The Longines Spirit Flyback Collection Revives An Iconic Chronograph After 50 Years

The Longines Spirit Flyback Collection Revives An Iconic Chronograph After 50 Years

Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon



If you ask any vintage watch collector about the best mid-century chronographs, there’s little chance they won’t immediately start talking about Longines and its legendary patented calibre 13ZN flyback movement. It’s been fifty years since Longines last produced a chronograph movement with this function, but with the launch earlier this year of the Longines Spirit Flyback collection, the Saint-Imier-based watchmaker revives a legend of the past in a contemporary format. 

Before we get into the details of what the new Longines Spirit Flyback collection offers, it’s worth taking a look back at the history of the flyback chronograph function at Longines. The flyback is set apart from its more typical chronograph siblings, with its ability for the stopwatch function to reset and immediately fly back into action, rather than requiring its user to hit stop, reset and go. 

“This complication was essential for the pioneers of aviation, starting in the 1920s,” explained Giuseppe Miccio, the Longines Head of Product Development. “The particular advantage of flyback is that it gives pilots a practical and fast way of successively timing different flight stages, thus facilitating navigation.”

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It was first introduced in 1925 with the 13.33 Z calibre, before Longines filed the first patent for the mechanism in 1936 and cemented the calibre 13ZN into the history books in the process. Understandably, the mythology around this movement within collecting circles is unsurpassed. 

“First and foremost, the calibre 13ZN, Longines’ true technical jewel. Watches equipped with this calibre are some of the rarest, most prestigious and most sought-after by collectors,” Miccio expands. “American aviator Richard Byrd — the first man to fly over the South Pole — undertook several expeditions to Antarctica equipped with Longines instruments, including one in 1939 during which he wore a Longines 13ZN watch with flyback function.”

A Longines chronograph ref. 5009 from 1942 featuring the calibre 13ZN. Sold at auction in 2016 for CHF72,500. Image credit: Phillips

The flyback remained in production for nearly five decades, until industry pressures in the mid-70s and the wide adoption of the automatic chronograph movement saw it fade from Longines’ catalogues. Gone, but never forgotten, with Longines reintroducing the flyback chronograph this year thanks to a number of advancements in modern watchmaking. 

“Unfortunately,” says Longines CEO, Matthias Breschan, “Longines stopped the production of fly-back movements and watches in the early seventies.

“Because of Longines’ position within the Swatch Group, under Omega around US$5,000 and above Tissot at US$1,0000, we were never able to manufacture a fly-back movement within this price range. However, three years ago we took this challenge on again and asked ourselves, ‘With today’s technology possibilities, can we do this?’”

The answer was a resounding yes, with Longines watchmakers able to create an all-new flyback chronograph calibre that seamlessly integrated into the existing A08 chronograph base calibre. As you’d expect, it boasts all of the material benefits of the 21st century including a silicon balance-spring and a number of other antimagnetic components, which improve the accuracy of the movement and allow it to earn COSC Certification. 

“The challenge was to integrate this functionality into our base A08 calibre, says Miccio. “We wanted to integrate it into the current architecture without adding an extra module – which would have increased the proportion of the watch.”

Longines Spirit Flyback Collection

With the lengths gone to by the watchmakers at Longines, the case profile of the Longines Spirit Flyback collection only needed to grow by 2mm when compared to the non-flyback chronographs within the Spirit collection. Crafted in stainless steel, the case diameter measures 42mm across and 17mm in thickness, which isn’t an ultra-thin spec sheet by any stretch of the imagination, but still manages to pack a whole lot into a relatively modest package. 

Additionally, the brushed lugs of the Longines Spirit Flyback collection curve downwards with the natural curve of your wrist, making it wear significantly better than its dimensions would suggest. In line with the rest of the Spirit collection, the case finishing is very solid, with polished facets along the lugs emphasising the case lines and an exhibition caseback guaranteeing the watch a properly sporty 10bar (100 metres) of water resistance. 

The range is offered in two different dial colours that are split across five different references (which offer you the choice of either a stainless steel bracelet or a leather or NATO strap), with classic sunray black and blue dial tones matched with respective unidirectional rotating ceramic bezels. The dials both feature a brushed sunburst finish that plays with the light nicely, interrupted only by the two snailed chronograph registers at 3 and 9 o’clock. The potential negative space at 6 o’clock is filled with Longines heritage-inspired applied 5-stars, with no date window present to disrupt the symmetry of what is a very handsome dial design. 

Beneath the dial is the new Longines exclusive calibre L791, which as mentioned, fuses the best of past and present Longines watchmaking. 

“Like most of our recent mechanical models, this movement includes a silicon balance-spring,” Miccio says. “This material is not only light and corrosion-resistant but also remains unaffected by normal temperature variations and magnetic fields. 

Longines Spirit Flyback Collection

“Its unique properties improve the precision and longevity of the watch and allow the brand to provide these models with a 5-year warranty. Extremely precise, with a power reserve up to 68 hours, this movement is certified as a chronometer by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres.”

From front to back, there’s a lot to love about the Longines Spirit Flyback collection, especially, since it signals a return by Longines to one of the most important chapters in its history. As you’d expect, there’s also a lot more to come from Longines as it builds out a complete collection of contemporary flyback chronographs. 

“You can expect more, definitely, but I cannot give you all the details yet,” Breschan teases. “But I will say for now, that we are going to explore our unique and rich heritage a lot more because many people simply still don’t know about many of these amazing things Longines has done in its 190 years of existence.

Longines Spirit Flyback Collection

“My favourite from the Longines Spirit Flyback collection is one that we have not announced it yet, so I can promise a strong end to this year.” 

As it currently stands, the Longines Spirit Flyback collection is currently available, with an RRP of $7,250 for the references on stainless steel bracelets and $7,100 for those on leather and NATO straps. 

This article is sponsored by Longines. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.

Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon is the Editor of Boss Hunting, joining the team after working as the Deputy Editor of luxury watch magazine Time+Tide. He has a passion for watches, with other interests across style, sports and more. Get in touch at nick (at)



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