March 8, 2010
by Ariel Adams
My first tourbillon. The package was delivered to me and I quickly opened the box to find the Longio case inside. It was a larger presentation box, but that made sense given some of the included accessories. I hastily lifted the leather lid and a wide smile appeared on my face to see the almost mythical complication operating under the plastic film cover on the watch dial. Being an automatic movement, the transit had kept the watch wound enough for it to be moving when I first saw it. That little rotating balance wheel, spinning while it oscillates had a profound effect on me – given that I have been writing about $100,000 plus tourbillons for a while. Now I had one in my home. The difference here is where the tourbillon was made (that of course implies a host of differences). While most of tourbillon movements I have written about have European origin, this guy was from China.
And the watch totally is a “guy.” Very masculine proportions and an aggressive stance. Maybe I am wrong for saying this, but I am surprised that a design from China has such a cool look. The design isn’t necessarily a complex feat of refinement and careful study – but more a raw, architectural style with a guttural sense of strength. It is like the unpredictable marriage of Japanese armor design and the architectural style of proud looking propaganda-run state government buildings. I need to caution that last point, because if you’ve never seen government buildings made out of the direction of propaganda driven countries (communists, dictatorship, etc…), you’d have no idea what I am talking about. Unlike the cheap residences of communist era countries for example, the government buildings were very strong looking and meant to illicit a strong sense of pride and respect for the “establishment.” I see a lot of this almost neo-Roman mixed with art-deco on steroids style in this watch. I feel as though this exaggerated explanation is necessary, because I want to show you that this is a unique design, but also why I think it stands out. It is possible that given China’s government, there is a bit of this design element in their government buildings, which might have influenced the watch design. Not having been to China, I can’t really say. Though a hint about their design philosophy comes from the brand’s sub-slogan “The P.R.C. (People’s Republic of China) Manufacture of Exceptional Mechanical Timepieces.”
Regardless of the actual inspiration for the design, it is a lasting one that most men with a taste for the bold will enjoy. Traditionalists will probably not be too keen on this watch, as it is quite the opposite of the demure Swiss timepiece that we have an image in our minds of when thinking about standard dressy timepieces. I personally get a big kick out of wearing it. I wrote about this Longio watch a while ago before it even had a formal name here. Since then it has been given the name “Telamon” Now I can call it something proper. So this is the Longio Telamon 1000m diver watch, Ref. SG3829SB (SG3829). It is one of several tourbillon watches that brand currently offers, but the grandest one in my opinion. Nevertheless, most of their designs share this modern-esque style of outspokenness and poise that is not necessarily what you would expect from Chinese design. Perhaps this is due to Longio’s proximity to the more free-spoken area of Hong Kong. Plus, Hong Kong is one of the most important places in the world for the watch industry, so no doubt Longio benefits from being able to experience the offerings from numerous brands.
If you haven’t heard of Longio, that is OK. I hadn’t either until a while ago, but as with all new brands our education must start somewhere. Longio has apparently long been working as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and ODM (original design manufacturer) for other watch brands for a while now. This schooled them in how to make watches, even if they didn’t put their name on it. This should at least bestow confidence that they know what they are doing, and that they do it all themselves.
Let’s chat about the movement, as this is going to be an important component of people actually buying the watch. Longio uses an automatic tourbillon movement that they make. It has 19 jewels, beats at 21,600bph, and has a power reserve of 65 hours when fully wound. Functions include the time with the one minute tourbillon acting as the subsidiary seconds dial. Along with the automatic winding, you can hand wind the movement. I can’t speak to much of the movement’s decoration and finish aside from what I see in the open tourbillon window. A large segment of the lower part of the dial has been wisely used to display the tourbillon. You see the complication moving around just as you would expect. It is no less satisfying to watch in operation that other similar tourbillons. There is a thin bridge over the tourbillon carriage and blued screws to enhance the look.
I would say that there is one major difference between the Longio tourbillon and its European counterparts – hand finishing. The Europeans have long prided themselves in taking long periods of time to delicately hand decorate and finish watch movement parts. This involves taking the pieces straight from the expensive machines that make them and polishing and finishing them – more often than not under a microscope. This is why Swiss movements for example, appear as beautiful as they do. Such finishing also assists with quality and finding defective parts. Longio doesn’t have that same type of look in the movement. Though you need to be a real connoisseur (like myself I guess) to notice it. In fact, for most people, looking at the Telamon’s tourbillon with the naked eye reveals “just a cool looking tourbillon.” Most of the differences aren’t apparent until you get really close or check things out under magnification. And while you ponder how nice it is that someone lovingly filed each gear and bridge in a watch, you must be mindful of the price. It of course goes without saying that Swiss tourbillon watches cost many more times that of one from Longio.
