A complicated looking, classically-designed timepiece is a welcome addition to any watch collection and something like this Longines Master Collection Moon Phase Chronograph reference L2.618.104.22.168 is a solid and affordable way to include such an item into your collection. It contains the Swiss Made ETA Valjoux 7751 which is modified to become the Longines caliber L687. My first ever “complicated” watch included a Valjoux 7751 and I think it is a very effective way to enjoy a good volume of complications without crossing into the price spectrum of haute horology products.
Longines is no stranger to the 7751 movement family – having featured these movements in various Master Collection timepieces for years now. The success of combining the Master Collection timepiece aesthetic with the features in the 7751 movement is proven. This particular model comes in with an elegantly decorated movement and a very sensible 40mm wide case, which is about as small as you can get given the size of the movement itself.
The 4Hz, two day power reserve 7751 automatic movement is modified visually by decoration as well as technically with the inclusion of a column-wheel transmission system for the chronograph in some models. Column wheels are nice to look at and considered to be more “collector worthy” depending on who you speak to. At the least, Longines is able to offer more than just your standard Valjoux 7751 by having the L687 caliber movement which adds a bit more technical fascination. With that said, depending on the particular Longines Master Collection model you get (meaning when it was produced) you might be getting a different movement. The more recently produced L2.622.214.171.124 seems to contain the L687 movement but slightly older models like my review unit contain the caliber L.678.2 movement which, I believe, is more or less the same thing but without the column wheel and a bit more power reserve (up to about 54 hours from about 44 hours).
The core 7751 movement was designed to add functionality to the iconic Valjoux 7750 automatic 12 hour chronograph. What it adds is a complete calendar (displaying the month, date, and day of the week), as well as a moon phase indicator and synchronized 24 hour hand which effectively serves as an AM/PM indicator. I’ve written about watches that use the 7751 movement for over a decade now, and I will remind readers that one of the downsides of the 7751 is that it presents particular design challenges for watchmakers seeking to create visually balanced dials. So much of the “weight” of the information on the dial is on the left-side. That means the right side of the dial is relatively sparse and typically reserved for a watch brand logo. Longines designs this Master Collection dial about as well as can be expected around the 7751’s quirky dial layout.
I like the dial design with its traditional printed Arabic hour numerals and a barley corn pattern-aesthetic stamped into the dial. This is designed to mimic the look of guilloche-engraved dials, but to get authentic machine engraving on a dial you need to step up to a Breguet timepiece which is a sibling to Longines within the Swatch Group. Longines uses blued-steel hands properly and without many reflective surfaces on the dial, it makes for a highly legible watch. Also, there is a subtly-domed AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial which does not suffer from glare issues, thankfully. In addition to attention to legibility, build quality is also a focus and the watch serves as a real tool-style instrument which is something very apparent in most of the Longines Master Collection products.
At 40mm wide this is the smallest Master Collection watch I’ve worn that contains a 7751-based movement inside of it. Longines also produces the reference L27734783 which is a 42mm wide version of the Master Collection also outfitted with the L687 movement for those who want a slightly larger case. The challenge with a 40mm wide case is that it must look proportional given the relatively high nearly 14mm thick case, which is made necessary by the movement. This is less of an issue with a wider 42mm wide or larger case. What Longines does in order to visually reduce mass is to highly round both the polished steel bezel as well as the caseback. To the eyes, this technique results in a case that appears less thick than it actually is.
With 30 meters of water resistance this isn’t a sports watch, but it is designed with enough durability to serve as a daily-wear timepiece. On the brown alligator strap this Master Collection L26734783 has a slick, old-world style appeal to it. Longines also offers the same watch in a matching steel metal bracelet in the reference L26734786 that lends it a slightly more contemporary feel. I further appreciate that Longines does not charge a premium for the metal bracelet. Whether or not you order the Master Collection moon phase chronograph on the strap or bracelet, the price is the same. That said, Longines does charge $225 more for the 42mm wide versus the 40mm wide version.
There is nothing particularly revolutionary about this watch, nor does it attempt to be. Longines at its best offers a traditional, handsome timepiece in a modernly constructed and worry-free package. Longines benefits from its rich history and deep industrial resources by being part of the Swatch Group, delivering real value and product quality to global watch lovers. For that reason Longines is one of the Swatch Group’s best performing brands, and in some parts of the world it is their absolute best performing brand. As a seasoned watch collector, I see Longines as having specific value to new or more casual watch collectors with most of their products such as the Master Collection. Once in a while Longines does however release something that even veteran watch collectors simply must have. Easy to wear and enjoy, the Longines Master Collection reference L2.6126.96.36.199 watch has a retail price of $3,325 USD. See more at the Longines website here.
>Model: Master Collection reference L2.6188.8.131.52
>Price: $3,325 USD.
>Size: 40mm-wide, approx. 14mm-thick, and approx. 46mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a complicated dial-style classic/traditional watch for regular to formal wear.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: More casual watch collector or enthusiasts fascinated by highly complicated timepieces but unwilling or unable to purchase a very expensive calendar/chronograph watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent overall design refinement and product quality for the price, which is typical of many Longines watches. Good use of design language to make thicker case appear more svelte. Legible dial with attractive decorative elements.
>Worst characteristic of watch: With the model being around for a few years it is a bit confusing that what is largely the same watch has two different movements floating around depending on the version. Design of the crown and chronograph pushers is effective but still a bit uninspiring and lacks visual interest.