Watches rarely create an emotional response. They certainly can inspire awe, admiration, and appeal to our aesthetic senses. They rarely hit the right chord within a person’s soul, though. But, this one did, quite spectacularly.
”I’ve got faith of the heart…”
When I first saw the Spirit before it officially hit the stores, I was immediately in love with how well it was finished.
I’ve handled dozens of modern Longines watches from all across their line-up. Conquest, HydroConquest, various Heritage pieces, dressy Flagships, La Grande Classique, hi-tech Conquest VHP, the COSC-certified Record models, classics from the Master Collection, etc. None have impressed me as much as the Spirit did.
Then there was the advertisement. At this point, I must confess that that’s what twisted my arm.
I’m an avid Trekkie, and unlike many Trekkies, I love the intro of the Enterprise series. The progression of chapters in humanity’s exploration of the seas and skies – among them pioneers of aviation and space exploration, like Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepard… And the theme song, which resonates with me as few others do.
Then I saw this ad, with the same theme of pioneering and exploration, featuring aviators and explorers – Earhart, Lindbergh, Elinor Smith, Howard Hughes, Paul-Emile Victor.
Right there, it’s the same vibe. It immediately appealed to my inner Trekkie.
Longines and aviation
Longines has created countless extraordinary pieces in its long history. However, the ones they have made with pilots in mind have been pivotal in defining the brand’s identity.
Amelia Earhart wore a Longines on her first flight over the Atlantic. In the 1920s and 1930s, Longines worked with Charles Lindbergh and Captain Philip Van Horn Weems on creating navigational watches for pilots, resulting in the Longines Weems watch, the first piece with a lockable external timing bezel, later used extensively by the RAF.
Then there was the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch, designed to be used with Weems’ air navigation system. In 1938, Longines boasted that Wiley Post and Howard Hughes had used its watches and instruments.
Of course, Longines was also a supplier to the largest airforces of the 1930s and World War II. The RAF used the 6B/159 and the Weems, WWW-spec pieces – among them Longines – allegedly saw service until as late as the Falklands War in 1982.
There was the A-7 monopusher “avigation chronograph” to the US Army Air Corps, and… D-spec watches for the Luftwaffe. The Czechoslovak Air Forces’ service watch, the Majetek Vojenske Spravy, also known as the Majetek, features an internal rotating marker.
The list goes on and on.
Longines has several modern aviation-themed watches – to name a few, they reissued the “Greenlander” WWW, the Majetek, the A-7, and the somewhat mysterious BigEye chronograph.
Since the 1980s or so, the Lindbergh has been reinterpreted in various sizes and movements. The Weems as well – although it’s very different from the 1930s/1940s Weems watches. And there was even a collection called Spirit – loosely inspired by Amelia Earhart’s chronograph.
Still, these were all reissues or reinterpretations.
A fresh design
The new Spirit collection borrows heavily from Longines’ past. The case is inspired by Conquest watches from the 1960s, while the minute track, hands, and numerals are reminiscent of scores of watches from the 1930s and 1940s.
However, it has all been altered and blended to create a watch that, while is obvious in its “pilot” style, isn’t a copy of any piece from Longines history. And even more importantly, it doesn’t copy any other luxury pilot-style watch made currently or in the last few decades by anyone.
Most pilot watches are reinterpretations of iconic designs like the B-Uhr and other pil-mil watches, or – like the Breitling Navitimer – they’ve gone on and on without significant changes for decades already. That’s not the case with the Spirit.
Since the Spirit is not a reissue, it’s not a Heritage model, despite its vintage inspirations. The Spirit sub-collection is within the Sports segment of Longines collections, and it fits there just right.
”I can reach any star…” -the L888.4
And this watch has five of them on the dial. There has been much talk about it being a “movement rating” from Longines, but it’s really not that clear.
It seems the five stars are more of a nod to the Admiral models of the 1960s and 1970s, which indeed had brilliant movements, such as the cal. 6651.
Strangely enough, the Ultra-Chron models didn’t have any stars, despite housing the most accurate high-frequency movements that Longines had at the time. Conquests, whether chronometer or non-chronometer models, had three printed stars.
Regardless, when it comes to Longines’ mechanical movements today, the L888.4 is one they should be proud of.
Like all Longines movements, this is an ETA base – in this case, it’s the A31.L11, a heavily modified 2892. The ETA 2892, an evolution of the 1960s’ Eterna in-house calibres of the 145X and 150X series, is a tried and tested workhorse. With the L888 and its derivatives, Longines has demonstrated that it’s a very powerful base for modifications.
