Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s, Longines churned out watches that were issued to various armed forces units across Europe. From pilot’s watches for the Czech Air Force to field watches for the British Army, Longines made them all. More than 60 years later, the Swiss brand has created modern versions of most of these watches, buoyed no doubt by the neo-vintage trend that has swept the watch industry.
The latest addition to the Heritage line is based on a timepiece that was issued to the Marine Nationale (that’s the French Navy) in the 1940’s. The watch is fittingly called the Longines Heritage Marine Nationale (Ref. L2.8188.8.131.52.) and while it channels the Spartan look of the original, it does come with a few modern upgrades.
The original watch, issued in 1947, had a hand-wound Caliber 12.68N movement and a diminutive 33.5-mm wide case. The Marine Nationale has a special place in the history of modern horology - the first diving watch with a rotatable bezel, to time spent underwater, was developed by fellow Swiss brand Blancpain for the combat divers of the French Navy in 1953. A Tudor Submariner adopted by the navy in the 1970’s is a much sought-after piece in the vintage market today – this Tudor ‘Marine Nationale’ Submariner served as the inspiration for the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue diver launched earlier this summer.
The Longines reissue this year is 38.5 mm wide and the caseback still references the historical association. While the original used a simple “MN” inscription for “Marine Nationale”, the reissue spells out the entire name, along with the watch’s reference number and water resistance (30 metres). It is worth remembering here that the first watch water-resistant to 100 meters, the Rolex Submariner, would only be launched in 1953.
The dial features the text “Longines Fab Suisse,” the phrase an abbreviation of Fabrique Suisse (French for “Swiss Factory”). The hour numerals and hands are coated in a brown-colored Super-LumiNova, time in indicated by blued-steel baton-shaped hands and the case is topped by a domed sapphire crystal.
While the 1947 original ran the hand-cranked Caliber 12.68N, the reissue is powered by the self-winding Caliber L888.5, based on the ETA A31.L11. This COSC chronometer-certified movement features an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring and offers a substantial power reserve up to 64 hours. The Longines Heritage Military Marine Nationale (Ref. L2.8184.108.40.206) comes on a cognac-colored leather strap and retails for $2,000 (About AED7,350) and will be in stores later this year.