Monday, 3 October 2011

Longines Expeditions Polaires Francaises Re-Edition-REVIEW

This is another watch that took me by surprise. Its complete name is the Expeditions Polaires Francaises- Missions Paul-Emile Victor (model number L2.732.4.76.2).
Longines has once again dipped into its archives for inspiration.
When I first saw a picture of this watch in the 2011 Longines Master Catalogue, I thought it looked interesting. There was something about it that reminded me of the wall clocks in my class-rooms back in secondary school. The dial had a certain clarity to it and the 2,4,6,8 etc Arabic numerals on it further enhanced the vintage look of this watch.
Its design is based on a model from the late 1940s that was supplied to a group of scientists for a series of Arctic expeditions to Greenland.
This watch's overall look also borrows certain elements from standard military watch design of the 1940s where legibility of the dial was of utmost importance. Most military watches had black dials, but there were quite a few brands that inverted the colouring of the dial to produce a watch with a light-coloured face with dark hands to contrast instead.
Here’s what the original model looked like.



And here's a pic of one that was for sale recently. While the watch above looks pristine because it's either been restored or photoshopped (cynical, ain't I?) , this one below shows what sixty years of wear can look like. Still, it's in pretty good condition. Maybe it's had a re-dial. I'll explain what that is, one day.





Longines has had a knack for producing a few very nice ranges of watches over the last decade or so. While the brand is well known for its Master Collection, Le Grande Classique, and the hugely popular Dolce Vita product families, it has quietly been manufacturing the Heritage Series as well. Perhaps the most famous models in this range over the last few years have been the Lindbergh Weems Chronograph re-edition and more recently, the beautiful Silver Arrow and the wildly successful Legend Diver.
Quick story; a watch seller that I know was wearing a Legend Diver when I saw him on the street one day. I said to him; “Ah, you got the new Longines Diver?”
“What are you talking about?”, he replied, lifting his left wrist for me to get a better look at the watch. He was wearing the original model from 1960...and it looked exactly like the Legend Diver re-edition.
Yessir, when Longines does a re-edition, they don’t muck around.
So anyway, I saw this watch in the Master Catalogue at work (I sell watches) and a mild obsession grew from there. It wasn’t too long (about four months, actually) before I placed an order for this watch sight-unseen, ‘cos I like to live dangerously. About two weeks ago, I saw this watch at another AD and the dial colour looked slightly different to the photo in the catalogue, as is always the way. The catalogue photo makes the dial look a little creamy, whereas the watch in real life has a more silvery hue. Fine by me.




And so, if you’ve read any of my other wristwatch reviews, you may have noticed that I like to throw in a story with pictures featuring the watch. Just for my own amusement, really.
And away we go.


                     Washington D.C.- JAN '53
"That's pretty much what happened. She was amazing. Zimmler got away and he's still out there. But we'll get him."


The watch arrived a few days ago and when I opened the box, I was pleasantly dazzled by the simple and clean beauty of this watch. It had vintage-watch appeal, but its case size of 38.5mm betrayed it as a modern timepiece.

THE PACKAGING





Your standard Longines box is a rather plain affair and it adequately protects the watch. I normally don’t rave about packaging. As long as the watch is safely nestled in it, that’s all that really matters, although a nice box is always a bonus.  However, since I had recently clocked up ten years with this company, I figured this watch (that was a gift from me to myself) deserved something a little more special. So I switched to the nicer cherry-wood box that is normally reserved for Longines’ gold models. It was the least my company could do. Even thought they didn’t realise it. ;-) This box also helps add to the vintage appeal of the watch. Nicely polished, it looks like a red Steinway piano...with a wristwatch inside it.

Virginia - OCT '54
"She got it for ya, huh? Not bad. Better hang on to that one. The girl, I mean, not the wristwatch. You should take it 'round to Goldstein's office. He loves wristwatches. And hey, if you're stepping out, can you get me a pack o' nails? I'm runnin' low. I'll pay you back. Even though you owe me."


I strapped it to my wrist and was impressed with how thin the case was. It measures 9 mm and it has a nice simple profile. The bezel is smooth and low as well. The sapphire crystal is flat with a slightly bevelled edge that sits ever-so-slightly beyond the bezel. The crystal is also anti-reflective.