In addition, it’s important to note that ETA supplies this derivative of the 2892 only to Longines. Longines hasn’t designed an in-house movement in decades. However, just like the 2892-based Omega 2500, the L888 is a” reserved calibre.”
Some of the specs of the movement are a bit confusing, like the power reserve. Longines previously described the power reserve of its L888 family of movements as 64 hours, but now the specs state 72 hours.
My best guess is that they switched from providing the minimal power reserve to the most they’ve ever observed in the L888. Eight hours is a considerable margin, so it’d be a safer bet to stick with providing the minimum in the specs.
No matter what, if you were to take it off on Friday evening for the weekend and put it back on Monday, it would still be running.
Like its close relative, the Omega 2500 (third generation), the Longines L888 beats at 25200 A/h. As a result, the seconds hand motion is not as smooth as in a 2824 or a 2892 with their frequency of 28800, but smoother than in a Powermatic 80 (ETA C07 series) with 21600 A/h.
Unlike the Omega 2500 with a 27-jewel count, the L888 has the 2892’s standard 21-jewel count. Nevertheless, it does the job. In that respect, it’s very much like the L619, which was Longines’s designation for the 2892.
For roughly a year and a half now, Longines started to gradually phase out the Nivachron alloy hairspring in favor of a silicon-based Silicium material. This is excellent news, as it adds proper resistance to magnetic fields to the long list of the L888’s merits.
Initially, all Silicium-equipped Longines pieces have received a warranty extended from 2 to 5 years, although by now, the 5-year warranty is given to all mechanical watches by Longines.
At this point, what sets the L888.4 apart from other L888s is the COSC certificate. There seems to be no difference in finishing. While previously the difference was also in the hairspring material, now most new L888s are – as mentioned earlier – equipped with a Silicium one.
The hand-winding of the L888.4 is probably the smoothest I’ve ever seen, either in an automatic or a hand-wound movement. The rotor seems louder than the previous generation of ETA movements used by Longines, the L619. However, it’s not louder than, say, an ETA 2824.
The setting works butter-smooth on its own, but it’s even more comfortable with the large crown.
I’ve handled scores of Longines watches. It included the elegant but somewhat boring Presence collection, HydroConquest, the Record chronometers, and fine Heritage models like the BigEye chronograph. For the most part, Longines favors a polished or brushed finish, except for the Record, and now the Spirit too.
When I first saw the Spirit, and when I put my hands on it, it became very, very clear why they’re so proud of that watch. I’ve never seen a Longines watch with such excellent finishing. It’s probably the best luxury sports/tool watch available at this price point.
From the crystal to the case back, the finishing alternates with the delicate brushing pattern. In order from the crystal: brushed, polished, brushed, polished, brushed. The edges between these surfaces are super-sharp and finely done.
Then there’s the crown. Once again, Longines has outdone themselves. A sandblasted background lets the raised and polished winged hourglass logo and brand name stand out.
It’s also very much in line with the current trend for large crowns – think of Oris or Tudor. The screw-down crown is a pleasure to operate here, way more so than in – say – the HydroConquest. Due to this, the Spirit has a proper water resistance of 100 m.
The large crown was a common feature of pilot’s watches since they had to be operated with gloves. I was curious to test this and see if I could use the Spirit’s crown while wearing gloves. So I put on a pair of ordinary leather gloves, and… guess what? It works!
Interestingly enough, the case back is a press-in but is secured with six screws. Of course, that solution has some drawbacks, but also some advantages. For example, there’s no shear on the gaskets when the case back is closed at the factory or the service centre. And, of course, you’ll always get the winged hourglass logo – the oldest horological trademark – on the case back perfectly aligned.
If you have a little OCD as I do, then you’ll be pleased.
The crystal is something of a downside. Unfortunately, Longines went the same way as Omega and IWC by using an anti-reflective coating on both sides. The result is visually pleasing and provides excellent legibility from all angles. Sadly, the external ARC can easily be scratched. That means the sapphire crystal has lost its primary advantage.
Also, it’s a smudge and fingerprint magnet, not unlike glasses with ARC. As the dial and hands are legible, I suspect that using ARC only on the inside would not affect legibility significantly. With a cape cod cloth, you can wipe off the external ARC, and if it scratches, that’s probably a better solution (and certainly cheaper) than replacing the crystal.
