In many ways, vintage-inspired releases from Longines have changed the face of watch collecting everywhere, and with this latest release, the Saint-Imier based brand isn’t done yet. The historically faithful Longines Ultra-Chron dive watch is a nod to the late-60s era of watchmaking innovation and creativity, as an artfully designed and technologically interesting everyday timepiece.
The 1960s was arguably one of the most important decades in the history of Swiss watchmaking, as the final era of uninterrupted mechanical timekeeping before the first quartz watches came to market. It was the final decade of a legacy of relentless mechanical precision by the Swiss watchmaking industry, of which Longines was at the cutting edge for much of the last century and beyond.
It’s this mechanical precision in pursuit of perfect timekeeping that the original Longines Ultra-Chron represents, as the first hi-beat dive watch that was ever released 1968, while simultaneously being one of the final hi-beat watches of its era. It was Christmas Day in 1969 that the first quartz watch hit shelves, meaning just a year later, the arc of achieving accurate watchmaking would change forever.
Aside from the charming cushion case design and the high contrast dial, the beauty of the original Longines Ultra-Chron from 1968 was the automatic 431 calibre inside. This hi-beat calibre was tested to offer superior accuracy compared to other movements from the same period, in part thanks to it beating 10 times per second, or 36,000 times per hour. In the late ’60s when the 431 calibre was first launched, it was rated to be accurate within 2 seconds per day, a remarkable achievement for the time.
All of this history leads us to the 2022 edition of the Longines Ultra-Chron, which is an accurate reinterpretation of the distinct 1968 original design, and a far cry from Longines more modern dive watches. Featuring a balanced 43mm stainless steel case, its design is very close to that of the original in its cushion shape and attractive blend of satin-brushed and polished case surfaces.
The case is secured by a solid steel caseback, which with the screw-down crown guarantees the watch 300m of water resistance. The other attractive feature of the case is the black ceramic bezel with red minute markers, an upgrade from the original bakelite bezel and nicely matching the red highlights on the dial.
Probably the biggest visual change from the original in the new Longines Ultra-Chron is the lack of a date window in the dial. The most orthodox purists might cry foul, but I think it’s an improvement to the overall look of the watch, balancing out the dial and refocusing the watch to its practical purpose as a diver’s timepiece.
The rest of the dial is retrained, featuring the original Ultra-Chron logo at 6 o’clock, while the winged hourglass of Longines enjoys pride of place at 12 o’clock. The red minute hand is extremely easy to read, matching the tone of the original, while the black surface of the dial has a no-nonsense matte texture.
Beneath the dial is the updated L836.6 calibre, an in-house movement from Longines that runs at the high-frequency rate of 36,000bph. In the tradition of super-accurate hi-beat movements within the Longines archive, this L836.6 calibre has been independently tested by the Geneva-based TIMELAB organisation which has awarded it the “ultra chronometer” certification. This certification is the result of each movement being individually tested over a 15 day period, with accuracy measured while placing the watch in a number of different positions and in different temperatures, both of which can heavily impact accuracy.
If you’ve decided a reissued Ultra-Chron needs to join your collection, or even make its way to your wrist as your first watch, you’re left with one final decision: bracelet or leather strap? The watch is available with either option, in a brown leather strap and steel pin buckle, or with a stainless steel bracelet that is closed with a folding clasp. You’ll have the option to purchase your Longines Ultra-Chron in a special presentation box that will arrive with an additional black NATO strap made of recycled material.
From today, the Longines Ultra-Chron is available for sale via your local Longines boutique, or online. On the stainless steel bracelet, the Ultra-Chron has an RRP of $5,200, while the brown leather strap version has an RRP of $4,800.