Why not...? Patriotism and the Longines HydroConquest USA Edition
This Longines HydroConquest USA Edition is available in three specific versions and reserved for the American market.
In our globalised world, the notion of a country or a nation has never been so important. Different types of nationalism are gaining ground and being expressed in many ways. Whether it is in the form of flags, borders or walls, a sense of belonging to a country can take on a positive note (patriotism) or a negative one (nationalism). As well as expressing pride or fear, it can also either strengthen a culture by integration or push back to protect it.
A country is therefore something that it is difficult to detach ourselves from. We can, of course, travel – or even emigrate – but we will always be reminded where our roots are, in some way or another.
So, our geographic origin is important and determines who we are. What’s more, there are many ways in which we can show this. Sport allows us to come together under the same flag, as does cuisine. There are also groups of friends, literature, films and even the way we dress.
Patriotism is not just an individual thing. It is related to history, the economy and industry. And this is where the subject meets our shared passion for watches.
Take the example of the automotive industry. Even though it is globalized, the industry’s players retain close links with their countries of origin. Little explanation is needed to show that Audi, BMW and Mercedes are inextricably linked to Germany and the positive (or negative) associations that come with that. Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati are in a similar position: the charm and the success of these brands from the other side of the Alps transcends the quality of their products to convey a kind of patriotic attachment. “Italian beauty versus German quality.” The sentence may seem oversimplified, yet it has defined the car industry – and the images of its brands – for many years. Furthermore, when politicians want to demonstrate their support for the national economy, they always seem to end up in a car factory, not a watch factory.
But the watch also has its role in this story of “countries”.
Few industries are as closely linked to their countries of origin. Swiss Made has become a brand in itself, allowing the watch industry to dominate the rest of the world. For a long time, a dial that bore the words “Swiss Made” had an undeniable competitive advantage and assumed a natural dominance over any form of competition. Few other countries could compete with the strong image of lakes, mountains and Swiss watch workshops. Only Japan could – almost – compete at the same level as Switzerland.
Swiss Made versus Made in Japan – the battle reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s.
But the reality of a gloablised world gradually imposed itself on Swiss industry, increasingly calling into question the notion of Swiss Made. You only have to read the rules that define the link between the country and production to see that the reality of Swiss origin is more of a bluff. Some micro-brands in the sector have even turned this to their marketing advantage. In this respect the example of Code 41 is interesting, since its founders offer complete transparency of origin and call the current realities of Swiss Made into question.
But is the watch industry any different from the car industry? Are all BMW cars assembled in Munich using components sourced exclusively from German suppliers? Of course not. But wherever they are assembled, the image of their German origins overshadows the realities of their production. Why? Because beyond the industry itself there is emotion. And it is sufficiently strong to excuse the ambiguities surrounding the “industrial” accuracy of Swiss Made.
Emotion versus facts. Now that’s an interesting dilemma…
This is something that the watch industry has to accept, but it’s also something that its customers have to understand. How many watches are 100% Swiss Made? I’m not sufficiently expert in the industrial side of things to give you an answer. But I know that the figure is probably lower than you might expect.
But is this really such a big deal?
Maybe not, if emotion, transparency and honesty come into play. Swiss origin may be as much intellectual as it is tangible. It can also be a way of doing things, a way of being, a leadership or company culture. And all of this can be exported, learned and even built up beyond the national borders, while nevertheless remaining associated with a national heart! Made in Switzerland is one of the fundamental strengths of our watch industry, but it should not be the only one. Above all, the notion of Swiss Made should be re-examined so that it keeps its relevance in a world where the notion of borders evolves daily.
This “Made In” story would not be complete without talking about another country that shows as much patriotic emotions and images as Switzerland: the USA. Made in the US is probably still stronger than Swiss Made. How many brands are an American symbol and bear – and export – the star-spangled banner? Too many to mention, but have a look around you and I’m sure you will find some in an instant.
Swiss Made versus Made in the US – another interesting duel!
How can these two giants in national identity be reconciled? This is precisely what Longines has tried to do and what we are now going to talk about.
The Swiss brand was born in 1832 in Saint-Imier under the name Comptoir Horloger de Saint-Imier.
A few years later the watches were assembled on a site above what was called “Les Longines”, which gave its name to the brand. Even if the name sounds a little anglicised, it is fundamentally Swiss. But from the outset, the company’s founders established ties with the USA and developed business on the north American continent. Its links with the USA were not restricted to commercial agreements.
At the end of the 19th century, the technical director at Longines brought back industrialisation techniques from the United States and helped to take Swiss watchmaking into a new era. But the link between the two countries does not stop there. It also involves sport and adventure.
On May 20, 1927, 7:52 a.m., New York time, Charles Lindbergh was taking off aboard the “Spirit of St. Louis
In 1886, Longines was already active in sports sponsorship as a supplier to the judges in American hippodromes, especially in New York. But it was not just in American horseriding. There was also aviation, where Longines was associated with the early pioneers like Charles Lindbergh. And the story would not be complete without mentioning US Navy officer Van Horn Weems, who filed a patent for a navigation watch.
