As a lover of vintage watches, it is difficult to find a modern watch that gets me excited. Just as the watches of the 60’s and 70’s ‘golden era’ were produced with effortless style and sophistication, it seems like the modern manufactures can’t do anything right. Bulky, gawky and overwrought. Even the iconic Rolex Submariner lost its case bevels on the last go-round. The Seamaster 300 Co-Axial, which I was all set to love, has a bracelet that is overly heavy, with the worst looking clasp I have ever seen. And the prices on these moderns are outrageously high. All this sends me running back to vintage.
I do have one modern watch. It is the Longines Legend Diver. I think its the best value for the dollar in a current production watch.
For those of you in the know, E. Piquerez SA (EPSA) introduced the twin crown Super Compressor case in 1961. It was a groundbreaking design that offered an alternative to all the other diving watches that were produced at the time. Internalizing the bezel meant that it was harder for it to be affected by a diver bumping his wrist against rocks and shipwrecks. It also gave the watch a very wide look, with the dial and bezel underneath a thick, domed acrylic crystal. The undisputed king of the Super Compressors, is the LeCoultre Polaris. However, the Longines version is the next most valuable and on the rise.
The Legend diver is a tribute to Longines’ 42mm Super Compressor. Many aspects of the watch are similar to the original, while much has been changed. Case diameter is the same, but the thickness of the watch is greater. It’s not obtrusively thick and the extra thickness in the lugs will allow for one of the cool chunky leather straps that are on the market to be installed. The crowns have the correct cross hatching on them, but now they screw down. The crystal has the same curvature as the original, but it is now made of a very impressive piece of domed sapphire. Thankfully, they left off the AR coating, so it still has some of the warmth of the original. Overall, the watch retains the aesthetics of the original, but with some decidedly modern features.
The strap is interesting. It’s padded, with contrasting stitching and a black cloth overlay on top. It tapers slightly and features a period-looking Longines buckle with cross hatching and the winged hourglass logo.
The movement is the ETA 2824, which is a perfectly reliable, but mundane workhorse. This is really one of the few places where the Legend diver falls short. Longines was once a great maker of movements, but being part of the Swatch Group means that they have to take a back seat to Omega, which was once their direct competition. Honestly, this is all academic, as the Legend had a solid caseback (with a cool relief of a scuba diver) and the movement is hacking with a quick set date. It’s also high-beat, at 28,800bph. I would say that’s pretty full-featured.
The plus side of using the 2824 is that the watch is reasonably inexpensive. The MSRP is $2300, but they are readily available brand new for $1600. That means that you can get a good brand with Swiss quality at a slightly higher price than some of the Asian-made microbrands. Unlike the microbrands, they tend to hold their value.
As a collector of vintage watches, I am always concerned when wearing the watch in foul weather. Vintage divers and chronographs usually have specific gaskets that are impossible to source and leave the watches very porous. The Longines is tested to 300M and with the screw down crowns, I don’t have to worry about some water hitting the watch.
It’s a great piece to wear. The combination of that domed sapphire crystal, and the deep black lacquered dial with printing that has the look of patinated tritium really gives the watch a dressy, upmarket look. For people who are into lume, there is less of it than you might imagine, with a small dash of Luminova at each hour, the triangle on the bezel at 12 and the hands. The hands themselves are very cool, with an arrowhead hour hand and stick minute and seconds. Also impressive is the lack of wording. “Automatic” That’s it. In the original font, to boot. Some diver watches have a paragraph on the dial.
People make a big deal of the date window on this watch, but it is a modern watch and many of the vintage Super Compressors had date functions. The date wheel is black and the printing on it matches the rest of the dial, so that’s pretty nice.
I recommend the Longines Legend Diver. If you want a smartly-designed watch that takes the twin-crown diver configuration and updates the execution while keeping the design principles of the original, you will find something in this watch. With the winter upon us, It makes for a nice option for the cold, wet weather.