From historical pilot’s watches to technical high-precision timekeeping instruments, Longines is one of those brands with an impeccable pedigree, history and a mind-blowing assortment of milestone timepieces.
In 1965ʼs Longines Journal no. 256, the brand concluded that watchmaking was at a turning point in history where new technologies required more knowledge and diverse specialists with the original core of craftsman slowly replaced by the skills from engineers with familiarity with the secrets of microtechnology and the watchmakers who were masters of the balance-spring assortment: the profession had evolved into the roles of engineer-watchmakers and physicists who adapted new technologies’ with centuries-old techniques.
Until the arrival of the 1968 Longines Ultra-Chron Diver, the brand had been making calibres with 19,800 vibrations an hour for a long time and changed in 1963 to 21,600 beats an hour (cal. 410, cal. 5601). The development of the calibre 430 in 1967, marked a new era for Longines with a high frequent beat of 36,000 vibrations and used in a new collection of timepieces they called “Ultra-Chron”.
The frequency of a watch represents the number of oscillations performed by its regulating organ. The faster the balance swings and in turn, the faster the escapement ticks, the better will be the accuracy since “errors” are averaged out over the length of time. In context, most modern watches enjoy frequencies of either 3Hz (21,600 vibrations/hour) or 4Hz (28,800 vibrations/hour).
The concept of high-frequency at Longines dates back to 1914 when the brand released a 5Hz stopwatch with a split-second hand. Equipped with the calibre 19.73N, these handheld sports instruments could measure 1/10th of a second. While these instruments were the sole domain of technical stopwatches, Longines eventually became the first company to develop a high-frequency wristwatch with the manual winding calibre 360 for the purpose of a chronometry competition rather than commercial production.
Thanks to their experience in timekeeping and in Observatory Chronometers, Longines was intimately familiar with the obstacles of reduced power reserve and the deterioration of lubricants and with the invention of patented dry lubrication, Longines could finally create a model for consumers.
For the first time in decades, the new Ultra-Chron Diver is reintroducing a 5Hz high-beat calibre to Longines, a monumental reminder of its pioneering spirit since the brand stopped producing in-house movements in the 1980s; the Longines Ultra-Chron is based on the original UltraChron Diver with calibre 431 and water resistance of 200 metres. Being far more precise than a chronometer-certified by the COSC, the name Ultra-Chron is derived from Ultra Chronometer, and at the time Longines claimed it would keep time with a maximum deviation of two seconds per day.
Tested in entirety with movement set within the watch case in contrast to COSC criteria which certifies the movements alone, Longinesʼ new Ultra-Chrono builds off the ISO 3159:2009 standard ‒ the same spec used by the Besançon Observatory.
The fully cased watch undergoes 15 consecutive days of examinations, during which the watch is tested across three different temperatures; and for a timepiece to be considered “Chronometer”, it must emerge from its trials with an average daily variation within -4 and +6 seconds.
Hence, the Longines Ultra-Chrono is more closely related to the prestigious Bulletin de marche de chronométrie from the Besançon Observatory than your more recognisable COSC certification. The innovative movement was matched with a unique cushion-shaped case and a contemporary dial, eschewing the brand’s more typical classical elements for a bright red minute hand.
For the 2022 re-edition, the Longines Ultra-Chron Diver brings back the original’s handsome design without blind copy-pasting. Just like the brand’s famed heritage models, there are updates: an increase in proportions from 41 mm to 43 mm and a slightly thicker 13.4 mm case while keeping things from feeling too overwhelming with a controlled lug-to-lug length of 48 mm. In short, itʼs been reworked but not so much so that it’s not immediately identifiable with its predecessor.
Visually, another difference between the vintage and new model is that the dial of the modern release features a grained finish which adds a tremendous amount of visual interest to an otherwise matte surface. The central seconds hand of the new watch is also tweaked from its predecessor, no longer featuring the arrow-tipped indicator, opting instead for an elegant, slim steel second hand with slight facets.
Finally, the most interesting update for the new Ultra-Chron Diver is the 120-click unidirectional bezel; it’s not a ceramic or aluminium insert, but rather a sapphire crystal which makes the timepiece thoroughly modern if not downright futuristic: The sapphire bezel insert features luminous material at the zero marker triangle, as well as at the 15-, 30- and 45-minute markers while the rest of the fully graduated scale is recessed and filled with red lacquer.
Furthermore, improvements with case production and gaskets also mean that the dive rating on the re-edition has been upgraded to 300 metres. With the latest Longines Ultra-Chron diver, the brand is showcasing new era in sportive mechanical watches where models are introduced with immense value and high specifications, while keeping prices reasonable which makes it ultra-competitive for brands in high price categories.