Perhaps the slightly tonneau-shaped case is reminiscent of oyster cases, but only loosely. As I mentioned before, the shape and facets are reminiscent of 1960s Conquest models. Longines took design cues primarily, if not only, from their past, rather than using generic milwatch and pilot designs.
Dial and hands
It’s hard to say which is the true star of this watch: the dial or the case. I saw some fantastic dial work from Longines – on Heritage models, the blue Master Collection, the 1832, etc. However, the Spirit beats them by a considerable margin. At least the black dial does.
The steel Spirit comes in four dial versions – fine black matte, sunray blue, coarse grain matte off-white/silver, and olive green. Before it hit the stores, I was most impressed by the silver and black versions of the Spirit. Well, I enjoyed the black dial so much that I fell in love with it.
At first glance, the Spirit’s dial is plain, with incredibly legible Arabic numerals and a “scientific” minute track straight out of the 1930s or 1940s. However, it doesn’t take long for you to notice that it’s wonderfully three-dimensional and has far more depth than you’d expect.
The inner portion is recessed, and separated from the minute track by a mirror-polished silver “step.” The polished rehaut is split at every index by a rhomboidal lumed marker, which also cuts into the lower and upper layers of the dial.
All applied features – the Arabic numeral frames, the winged hourglass emblem, and the distinctive five stars – are highly polished.
The finishing of the background is superb. In a way, it’s similar to the Tudor Black Bay, but the graining is significantly more delicate. As a result, its polished appliques stand out. Or…they hide in it, because they can almost disappear in it visually depending on the light and angle.
The hands are rhodium-plated, with an incredibly fine sandblasted finish. This gets along really well with the polished steel applied features while also providing excellent legibility. Regardless of light and angle, these hands can’t possibly disappear.
The pencil/syringe style of the hands and the shape of the numerals are distinctive of the 1940s. If you look at, say, WWW or D/DH milwatches and then at the Spirit, you’ll quickly notice the similarities. Longines made watches for both the Luftwaffe and the RAF, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. However, that style of the numerals is reminiscent of another Longines pilot’s watch, the BigEye chronograph – both the reissue and the somewhat mysterious original piece.
The difference in length of the minute and hour hands might seem considerable compared to common pilot-style watches. However, it comes in handy. Reading the time is more intuitive on the Spirit than – for example – my Luftwaffe-issued Doxa “D,” which features the same syringe/pencil-style hands. Because each hand touches the scale to just the proper extent, it all comes together very nicely.
The design of the seconds hand also does a lot for the Spirit. It adds a nice splash of color and some legibility as well. The rhomboid lume plot on it, meanwhile, plays along with the tiny lumed hour markers of the same shape. This elongated counterweight might seem familiar and distinctively Longines – you’ll find the same design in the Master Collection.
Some don’t like the absence of an Arabic numeral at 3 o’clock. But, honestly, it doesn’t bother me because the matte black date disk with off-white/beige-ish print blends in nicely with the dial. Maybe the date window could have a frame, but I’m just nitpicking here.
The 42mm version of the Spirit has a cut-off numeral at 3, and that, unlike the absence of a numeral there, would bother me. IWC’s Mark XVIII, another watch often compared to the Spirit, also lacks an hour marker at 3 in favor of a date window. In the same way that IWC fans forgive the Mark XVIII for that, I forgive the Spirit for that too.
Should you want a no-date Spirit, Longines has you covered…partly. No-date versions are only available in titanium, with a darker grey dial adorned with gilt print and applied features.
The titanium version is available with a synthetic band or a bracelet, and the bracelet version is more expensive.
Like all other Longines, this one uses Super-LumiNova, and I’m happy to say that the amount of it is generous here. It charges fairly quickly and has an intense glow.
During a recent power blackout, the light of the candles was enough to give it just a little bit of a recharge. Even in the absence of artificial light, the hands and hour markers were visible for a very long time. While the highest intensity of the glow doesn’t last all that long, the – shall we say – base glow lasts long enough. It still doesn’t beat the best lume I’ve ever seen, that being on the bronze Glycine Combat Sub, but it still performs admirably.
The tiny rhomboidal markers and the plot of the seconds hand don’t tend to keep the glow going very long. The hour markers, the hour and minute hands do. If the lume plot were a bit larger, perhaps that would solve the legibility issue of the seconds hand in the dark, but it wouldn’t fit the design as well as it does the way it is.
