Why not...? Family and the Longines Heritage 1945
Our collector explores the world of watches with sentimental value, being handed down from generation to generation, through the lens of his personal experience.
There are military watches, pilot’s watches and watches that have been to the moon. They inspire dreams. But there is a category of watch that it far less exclusive but much more important to those who wear them: they are the “family” watches.
What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I’m talking about all those watches that have entered our lives as gifts or to celebrate important moments. These watches also remind us of those who bought them for us or those who used to wear them. They are rich in emotions, memories and imagery.
Sometimes they live with us, often they are hidden away in drawers and suddenly appear during a spring clean.
What is interesting about these watches is that they come from different brands and can have totally different styles. There is no perfect example of a family watch. They are all individual in that they belong not to us, but to who we are.
They are a connection with our past, our present and our future. They are handed down across generations and sometimes seem very old-fashioned. But they nevertheless continue to appeal.
When I think about such watches, three immediately spring to mind.
First, there is a quartz Certina. It’s an ana-digi rectangular watch that was purchased in the 1980s on my first ever visit to Geneva with my parents. It was my first watch. I wore it and then dropped it (in the figurative sense). But it never really left me and it reappeared a few months ago. After a quick trip to the watchmaker it once again looks spiffing! But this time I’ve switched the stainless-steel bracelet for a colourful NATO strap.
The second watch is even more rich in emotion. It is a watch that my father wore all his life. It was his engagement present. He never abandoned it and that’s a wonderful lesson. Even when he was ill, even when he was at death’s door, he wore it, right up until his dying days. Then my mother inherited it and history repeated itself until she left to join the man she originally offered it to.
Now it’s with me. As soon as I inherited it, I decided to bring it back to life, because it had suffered. Even the movement had been replaced in the 1980s for a quartz movement. And the work done at the time resembled that of a butcher rather than a watchmaker… The movement was glued to the dial and the dial was pushed into the case. The glass was split.
After several months of intensive care, it now looks better than ever. The small case in yellow gold was reworked and the lugs thickened (the previous lugs were soldered). The dial was replaced for a new one that was made to order. And the movement was replaced with a historically accurate hand-wound France Ebauches mechanical movement from its year of production: 1963. The funny thing is that it has no brand name. It is anonymous, but it has considerable presence.
The third is an Ebel. I love the watch and the brand. It was a gift from my wife on a trip to New York. It is a Voyager with a world time complication and it has accompanied me on all my trips ever since.
It travels every two weeks, crossing the Pacific Ocean as others would take the metro. It has been to Africa and to Asia and visited most of the European capitals. No other watch deserves its name as much as my Voyager. But above all, it’s about love.
A 33mm model, a small quartz watch and a travel watch. They are all different but united by emotions and memories. Each evokes a period, a person and a feeling. The pride of having one’s first watch, the nostalgia of my parents and the love that supports me every day.
And yet the idea for this article only came to me recently. Because my father-in-law visited us for a few weeks and one day asked me what watch he should buy before leaving the United States for good to go back to live France. It’s a tough question that needed discussions and careful thought. It was, after all, to be a special item to mark the end of an era and the start of a new one. And, of course, it was destined to become a family watch…
I have already covered Longines several times in my Why not? articles.
There is something reassuring about the brand from Saint Imier. It doesn’t overdo things and stays modest, but at the same time knows how to reinvent itself. It produces affordable watches without falling into the trap of banality. It is also capable of showing off its fantastic history and constantly relaunching interesting models.
Family watches are usually simple, solid and affordable. They are rarely grand complications, diamond-studded watches or timepieces that cost a fortune. Buying them nevertheless requires some financial sacrifice, perhaps dipping into savings. You think twice about buying them, and budget is therefore important.
The brand – and the watch – should respect this effort. That’s why I like Longines watches. The brand seems to respect its history as much as it respects its existing and future customers. It tries to do things right, balancing quality and price, creativity and classicism.
So, when I had to answer my father-in-law’s question, one of the first brands that came to mind was Longines. And I was right!
The Longines Heritage 1945: Once upon a time…
All watch stories could start like that, as could every family history.
The Longines Heritage 1945 has an interesting story behind it, because once upon a time it was a practically unknown watch that belonged to a collector – and well-known watch blogger. The story could have ended there, but when this watch first appeared it was noticed not just by readers, but by Longines as well.