Longio was not the first Chinese watch brand to offer a tourbillon movement. I don’t know who was, or how much lower or high in price they are. I do know that there are many out there with much lower quality tourbillon movements than what Longio offers. I am not an expert of Chinese tourbillon movements, so I can only comment on what I know compared to the Europeans. Even though Longio doesn’t give its tourbillon and movement the same type of hand decoration, you still have actual people putting these watches together. This is just the type of thing that requires skill and hands-on treatment. A tourbillon is not easy to make or put together. Thus I know that like the Europeans, there must be someone that is actually hand-assembling these movements. Accuracy is actually on par or a little bit off most European tourbillon movements with deviation of about 10-25 seconds a day. This might seem like a lot, but actually isn’t that off from what you find else where. While Tourbillon movements seem to suggest they make watches more accurate, this isn’t true. There are fun toys to watch, but functionally don’t really do anything. Their main allure is their complexity, the novelty of watching them in action, and the emotion that is built around them. For a watch to be a COSC Chronometer, it can still be off by about 6 seconds a day, and there are very few COSC certified tourbillon watches out there. So I can freely say that this Chinese tourbillon movement isn’t that far off from your “run of the mill” Swiss tourbillon movement.
Another fun fact – Longio gives its tourbillon movements a lifetime warranty. You’ll need to contact Longio for more details on that, but that does reassure me about having concerns with the longevity of quality of the watch movement. If it breaks, looks like Longio has your back.
You should understand that all tourbillon movements are more delicate than standard mechanical movements. This applies to any such style movement watch. So the aggressive sport like nature of the Telamon diver is a bit of an irony. “Gentle diving (no matter how deep up to 1000 meters) should be OK, but don’t take the watch out on vigorous hikes, bike rides, or other “shock” prone activities. Look, if you are the type of person that can’t seem to keep their watch from being their personal shield, then a tourbillon watch (of any maker) isn’t gonna be right for you. There are lots of other more shock resistant watches to meet your clumsy needs. If you can take care of your watch a bit, treating it like a precious mechanical object that it is, then you should consider the strong allure of the most expensive and emotionally charged style of complication out there – the tourbillon. Oh, yea, you need to be able and afford it too. But that comes much closer to reality with the Telamon.
Now for the rest of the watch. You know… what really matters more of the time. The Longio Telamon is a bigger watch at 47mm wide in steel and tall at 18mm high. It isn’t light either. Though placing it on the included rubber strap will lighten the load. The fragile types that need a light watch however, should go get themselves a plastic Swatch, I’ve got a nice one for you right here. As a diver style watch, the Telamon works nicely. The tall case has a nicely rotating diver’s bezel (with a lume tip) that moves satisfyingly and has good style. The case is 1000 meters water resistant, has a helium escape valve, and the caseback has a fun little engraving of a diver (silly and cute looking). I like the lightheartedness of the image combined with the aggressive stance of the watch. Watch crystal is sapphire, and AR coated I believe. Legibility is good, and the dial has a nice color contrast to it. The hour markers are large enough, and while they are disrupted by the tourbillon, the chapter ring hour and minute indicators continue. I enjoy the look of the dial, and it is easy to live with. The tourbillon is apparent, and made more so by the skeletonzied hands. Plus, I like that the hour markers are applied. The hand tips and hour markers are coated with a SuperLumiNova that glows blue, but for some reason seems to require a lot of light to charge. Also, the hands are a bit short, and I would have liked for them to be a bit more conspicuous on the dial. Problem is that the hour markers and the tips of the hands are similar sizes, so they get mixed together mentally a bit. These items aren’t a big deal, but are certainly areas for Longio to improve upon.
Wearing the watch is more comfortable than the jagged edges of the case would have you believe. Although heavy, the case stays on your wrist well, and the large lugs are curved to help keep it there. I am genuinely fond of the style. I think the Telamon looks damn cool, and I always feel good wearing it. It is as though the case style is the main allure, and the tourbillon is the icing on the cake. The bracelet is interesting. Seeing early images of it, I wasn’t sure whether I would dig it, but I do. It moves very smoothly and is comfortable. Although the watch has some sharper edges around it, none are a bother. Though if you manually wind the watch a lot you need to hold the crown a bit on the outside as you can otherwise rub up against some angled surfaces.
The 24mm wide bracelet is chunky and have lots of brushed surfaces like the case. Even though no parts of the case are mirror polished, having so many angles gives the watch a shiny look when it moves around in the light. The neat looking Longio logo is engraved on the crowns and on the deployment clasp. The claps is push button operated, and works much more nicely than a lot of other Chinese watch bracelets I have experienced. It also has a cool ratcheted divers extension that is similar to the one on this Orient 1000m Diver watch. Meaning you can extend it at different lengths, all while you are still wearing the watch. That feature, I quite like.
This review needs to come to a close because there is only so much you will read. In short, the Longio Telamon Tourbillon watch is a cool looking diver’s watch with a unique spirit and an automatic tourbillon movement. While it does not have the level of refinement that a European tourbillon watch has, it is no where near as expensive. At $7,999, the Longio Telamon Tourbillon is an expensive dive watch and an inexpensive tourbillon. They hope that finding a place somewhere in the middle they will get a good audience. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with the watch at all, but it isn’t the same as a European style watch. If you are looking for a unique dive watch that isn’t like the majority of them out there, it is a good option. It is also a good choice for those who want a tourbillon and either can’t afford the $50,000 plus prices it costs to get Swiss one, or simply want a starter tourbillon piece. Of course there is the style of the watch as well that should appeal to more than a few people. Perhaps Longio will make a non tourbillon version of the Telamon as well, that should sell quite nicely I imagine.