Brand story: Live long, and prosper
Longines parlays elegance and the sporting life into its own.
LIVE LONG ENOUGH, and see things come full circle. Longines, 185 years old this year and in rude health, is still based in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Entrepreneur Auguste Agassiz had sourced his watches using the établissage distributed network, under which suppliers had the luxury of working from home, as is the trend among younger workers of today’s deindustrialising western world.
It was Ernest Francillon, Agassiz’s nephew and successor, who did away with établissage for the company, consolidating production in the Longines factory; the promise of mechanical automation was the new dawn in 1867. Les Longines, the site on which the factory was built and named, employed 1,100 workers by 1911 and exported around the world, decades before Deng Xiaoping untethered China’s teeming workers from communism. The factory had already produced its millionth movement by 1899.
Francillon also anticipated the importance of branding in today’s anything-goes globalised market and its capacity for counterfeits; he trademarked the Longines name and its now-celebrated logo in 1889. The winged-hourglass now associated with Longines by consumers the world over is something of a triumph of graphic design: it is the oldest still in use in its original form registered with the World Intellectual Property Organisation. In fact, as early as 1867, Longines was already using the winged hourglass symbol and the tradename “Longines” as a guarantee of quality, or “brand values”, according to current marketing lexicon.
In celebrating its 185th anniversary, Longines has launched its “On This Day” project where the Swiss watchmaker's collective memory is revealed as the new day dawns: 365 short stories related to the rich history of the brand from January 1 to December 31 can be accessed on www.longines. com/185years/on-this-day.
Here's one that illustrates the brand’s strategic partnership with sport, notably the competitive, elegant, equestrian kind: on January 15, 2013, Longines became the first “Top Partner” of the august FEI (Fédération Équestre International). Longines has since established a network of advantageous links with the world of sports timekeeping, such as artistic gymnastics, archery, skiing and tennis, enabling it to offer its practised services to selected prestigious sports ever since. Another anecdote: collectors will be interested to know that the millionth movement produced by the Longines factory on February 2, 1899, went to Longines’ president Ernest Etienne Francillon, the son of the company’s founder.
Stepping jauntily past its 185th birthday cake and into its 186th year, Longines revisits its Flagship collection, introducing the 60th anniversary edition of the effortlessly good-looking model first sold in 1957. Timeless and tasteful with its white dial, slim profile and minimalist fasteners, hearts were won with the simple symbolism of the Flagship, its name coming from the lead vessel on which the flag of the fleet’s commander-in-chief snaps in the wind. The Flagship Heritage 60th Anniversary was selected in part in honour of British actress Kate Winslet who, when visiting the headquarters in Switzerland, fell for the original timepiece from which Longines draws inspiration for its anniversary edition.
Available in steel, yellow gold and rose gold, these numbered and limitededition models display the iconic flagship on the back as per the original pieces. The model houses an L609 mechanical calibre in its 38.5mm case with the gold versions limited to only 60 pieces, the rose gold another 60 pieces, and the steel 1957 pieces. The brushed, silvery dial comes adorned with eight indices and four Arabic numerals in yellow or rose gold, complete with a brown, alligator leather strap with buckle. The watch is water-resistant up to 30m with an automatic winding mechanical movement.
For more information on the rich heritage of Longines, and a glimpse of the classic 60th anniversary Flagship Heritage mode, drop by the Longines 185th Anniversary Exhibition from November 14 to 19 at Vivo City, Singapore.
Left Longines won the Grand Prix at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris with this pocket watch named La Renommée, containing the 21.59-calibre chronometer. Opposite page Flagship Heritage: 60th Anniversary 1957-2017.