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The Millennium Watch Book
Longines - Legend Diver

Longines Legend Diver

A living legend

Such was the status of Longines’ Super Compressor of 1959, along with elevated collectors’ prices, that the launch of the re-imagined version in 2007 caused a frenzy among the most jaded of enthusiasts: watch journalists. While the compressor case was no longer a part of the design, beyond the instantly recognisable shape and the presence of two crowns, it was close enough for the press to rave about its 21st century incarnation.

Re-introduced as part of the brand’s Sport Legends series which pays homage to “the pioneers of sport and their exploits, timed by Longines”, it was a wise move. The Longines Legend Diver, to give the reborn version its full name, has matured nicely, emerging as one of the company’s most popular ranges — now including smaller women’s models and coloured, fumé dials as is now the fashion.

As with all the great diving watches born in the 1950s and 1960s, the original was a response to both the boom in sport diving encouraged by the arrival of scuba equipment, and the increasing demand for such timepieces suited to professional and military usage in the immediate post-war years. Longines was not an arriviste: its experience with water-resistant time-pieces dates back to 1937, when it introduced the world’s first chronograph with waterproof push-buttons, earning a patent the following year. 

In 1953, Longines participated in the pursuit of the depth record by the bathyscaphe Trieste by supplying the on-board instruments. This submersible designed by Swiss scientist August Piccard was first used on 26 August 1953 near the isle of Capri in the Mediterranean. In September of that year, it reached a depth of 3,150m. Having been acquired by the US Navy, subsequent expeditions undertaken with the Trieste included The Nekton Project, launched in November 1959 to explore the Mariana Trench. On 23 January 1960, naval officer Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, the son of the Trieste’s designer, descended to the deepest point on earth, reaching 10,916m.

Legend Diver

Legend Diver © Longines

A pure choice

As for the Super Compressor case, used by more than 100 manufacturers, its lifespan was shortened by the demise of the case maker, Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA). With the model re-introduced in 2007, the water-resistant security of the original afforded by the Super Compressor case was less important, given the advances in gasket design and other improvements made during the ensuing four decades.

For the 42mm Legend Diver, Longines retained the original’s main features, including a shaped glass and a rotating bidirectional inner bezel activated by one of the two screw-in crowns. In place of the complex Super Compressor case technology, the Legend Diver’s glass is sapphire and the caseback, embossed with the image of a diver, is the screw-down type ensuring water resistance to 300m.

Visually, the relationship to the original is immediately apparent. The two crowns have textured tops, repeated on the buckle of the synthetic strap, embossed with a ‘tropical’ pattern as was the original 1960s model. Super-LumiNova coats the indices on the lacquered black dial for optimal legibility, with Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. The inner bezel’s 60-minute graduations are augmented by 15, 30 and 45 at the quarter-hours, with the 0/60 position indicated by a luminous triangle.

To the consternation of collectors, Longines added a date window at 3 o’clock in 2010, discontinuing the no-date version. For some, the purity of the model sans date makes it more desirable, but in reality the date window is unobtrusive. For those less concerned with totally authenticity, Longines has since released the Legend Diver with fumé dials in sand beige, ash grey, royal blue and vivid burgundy versions and in two different sizes.

Along with the full-sized 42mm models, Longines added a 36mm version to the collection. These feature a box-shaped sapphire crystal, along with the two screw-in crowns and screw-down caseback. Their shaded dials bear luminous hands, hour-markers interspersed with luminescent squares and Arabic numerals, as well as retaining the internal rotating diving and the embossed emblem of a diver. These newest variations house a self-winding mechanical movement (L888.5 for 42mm models and L592.5 for 36mm versions) with a silicon balance-spring.

Other variants have included rose gold and bronze-cased models, while 2019 saw the arrival of a version coated in black PVD. While the 2007 debut model featured a facsimile of the 1960s embossed tropical strap, another nod to that era emerged in 2017 with the Longines Legend Diver offered on a Milanese mesh bracelet, marking the watch’s 10th anniversary. That the watch accepts these alternative looks with such grace attests to its timelessness. And that is what makes it legendary.

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

*Written by Ken Kessler 


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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...

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