THE CASE

Did I mention that it’s slim? At 38.5mm, it’s a nicely balanced watch. The lugs have a slight downward curve which helps this watch sit neatly on my 6.5 inch wrist. Truth be told, this is probably the best size for a watch of this type. I have vintage Omegas and Tudors that hover around 36mm in diameter, as well as a 40mm Tissot VisoDate re-edition and they all wear very nicely. It’s been a trend among watch manufacturers in recent years to bring out re-editions of past models. The Girard-Perregaux 1966 is one watch that comes to mind. The current Master Control series by Jaeger-Le Coultre is another. Both of these watches sit at 40mm in diameter and they work very well in that size. But this watch really fits well. What a difference one-and-a-half mil can make. The entire case is highly polished, which means I will absolutely cringe when I put the first scratch on it, but these can be easily polished out by a competent watch-maker.


 
Southend-on-Sea - JUN '57
" I lost count of how many Gimlets we'd had. Then she suggested 'a light dip'. Neither one of us had our bathing suits handy. Not that it bothered me any."



"Later, she borrowed my wristwatch and camera. Said she wanted to take a picture of a fox she saw nearby and she'd be back in fifteen minutes. I saw a fox too, that day...wearing my watch."



The case-back has a lot of commemorative information engraved on it. It was issued to a group of scientists and explorers who had set out to reach the North and South Poles back in 1947. Part of the model number is also etched along the outer edge, along with the watch’s serial number and its own individual number. This one is numbered 1345. Not a limited edition, but a numbered edition instead. This is something that I’ve noticed a few brands doing in recent years.  The case-back is a press-in style instead of a screw-down arrangement. This probably explains the 30 metre water-resistance rating which, according to Longines, is adequate for swimming, but I won’t be testing it. I have seen too many watches with 30 to 50 metre water resistance come in to my store with water entry issues, so this one will be staying on dry land. 



 


The lugs (those horns that the strap attaches to) appear a fraction too long for the case, but when viewed front-on, they seem perfectly proportioned to the rest of the case. This is due, in part, to the gentle downward curve of these lugs which help the watch case sit flush on the wrist.

Northern Italy - NOV '61
"They let her use the typewriter. It's been there since 1928 and they figured somebody may as well get some use out of it. She left the base-camp three hours earlier.  After reading her note, I was gonna make up for lost time."


THE CROWN
It’s a slightly domed crown with a raised relief Longines winged hour-glass logo on it and the ‘LONGINES’ name in upper-case capitals encircling it. I have to say that it is pretty tricky to see with my eyesight these days, but I like the fact that they’ve gone for the vintage logo style. The crown is a good size that’s easy to grip for winding and time setting.





THE DIAL
Ahh, the dial. It has a metallic silver hue to it and the wedge-shaped hour markers and fantastic Arabic numerals are filled in with SuperLuminova. After a blast of light, these markers and numerals are easily visible in the dark, but they do fade as the night progresses. I suppose that, given the minimal amount of Luminova applied, there’s just not enough of it to maintain an all-night glow. The hands however, are easily visible in the wee small hours. But more about those in a minute.






I first want to mention the numerals again. Longines has been faithful to the original dial design to the extent that the numbers on this re-edition look exactly like those of the model on which it’s based. Nicely done, and it perfectly mimics the dials of some light-coloured vintage military watches that I’ve seen on the web in the past. Another nice feature of this dial is that it’s not flat, but slightly convex around its outer edge. As a concession to modern times, this re-edition has a date, whereas the original did not. However, Longines have taken the trouble to border this date window with a picture-frame edge rather than just a simple cut-out design.





I must admit that the devil is in the details with this watch. For a dial design that’s so uncluttered, the more you look at it, the more you see.  There’s not much else on the dial besides the ‘LONGINES’ name below the 12, with the winged hour-glass logo below that. Above the 6 is the word ‘AUTOMATIC’ in a nice and simple upper-case font. This further helps the watch achieve that vintage look.



"I was near the summit when I heard the shot. Sounded like a K98. Zimmler's weapon of choice. I nearly lost my footing twice in my rush to get to the top."


THE HANDS
Not really much to report here, except to say that they are beautifully blued and of a simple picket fence-post design. For a brief moment after I ordered this watch, I remembered an Oris BC3+ that I used to have. It too had blued hands of similar shape, but I have to say that they looked a little cheap. They looked like they’d been coated in blue plastic or something because, when angled at the light, the blued section of the hands looked slightly mottled. I began to worry that the Longines’ hands would be the same until I had a quick look at the blued hands on a Master Collection model and noticed a nice, electric-blue tinge to the hands when angled at the light. Both hands have a healthy strip of SuperLuminova running through them to ensure night-time legibility.

The second hand is thin with a nicely proportioned counterweight on it. Very minimalist in its execution and perfectly suited to the watch.




"He waited until she had gotten comfortable. The bullet caught her in the base of the neck. Would've killed her instantly. I don't know how long I sat there. Felt like years. Zimmler's file mentioned his penchant for revenge. As I sat there smoking, I knew I was going to teach him the true meaning of vengeance."