The brand from Saint-Imier has been forging links with the USA for many years and the watch we are going to talk about today is part of this tradition.
The Longines HydroConquest USA Edition: Made for USA…
This is a classic watch, but it is reserved for the American market. It’s a diver’s watch, with a 41mm diameter, that was originally offered with a steel bracelet. It is fitted with the self-winding calibre 619/888 (on an ETA 2892 base), which offers 42 hours of power reserve. It offers everything you would want from a diver’s watch: a unidirectional rotating bezel in ceramic, a generously-sized screw-in crown, a full case back and water resistance of 300 metres.
The American edition is available in three specific versions: a steel model with a blue dial, a black PVD model with a black dial and a gunmetal version with a grey dial. All the dials have beautiful oversized 12/6/9 numerals. The gunmetal is my favourite, since it is both more versatile than the black and much more original than the steel. Furthermore, I think Longines allowed itself a touch of humour (perhaps involuntarily) by offering a gunmetal version in a country where gun laws are so divisive.
HydroConquest USA Edition, blue © Longines
To set this American edition apart, Longines chose to add the letters “USA” on the dial between 4 and 5 o’clock. It may look classic, but look again. You don’t see the name of a country on a watch dial very often. There are brands that offer watches in the colour of a country or with “national” straps (Hublot and Omega) or which refer to monuments or historical codes. But few opt for such a direct choice as naming the country on the dial. In the USA, it works. Displaying the name of the country is a classic and boosts sales.
HydroConquest USA Edition, black © Longines
Another discreet but noteworthy element is the number 50 on the ceramic bezel, which has a different colour SuperLuminova coating, as a tribute to the 50 American states. The engraved case back has a specific logo and the wording “US EXCLUSIVE EDITION”.
And the Longines HydroConquest comes with two straps: the classic steel bracelet and a rubber NATO strap, which is a nice touch.
HydroConquest USA Edition, © Longines
What does the devil’s advocate think?
The Longines is a classic watch that it is difficult to find fault with.
And that might well be the one reproach we could make. It tries to please as many people as possible and doesn’t want to go too far with its “American attitude”. The NATO strap offered with the watch is high quality, but it could have been a more colourful “stars and stripes” version, or a choice of red and white or tricolour versions.
The choice of dials is also clean, simple and versatile.
Precisely. Maybe they could have added another, slightly crazier, model, which would have become the perfect talking piece for the American market, which loves this kind of story.
The packaging is also simple and effective. Again, the same comment applies. In a country where show is everything, the box could have played a leading role in this American show.
HydroConquest USA Edition, caseback © Longines
How should you wear this Longines HydroConquest with a Made in USA style?
Along with cuisine, fashion is another form of expressing patriotism. Our style of the day therefore needs to be typically American.
Let’s start with the jacket. For a sporty look I would go for Filson, and for a more dressy look I would take a classic Ralph Lauren blazer. In this case, the simpler the better, so the wool jacket with gold buttons found in every Ralph Lauren store would be a good start. If there is a designer who expresses the American Dream, it’s Ralph Lauren.
Under the blazer, the shirt. There is nothing better than a button-down shirt from Brooks Brothers, another reference in the preppy style and a mainstay of POTUS (Presidents Of The United States) wear for many years.
The East Coast brand invented this type of shirt, with a button-down collar, which has become a staple of US style. The choice of colours and styles offered by Brooks Brothers means that there is something for everyone. The classically-minded will go for plain colours, while those looking to stand out can choose check patterns with some original hues!
If it’s a little chilly outside, pull over a cotton “Teddy Bear” or “American Flag” jumper by Ralph Lauren. The other option is to wear a white T-shirt under your shirt. Even though I’m not a big fan of this, it is nevertheless part of the American style. If so, go for an iconic Hanes or a white Cooper Jockey.
For the trousers (or pants, since we’re in America): Chino or denim? It’s up to you, but my preference would be for Civilianaire, which uses the classic beige chino with an extra touch of Made In Los Angeles!
Now it’s time for the shoes.
Two American brands spring to mind: Allen Edmonds and Alden. They both produce models in Cordovan – a horse leather tanned in a very special way. Cordovan is appreciated by both brands for its solidity and its dark-bordeaux colour (color 8), which ages particularly well. The other particularity of Cordovan is that the leather doesn’t need to be waxed. But it does need to be nourished regularly, otherwise it will “sweat” and leave white marks.
I would go for the Patriot model (you couldn’t make it up…) from Allen Edmonds.
Another – more casual – option could be to match your look with a pair of work boots from Alden, like the legendary Indy Boot. These lace-up boots take the name of Steven Spielberg’s hero Indiana Jones, because they were a favourite of Harrison Ford, who wore them for the filming of the blockbuster film. Cinema and fashion – another fine example of Made in US power!
Now you are totally “American”. But even if you are dressed like that, don’t forget your roots and feel free to add something that will remind you of them. Why not a NATO strap in the colours of your favourite country?
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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