For years now, as the brand that the Swatch Group has designated to embody “elegance,” historic timepiece maker Longines has been thoroughly involved in the world of equestrian sports. It sponsors important equestrian performances around the world, including the world-famous Kentucky Derby, as well as the highly prestigious Breeder’s Cup. For 2019, the official wristwatch of the Breeder’s Cup is the Longines Master Collection Moonphase — a new collection (with a healthy level of diversity) for 2019 that has something for everyone (assuming you are a moonphase complication lover).
Longines invited aBlogtoWatch to join them at the Breeder’s Cup, once again — this time here in Southern California at the famed Santa Anita Park track. The lovely hills and pastel skies of late fall made a gorgeous backdrop for the entirely filled stadium where horse-racing fans from around the United States came to cheer on their favorite horses and racing teams.
Legacy tradition and the passion of horse owners is what keeps most equestrian events alive and thriving in the United States. I think what is important to point out about them is that these events do not survive through sponsorships and commercial relationships, as more mainstream sporting events may. Instead, it is the fans and people participating in horse-racing and other equestrian events that keeps the pursuit alive and well.
What most people do not realize about horse races, unless they have attended one themselves, is what the mood and atmosphere are like. Consider for a second that betting (which is extremely nuanced and complex) on horse-racing is still extremely popular, as is dressing up in one’s best horse-racing attire. Women famously don fascinators (those hat-style head decorations), and the event includes a fashion show (appropriately named the Longines Elegance Prize). Drinking is encouraged and celebrated, while, for the horse team winners, there is much to be gained from the victory.
In a very real way, horse races have a communal sense of victory when one’s horse wins. The team, of course, wins a large cash prize, and those who bet on the horses in the stadium who win stand to gain even further. You can imagine what the collective cheering sounds like. The onsite Longines team remains busy because, during each of the 12 Breeder’s Cup races, the entire winning team (horse owner, horse trainer, jockey, etc.) all win Longines timepieces as part of their prize.
This latter element is important because, taking the Rolex lead, watch brands know they can earn an almost permanent place of prestige in the eye of a demographic when their products are touted as part of the prize for a big win. Rolex has race car drivers and sailors eager to win a Rolex, and Longines has jockeys, trainers, and a litany of other talents equally interested in donning their timepiece trophies.
From a competitive standpoint, horse-racing also seems to have many more surprises than say motorsport racing, where driver and team performances are often well-anticipated in advance. Horses certainly have favor over one another, but the means in which a horse can come up to beat others, even in the last seconds of a race, is a thrilling experience for everyone in attendance. Thus, expected race victory outcomes remain a huge draw for the crowd. Attending the Breeder’s Cup is a genuinely fun and culturally rich experience — with Longines being an astute partner.
As mentioned above, Longines chose the new Master Collection Moonphase as the official watch of the Breeder’s Cup this year. The collection has about 20 different versions, so it is important to understand how the Master Collection Moonphase is segmented. First, Longines decided to produce both 40- and 42mm-wide versions of the watch. In this article, I am wearing the 40mm-wide version. The watch is available either on a strap or a matching steel bracelet. Then there are the various dials that come in different colors (with different-colored hands) and with either Arabic numeral, index, or diamond hour markers. The particular Master Collection Moonphase I am wearing has a blue dial, bracelet, and index hour markers as the reference L2.909.4.92.6.
Water resistant to 30 meters with a domed sapphire crystal, the all-polished case is very nicely done, and I have high praise for the overall fit and finish. Longines prefers to be classic, so there aren’t any surprises in the case and bracelet construction, but they are “traditionally well-done” as I say. One nice feature I like is how the time, date, and moonphase complication are all set by the crown. This isn’t the first such watch to do this, but in many moonphase watches the moonphase and/or date needs to be adjusted by pressing small inset pushers around the case. That is not an issue here, as Longines designed the L899 automatic movement to perform all these functions via the crown.
The movement is also known as the ETA A31.L91 – and it was produced in collaboration with ETA and Longines which are both part of the Swatch Group. The movement is an automatic that has an uncommon 3.5Hz (25,200 bph) operational frequency (like previous generation Omega Co-Axial movements) with a 64 hours of power reserve. The movement is elegantly decorated with various polishes and can be admired through the caseback window on the back of the watch.
When does a watch like this make sense in contrast to other dress-style watches? I ask these questions because people who actually need a moonphase indicator are far fewer than those who like a moonphase indicator? In simple terms, I would recommend a timepiece like the Longines Master Collection Moonphase to someone who otherwise likes the timeless style of the Master Collection product but who wants a bit more visual interest on the dial above and beyond merely a dial for telling the time. In that sense, the moonphase complication acts like an added flavor to make the emotional and visual appeal of the watch just a bit more compelling than if it only indicated the time.
This blue dial is lovely, though the polished silver-toned hands make for legibility issues in some lighting situations. Longines also offers the Master Collection Moonphase with its “silver barleycorn” stamped dials which have blued hands that makes for a much more legible dial — but with a different style than this elegant blue model. Given that there are two case sizes and multiple dial variants of the Master Collection Moonphase — those interested in these watches will benefit from trying a few on in a retail environment before choosing which is right for them.
It is probably only a matter of time before The Longines Master Collection Moonphase watches begin to be prizes for horse races. Price for the Longines Master Collection Moonphase with this blue dial on the matching steel bracelet 40mm-wide reference L2.909.4.92.6 is $2,350 USD and the reference L2.9188.8.131.52 in the 42mm-wide case is $2,450 USD. Learn more at the Longines website here.