member Certina also remains committed to affordable high-accuracy quartz watches with the Precidrive. However, the dual-timezone feature that’s now exclusive to Longines puts this watch in a HAQ league all its own, and adds in a genuinely useful wear experience that should be appreciated by more than those who obsess over accuracy.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Suffice to say, I’ve been waiting a long time for a watch that delivered an elevated level of convenience and capability that only the digital realm could provide, but still one that wasn’t fully divorced from the everyday charm of a classic analog watch, and wouldn’t be fully obsolete after two years. I wouldn’t consider it an accident that one of my most-worn watches in the last 18 months has been an ani-digital quartz watch, whose only crime has been one of remarkable consistency; always at the ready, and near-perfect timekeeping (it is thermocompensated, after all). Convenience might be king, but so is utility and real-world practicality – and when watch brands pursue innovation in these areas, everyone wins.

Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Perhaps best of all, is how despite the new movement, the Longines V.H.P. GMT remains eminently wearable, maintaining the 50m water resistance and modest case proportions of its standard 3-hand variant: in both 41mm, and 43mm case sizes. Also like the 2017 edition, are the four nicely finished dial options: silver, blue, black with radial guilloche, or carbon fiber, and on either a rubber strap or stainless steel bracelet. The price for the Conquest V.H.P GMT starts at $1,350 on the rubber strap (a $350 premium over the standard 3-hand VHP variant), and jumps to $1,750 on bracelet. longines.com

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  • Norbs K

    If I have to take out my phone to sync my watch, I could just have a look at my phone for the correct time.

    And using morse code? Flashing?
    It feels to be already obsolete as soon as it left the factory. Or the drawing board for that matter.
    It’s one thing to create little mechanical wonders with beauty and craftsmanship which lasts for a lifetime and it’s another to dig up old outdated stuff and wedge it in modern tech just to make it “retro”.
    Mechanical watches are beautiful, because they are mechanical. They are old, primitive and timeless. Where this is quartz in symbiosis with smartphone communicating through an outdated technology. There is nothing compelling about this.
    Just imagine yourself standing at the middle of the airport, holding your phone, flashing at the watch on your wrist. Wow! You look stupid!

    But apart from the stupid app and morse code flashing, the watch itself looks great. Can I have it with a regular ETA automatic movement please?

    • Filip Vanura

      LOL, I did not imagine how the setting of the time would look to others, and you are exactly right, flashing your phone on your watch would look completely ridiculous.

    • Heinrich Christian Spreiter

      You don’t need a phone to do that. From the article: “the watch can still be set and operated sans-phone via the crown”.

      And there is an ETA automatic version of this watch: Longines Conquest GMT.

      • Norbs K

        I know you can set it via the crown, but then what’s the point of using morse code?
        Silly me, haven’t realised it’s just a beefed up Conquest.
        Yeah, I will take one of those any time over this.

    • The phone-to-watch interaction is *only* needed if you want to change the two displayed time zones (and remember, it sets the full time display – hour, minute, and GMT for *both* home and travel time). If you’re always traveling between the same two zones, you might only do the flash setting once – and then just double-click the crown whenever you travel. You can also perform the setting via the crown (and double-clicking to jump between them) – it just takes a little longer.
      Morse code is just for speed, and because c’mon, it’s trick as hell.

  • ProJ

    Seiko GPS solar watch makes much more sense than this

  • FoxJ30

    Cute, but ultimately it seems like a solution looking for a problem. I don’t think it’ll convince mechanical watch lovers to pick up an expensive quartz, nor will it convince any smartwatch/tech lovers to do so, either. Ultimately, it’s competing against other HAQ watches, so it’s adding one more competitor into an already niche field.

  • This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. You know when I set my GMT watch when traveling? Before I leave home.

    I don’t have cellular data service outside of North America (And neither does anyone who has a CDMA phone, or doesn’t want to pay a $5 per MB roaming fee), so syncing my watch to a phone won’t work while I’m in half the places I visit.

    • You weren’t the only one who triggered a comment before getting to the bottom of the story 😉

  • Pascal Fabre

    So ETA worked 4 years to make a movement which is, apart from its silly operation via a smartphone flash, technically outdated compared to Citizen, which makes satellite-controlled watches that adjust automatically according to the timezone you are in? …and are EcoDrive.
    Total nonsense to me…

    • Norbs K

      Wait 20 years. Radio signals aren’t retro enough, but morse code and flashing like a battleship in WWI, now that’s retro.

  • Heinrich Christian Spreiter

    I’m about to pull the trigger on the new GS 9f GMT but I got to admit this Longines makes me rethink if I should buy the GS. Practically speaking it is superior: Perpetual calendar, 4-5 years battery life and it’s about half the price.

    • GS does a better dial (though the VHP dial is nicely done, albeit pretty spartan) and a better job marketing ‘how’ their 9F is a fantastic movement, but at the end of the day, 5 seconds a year for the VHP is pretty astonishing, and if it’s accuracy that you crave, you really can’t do much better.

      • Heinrich S

        Just preordered the blue GS. I like the look better and the smart crown from the 3 hand version feels weird to operate.

  • What if I wore this watch to a rave with tons of strobe lights? I’d probably leave a week later thinking I stayed there for 2 hours…

  • Norbs K

    I don’t think it’s more convenient taking out your phone, holding it up above your watch and flashing morse code to it, then using the crown to set the GMT hand.

  • Ulysses31

    I don’t see why a phone was necessary for this watch at all. The watch is electronic. Some combination of crown pushes should allow you to cycle through each time zone, and memorise the last two used, for example. Sure, it might be ever so slightly more convenient to rely on the display of a smart-phone to do this, but by shackling the watch to a phone for what is a very basic function, it really becomes superfluous and pointless. You know, phones are cool and all, but you don’t HAVE to connect everything to a phone just for the sake of it. Smartphones are not the centre of our damn lives, as much as it is profitable for corporations to sell us this pretense. If the Swiss can only innovate a pointless gimmick every four years, they’re in a lot more trouble than we originally thought.

    • The phone is utilized here simply as a time-saver – you use it to save two timezones to the watch – that’s it. You could do this by setting the watch in a fully traditional sense (by pulling out the crown, adjusting the hands, etc.) every time you land in a new timezone, but honestly – where’s the fun in that?

    • Yanko

      Swiss are masterful deceivers. I am sure that there will be a number of people who will pay money for this “gimmick” as you rightfully named this watch. If the Yucatán Peninsula Asteroid fell down not in Mexico but in Switzerland, the Swiss would’ve been able to make money showing us a hole instead of mountains.

  • This watch can – does a few of those 15 minute offset zones too. Obviously adjusting your watch while you’re taxiing is far from an inconvenience, but thank god for variety, right?

  • Funny, I actually like those markers! They’re essentially the only ‘tells’ that differentiate this from the mechanical Conquest GMT.

  • Bluecat128

    Provocative….. will do more studying. Have spent a lot on my ‘collection’, just need a GMT for vacationing, communicating (keeping track of other time zone, nespa?). I’ve got too many Rolexes, Omegas, JLCs, etc… don’t want to overspend on this… since my JLC & Autavia have GMT capabilities (just don’t feel safe wearing them out & about…. especially in distant lands).

  • chenpofu

    Hmm, what is not clear to me is how to set the 24 hour hand independently. The phone app showed two time zones, home and travel, and that seem to be the time that the 12 hour hand display. Does the 24 hour hand simply show the other time zone? Or can it be set to any time zone (not home, and not travel)?

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