It is telling that for its 190th anniversary, Longines has not chosen to go down the bombastic route with an overtly complicated timepiece, neither has it reissued an iconic watch from its archives. Instead, the Swiss watchmaker has pulled the rug out from under our feet with the launch of three time-only models from the Master collection.

And we are definitely not complaining — in fact, we would go as far as to call this move a masterstroke (bad pun intended). The automatic watches are an exercise in restrained elegance, a brilliant showcase of Longines’ balance between past, present and future. The Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary collection abounds with details that pay tribute to the brand’s heritage of quality watchmaking, while doubling down on its forward-looking vision. What does this mean? Well, for one, the watches are elegantly packaged in 40mm round cases, wrought in stainless steel, yellow and rose gold. The latter two versions are limited to 190 pieces, while the steel version is unlimited.

Each version comes with a modern anthracite dial, each progressively darker than the other. The stainless steel version has a sandblasted light silver dial, while the yellow gold one features a darker, sun-brushed version. The dial on the rose gold version is even darker, in granular anthracite, making for the most modern-looking piece in the collection.

Elegant Breguet numerals are engraved onto the dial, and further reinforce the classical aesthetic of the piece with the leaf-shaped hands and vintage Longines logo. The entire effect is slightly nostalgic, while imbued with contemporary touches. A silicon hairspring, for instance, ensures better resistance to magnetism. Through the sapphire caseback, the celebration continues — traditional finishing techniques such as cotes de Genève and perlage decorate the movement, while the specially designed rotor features Longines’ engraved logo and cut-out winged motif to commemorate the milestone.

Lesson in History

The Master collection was launched in 2005, and has since spawned an entire series of classically designed, automatic watches that include time-only versions, chronographs, calendars, moonphases and more.

Over the years, the Master collection has represented the culmination of Longines’ greatest hits, showcasing its history through an ever-versatile canvas that lends itself well to both simplicity and complexity — no easy feat. While the packaging is distinctly oldschool classical, each iteration comes imbued with the innovative spirit that has long informed Longines’s endeavours.

In the past 190 years, Longines has constantly sought to rework the wheels of watchmaking to improve timekeeping, whether in terms of its products or the way it produces watches. It started its life back in 1832 in the village of Saint Imier by a man called August Agassiz, who was a watchmaker and a banker. He had two partners, a couple of lawyers, who would retire within a few years. August eventually roped his nephew Ernest Francillon into the company in 1852 to manage the business growth, and together, they regularly broke convention. Instead of following the system of etablissage where the brand assembled components made from different ateliers, Longines decided to manufacture all components in-house.

Ernest broke ground on a new site in Saint Imier, eventually changing the name of the company from Raiguel Jeune & Cie to Longines, which means long meadows in French. The company would keep improving the way they produce their watches, drawing inspiration from American mass production techniques, thus cementing the brand’s reputation for qualitative, inventive and elegant timepieces.

In order to counteract the issue of counterfeits, Longines filed its brand name and logo with the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property in 1893, thus becoming the longest-surviving brand to date.

This legacy of thinking outside the box continues to inform Longines today, resulting in qualitative and accessible watches that offer plenty of bang for their buck. Even the Master Collection 190th Anniversary is reasonably priced, with the steel version available for S$3,420, while the limited edition gold versions are S$17,170.

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