Because everything about this simple watch with its salmon dial appealed. It had all the ingredients for success: a simple yet original design, an enduring classicism, poise and a form of originality which meant that it could pass both as a dress watch and a casual watch. Last but not least, it had a “year of birth” – 1945 – that is understood by everyone.
Once they had the original watch in their hands, the teams at Longines decided to reproduce it and relaunch it.
They kept its signature elements: the salmon-coloured dial whose colour changes at different angles and the flat, wide bezel that gives it true presence. The case is bigger and now measures 40mm in diameter. The small seconds at 6 o’clock is still there, as are the alternating hour markers with numerals for the even hours and dots for the odd hours. The hands are very slender and blued. Their colour matches that of the dial perfectly, offering an interesting contrast and perfect legibility.
Longines Heritage 1945 © Longines
What is also interesting is that Longines has kept the strap that was fitted to the watch that was loaned to them. This strap, with its vintage look, probably isn’t the same as the original one that came with the watch in 1945. Over the years the watch has no doubt had its strap changed numerous times. The choice of strap is very important and it’s a shame that brands don’t pay more attention to it. We too often find the too classical – and eco-unfriendly – alligator, or plain calfskin. But this Heritage 1945 is completely different with its gold nubuck leather and vintage stitching. This choice makes the watch look a lot more casual than it probably did originally. It looks like a sport-chic model. That is one of the reasons why I chose the 1945.
A “family” watch should distance itself from fashion and discretion should be its main asset. It should be able to disappear and reappear years later and continue to appeal.
The Longines Heritage 1945 is not just a nice tribute to the past. It is a watch that is easy to wear on any day and any occasion. It isn’t eye-catching, but it knows how to stand out. And because it is so easy to wear, it shouldn’t be protected or hidden. It will take some shocks and scratches, and its strap will probably develop a nice patina quite quickly. And it will be better for it. It will give it more character and develop its own story in parallel with its wearer.
And one day he may say to his grandchildren, “Once upon a time…”.
What does the devil’s advocate think?
The devil always has problems with family emotions and usually steers clear of watches that convey feelings and emotions. So, no family watches for Lucifer!
But on a more serious note, I just have two small complaints about our Longines Heritage 1945.
First, its size. The shape of the case and the dial opening naturally make the watch look bigger than it actually is. So even though it is 40mm in diameter, it wears more like a 41 or 42mm. The ideal size would have been 38mm, or even smaller.
The small seconds subdial is a little too high. The “Automatic” inscription is superfluous and removing it may have allowed this dial to be positioned lower. Furthermore, this is exactly how the original model from 1945 looked – they just had to copy it. I really do wish brands would ban forever more the mention of “Automatic” on a dial because it seems so unnecessary. Less is more and “Automatic” is starting to annoy me!
How to wear the Longines Heritage 1945 with style and presence ?
We have seen that the Longines 1945 is easy to wear, original and has a certain charm. So finding the right outfit to go with it should not be a problem. To pay tribute to its year of production, and the age of my father-in-law who now wears it, I have decided to recreate a 1940s style.
Let’s start with the trousers for a change.
If you look at photographs from the period, the style was for wide trousers with one or two pleats. Luckily, although modern styles are much thinner, we have seen a comeback by pleated trousers which can be worn without a belt thanks to adjustable fasteners on the sides. A pair of off-white trousers in a linen and cotton mix from Suit Supply (summer 2019 collection) would be ideal. For a more classic look, go for a grey pair in lightweight wool.
The shirt should contrast with the trousers, so opt for a blue denim shirt (Ralph Lauren) but err on the lighter side.
Avoid the too classic look of Oxford shoes. Why not go for some plain Converse (ideally, blue) that would complete a summery casual look? If you chose the grey trousers, try the Weston 180 navy velours calfskin mocassins (Roland Garros 2019 collection) or the fantastic Altan in aged olive-green velours calfskin.
The jacket should stay with the classic blue tones. In keeping with the 1940s theme, why not try a Tie Break blazer with tennis stripes from Artlinghttps://www.artling.fr/veste-tie-break/.
All that remains is for you to put on your Heritage 1945 and go and listen to some jazz in a cool café. And take time to think about your family and those who helped to shape your taste for watches!
Based in St. Imier since 1832, Longines has a long tradition in watchmaking, characterised by the elegance of its watches. Using expertise gained as the company has evolved, Longines has gradually forged ties with the world of sport, where it demonstrates its excellence in precision timekeeping. Today, Longines is the oldest brand still in business, unchanged, in the international registers held by the World Intellectual Property Organization...Find out more >
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