Despite the street lamps and dashboard instruments, the Spirit remains extremely legible behind the wheel, with the lume significantly contributing to its legibility. That’s all I can ask for from it, and even a little more.
This is without a doubt the watch’s weakest point. The finishing, like on the rest of the watch, is excellent. It’s a 3-link structure, but because of the sharp edges between the brushed areas and the polished chamfers, it looks like a 7-link. It looks great. However, since no rose is without thorns…
Each of the Spirit three-hand models — black, blue, and silver in 40 or 42 mm — came in a standard and a prestige version. The Prestige comes in a different box, with an additional book, two straps, and a bracelet. The standard version offers a choice of a bracelet or a leather strap. However, that’s not the same bracelet.
The Prestige versions, and now also the green dial version, come on a better bracelet with a button-operated quick release system and a micro-adjustment on the fold-over clasp. The standard bracelet has no quick release and features a butterfly clasp with half-links (well, more like 2/3 links, actually) for adjustment. I mean, come on…
In addition, the cotter (split-end) pins seem slightly out of place on this watch. Screws would be more appropriate.
That being said, I like the look of the bracelet, but not its design.
Another problem is that my wrist and butterfly clasps don’t get along. They tend to press into my wrist, especially the buttons. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when my wrist expands, as it tends to do during high temperatures or physical effort, I experience some discomfort.
The friction-locked fold-over clasp on HydroConquests might not be the height of engineering or finishing, but I’d pick it over the butterfly clasp on Spirit in a heartbeat.
Some people want a butterfly clasp. I think they’re going to enjoy this one if that’s what they’d like. It doesn’t seem likely that the locking system could accidentally open by itself. I know, I’ve tried. I bent the wrist as much as I could after making sure it was as expanded as possible. Nothing happened. It doesn’t seem like the clasp isn’t secure.
Also, I’m not too fond of the way the end links extend well beyond the lugs. Although the Spirit might appear reasonable-sized at 40 mm, its 49.7 mm lug-to-lug measurement isn’t small, but I’m okay with it.
However, the end links stick out so far beyond the lug tips that it reminds me a bit of another Longines – the Legend Diver. Fortunately, these uber-long and links are well-integrated into the overall look of the bracelet, and they curve considerably, wrapping around the wrist.
The Spirit is there to stand up to watches priced far higher, but the bracelet is where it loses to most of them.
It’s not a bad bracelet, don’t get me wrong. The finishing is excellent. It’s nothing extraordinary in terms of design, but it does the job. It’s just that my wrist doesn’t agree with it.
Although I intend to store the bracelet in the box, I recommend getting the Spirit on the bracelet anyway. As a rule, it’s better to have an original bracelet available for resale value, even if you don’t intend to flip the watch.
Here’s one huge downside of the Spirit – the lug width is 21mm. So, it’s not like you’ll have a massive choice of NATOs and off-the-tape leather straps. Not to mention metal bracelets.
With the latter, I’m pretty sure the Spirit would look lovely on a beads of rice bracelet, a thickly woven matte steel mesh, or a riveted Oyster-style by Forstner. Well, if you’d like to test that combo, Forstner makes the Rivet in 21 mm, so… Ahhh, maybe someday I’ll check that out.
How does it feel?
When I first took the Spirit in my hand, it felt unlike any Longines I’d handled up until that point. Perhaps the closest was the most recent version of the HydroConquest, due to its heft and rock-solid build. My impression was of sturdiness even though it’s intricate. If I had to choose a watch that evokes a similar feeling, it would be the Tudor Black Bay.
The Spirit isn’t a light watch. The watch isn’t as chunky and heavy as yer token dive watch, but you can feel its weight.
Due to its slightly barrel-like shape, the case occupies quite a bit of wrist space. Unless you have a huge wrist – 8 inches or so – you might want to stick with the 40 mm version. It’ll be more than enough. The big crown adds even more bulk to the overall appearance.
The diameter alone can be misleading. The lugs are long, and the Spirit isn’t a particularly thin watch at 12.2 mm. It’s not overbearing, nor is it as bulky as the 16.3mm of the chronograph version. The domed crystal and the bezel take up most of that thickness.
A flat crystal alone would shave 1 mm or so off of the thickness, but really, this part doesn’t have much of an impact on the watch’s overall balance and centre of gravity.
After taking the Spirit’s bracelet off and replacing it with a custom-made strap from 7T2 Straps, I can say that the bracelet is responsible for much of the watch’s weight. So if it seems too heavy for you on the bracelet, don’t worry. It won’t be as heavy on a strap.
