While brands from across the industry have taken to reimagining historic releases over the past few years, perhaps none has leveraged its historic catalog as extensively or as effectively as Longines. Heritage inspired designs have become a backbone of the brand’s lineup over the past decade, and one of the first series chosen for reinterpretation back in 2012 was the Avigation Watch Type A-7. Designed in tribute to a unique monopusher chronograph design created for the US Army Air Corps in 1935, this first reissue was a near exact copy of the original model with a massive 49mm case diameter. While this initial version drew praise for its authenticity, the enormous dimensions made it a difficult sell for the average collector. In 2016, Longines rectified this problem with a 41mm version featuring a white dial and ornate Art Deco Arabic numerals. For 2020, the brand has returned to this unique heritage concept, creating the cleanest and most wearable variant of the series yet. This new Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 is the first regular production model of the line to feature a black dial, and sports a smoother, less ornate aesthetic than its predecessors.
The 41mm stainless steel case of the black dial Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 shares the shape of the vintage original, but the size and proportions have been massaged for modern tastes. The overall form still takes the “pocket watch for the wrist” concept, with a rounded, smooth curve running uninterrupted from the edge of the bezel to the edge of the caseback and long straight attached lugs. That said, the reasonable 41mm diameter makes this much more svelte on the wrist than many similar designs. Of course, the focal point for this case design is the offset monopusher crown at 2 o’clock, which gives this case miles of unique personality. Like many of its vintage inspired designs, Longines eschews a display caseback for the Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935, instead going for an ornately etched solid back with an aviation motif.
Like all its predecessors in the Type A-7 1935 line, the dial of this new model is dominated by its 40 degree rotation off center. Keeping the monopusher crown in line with the 12 o’clock mark leads to an unmistakable look on the wrist, optimized for easy reading while holding onto an aircraft control stick. Previous iterations of this design have leaned heavily into the ornate, bold styling of the mid-‘30s original, but this latest version keeps the spirit of the era alive while delivering a far easier aesthetic for daily wear. The basic elements of the cathedral hands and large lumed Arabic numerals are carried over here, but the execution gives this new model a dramatically different character. First and foremost is the lume application. While the 2016 version of the Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 also used patina lume, the exaggerated pumpkin orange tone is thrown out the window here in favor of a subtler khaki tone that still gives a vintage feel without drawing as much attention to itself. Likewise, the hour numerals have been extensively reworked. The blocky, angular antique pilot numerals of previous models have been abandoned, replaced by a series of slimmer streamlined numerals that still feel suitably vintage in execution. The matte black dial surface itself is the other dramatic change from previous versions, providing a sportier and more serious look to the overall design. Like previous versions, the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock arrangement of the chronograph and small seconds subdials provides some of the most dramatic reinforcement for the off-center dial architecture, offering a strong diagonal visual focus line across the dial surface. The execution for the subdials themselves is impressive as well, with handsome snailing for dynamic light play and a delicate outer railroad track for added vintage appeal. The 6 o’clock subdial, however, also contains the watch’s biggest visual stumbling point. The integrated date window at 6 o’clock not only disrupts this otherwise handsome subdial, the white date wheel creates a distracting hole in the uniform black dial surface. With a black date wheel or no date window at all, this dial would be nearly perfect.
Like the 2016 model, the new Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 is powered by the Longines Calibre L788.2 automatic chronograph movement, also known as the ETA A08.L11. This is a dramatically reworked version of the classic ETA/Valjoux 7750 architecture, adapted to the new monopusher layout while also swapping out the original cam lever actuation system for a more precise column wheel. This movement is produced exclusively for Longines by Swatch Group partner ETA and offers an impressive 54 hour power reserve with a 28,800 bph beat rate.
Longines looks to add a touch of elegance to this military-inspired design with its factory strap offering. The Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 is delivered on an alligator leather strap in deep chocolate brown. While this does give a bit of formality to an otherwise deeply informal design, it’s easy to see this watch wearing exceptionally well on something more distressed, like worn calf leather or especially suede.
Longines continues to emphasize the sheer depth and breadth of its legacy with its vintage inspired offerings, and this latest black dial Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 is easily one of the most interesting and distinctive heritage pilot chronograph options on the current market. The black dial Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 1935 is expected to hit authorized dealers in early fall 2020, with a projected MSRP of $3,450. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.