The standard version of the Spirit comes in the same box as the Record and the Master Collection – a relatively large wooden (or faux-wooden) case with off-white/beige inlay. There’s nothing wrong with the navy blue leather box that most Longines watches come in, but I appreciate the more elegant packaging for the Spirit.
This isn’t one of those humongous boxes you get with a Prestige version, or – for example – a BigEye or a Legend Diver, although that’s fine with me.
Then there are the instructions, a thick book covering every Longines except the Conquest VHP, with pockets for both the warranty card and the COSC certificate. Fortunately, Longines also throws in a lovely navy blue leather cardholder, just as they do for the Record and other models.
It’s just packaging, but it adds a lot to the overall experience of getting this watch.
The Spirit is a fantastic watch. In my opinion, it not only outclasses every other watch in the current Longines line-up. It can also easily compete with watches like the IWC Mark XVIII or the Breitling Aviator 8. Well, in terms of finishing and specs, it certainly can, although it can’t dethrone the cult following certain Tudor, IWC, or Breitling timepieces have.
I’ve seen the Spirit being called the “IWC-Killer,” but that’s only true spec-wise, if you throw the emotional response out of the equation. The problem is, you can’t. The Mark XVIII or Tudor Ranger are probably what you’ll get, despite the Spirit being as nicely finished as IWC and Tudor, and its L888.4 being far superior to either the 2824 or SW-300.
Based on specs and finishing alone, I could easily list the watches that I think compare well to the Spirit. A few examples are the IWC Mark XVIII, Tudor Heritage Ranger, Breitling Aviator 8 Automatic 41, TAG Heuer Autavia Calibre 5, and the Bremont Broadsword.
But these things alone aren’t the matter here. So the Spirit can’t and won’t be a bad choice if you like its looks ex aequo with its competitors.
The Spirit isn’t a cheap watch. I won’t say whether it’s affordable or not. That depends on your definition. For me, 2040 euros is a substantial MSRP. Even with a discount, the Spirit still costs a lot by my standards. However, Longines offers a lot for the price.
The Prestige version would cost even more – 2650 euros. With the additional 610 euros, you receive a bigger box, a better bracelet, and two extra straps, all with a quick-change system. Standard or Prestige, there aren’t any other luxury pilot-style watches that offer the same specs and finishing at this price point.
To give you an idea, here are some watches I’ve mentioned that compare well to the Spirit:
- Bremont Broadsword: 2985 euros
- TAG Heuer Autavia Calibre 5: 2950 euros
- Breitling Aviator 8 Automatic 41: 3750 euros
- IWC Mark XVIII: 4670 euros (5500 on a bracelet)
I could go on and on about how the Spirit punches above its weight, using macro shots and tech specs. But I’d simply be trying to rationalize having hopelessly fallen in love with this watch. Love is neither logical nor rational; either you feel it, or you don’t.
That’s how I feel about the Spirit. When I sat behind the wheel, with the Spirit on the wrist and Russell Watson’s Faith of the Heart from Star Trek: Enterprise playing on the car audio, I just knew that that’s the way it is with me and that watch.
Since my dad got a Longines Flagship years ago, Longines had a special place in my heart. I guess the Spirit just appeared at the right moment, delivering precisely my favorite vibe, and the specs and quality were there just to twist my arm a little bit. Not like they needed to, because it was already twisted well and good, for good. It grabbed my heart, and wouldn’t let go.
No matter what you do with it, whether it’s sailing or swimming or taking it to a business meeting, the Spirit will perform. And it’ll do so in style. This incredibly versatile watch will serve its purpose, no matter if you’re at home or if you take it with you when you boldly go where no man has gone before.
- Reference – L3.810.4.53.6
- Case material – 316L stainless steel
- Diameter – 40 mm
- Lug-to-lug – 49.7 mm
- Lug width – 21 mm
- Thickness – 12.2 mm
- Water resistance – 100 meters
- Crown – Screw-down
- Crystal – Sapphire, domed, anti-reflective coating on both sides
- Price – 2040 euro on the Longines website
- Movement – Longines L888.4 (Longines-exclusive ETA A31.L11, 2892-based) – 64 to 72h power reserve, 25200 A/h, 21 jewels, quickset date, Silicium hairspring, free-sprung balance, hack feature, automatic with hand-winding functionality, COSC-certified chronometer.
What do you think of the Longines Spirit? Let me know in the comments below.