THE SPECS
Time-keeping wise, this watch is running at approx +5 seconds per day, which is very good for a watch that's not Chronometer-rated. To be given a Chronometer rating, the watch movement must show a time-keeping variation of -4 to +6 seconds per day. There's more to it than that, am I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it in other watch posts here. Otherwise, look up COSC or Chronometer testing on Google and you'll find a wealth of information about this  procedure which is done by a Swiss Government department.

The movement inside this watch is a Longines L619, which is actually a base-calibre ETA 2892/A2. This movement is extremely reliable and can be adjusted to perform at great accuracy. It has been used by numerous watch manufacturers including TAG Heuer and Omega, who have housed it in their modern classic Seamaster 300m diver since the mid 1990s.






The crown is smooth to wind and it has three setting positions. Position one is for winding of the watch. You can't really over-wind a modern automatic wristwatch. When the watch is fully wound, the winding mechanism will disengage to prevent over-winding. If you put the watch down for longer than 42 hours or so (depending on the movement) it will stop running. Ideally, you should set time and date and then give the watch 15 to 20 winds by hand before putting it on. This will give the power reserve enough tension to get the watch running at its proper rate.


Paris - May '64
"I had to work fast. Dr.Alvarez would be back in less than ten minutes.  It's been years since I had to tap a phone. I was a little rusty."



Position two is for date-setting. As with any wristwatch, it is advisable not to set the date after around 8:oopm at night or before 2:30am in the morning. Reason being is that the entire date mechanism takes approx six-and-a-half hours from start to finish. Gears begin to mesh together at 8:oopm and they begin to move the date wheel forward at around 11:30pm. With this ETA 2892 calibre, the date will change anywhere between 11:58pm and 12:05am. The date gears then begin to disengage and this whole process is over with by about 2:30 in the morning. If you attempt to manually change the date after 8:00pm, you run the risk of either stripping the ratchets on the date wheel (worst-case) or dislodging the date wheel so that it gets stuck between two dates.


California - JULY '68
"Dr. Alvarez did some good work. I barely recognised Zimmler, but his gait gave him away. He had a vineyard now, too. Probably thought he'd left his old life behind. Good. I'd soon change that."


Position three of the crown is for setting the time. The hands move smoothly without any play in them. As soon as you turn the crown, the hands begin to move. Very tight tolerances in the crown assembly.



WATER-RESISTANCE

I don't care what  anybody says about swimming with your watch on. This is my take, based on years of selling watches. At 30 metres water-resistant, this watch is what I consider to be splash-proof. Same goes for 50 metres. They are fine if you get caught in a storm wearing a t-shirt. However, if you want to wear a watch for swimming, you need at least 100 metres water-resistance.
Longines would beg to differ:




But I disagree. As for showering, are they kidding? If you have a warm shower every day while wearing your 100m water resistant watch, you should be okay. The hotter the water, the higher the risk of water entry into the watch case. At 30 metres water-resistant, there's no way I'll be putting this watch underwater. While it will have rubber gaskets just inside the case near the crown, the case-back of this watch is a press-in type and these are never as water-tight as a case-back that screws down.

Havana - DEC '74
"The Agency and MI6 did their bit to spook him. First, we burned down his vineyard. Then Six arrested his passport guy. Even the Mossad got in on the act by redirecting his funds into their own accounts. Zimmler went underground, but resurfaced in Cuba five years later. Dr. Alvarez had done some more work on him, but I had no trouble finding him. We placed a surveillance van outside his favourite restaurant. He spotted it as soon as it parked at the kerb. Perfect. He made a bee-line for a secret exit which led to an alleyway out back...where I was waiting.



CONCLUSION

The Longines Heritage Expeditions Poliares Francaises is a well-made watch that pays homage to designs of the past while utilising modern movement technology and trends for larger watches. At 38.5mm in diameter, it's a perfect size for this watch. Any larger and it just wouldn't work, in my opinion. It would appear a little too over-sized for the type of watch that it is and the market is already saturated with over-sized watches. Its design is reminiscient of watches from the 1940s and '50s and, as such, it's become a part of the resurgence of  re-editions that many brands have released in recent years. Which I think is a good thing.

This is the kind of watch that works well with a suit or with jeans and a t-shirt. It's an understated timepiece that is perfect when all you need is time and date. Like I said at the beginning, Longines make a nice re-edition and their attention to detail is flawless. They have re-created a model from their past and they haven't made too many modern changes to its design.

Certainly, I would have preferred a greater water-resistance, but then, there are other watches designed for that purpose. What this watch does, it does very well indeed and it is a nice watch for any collection.
Longines has once again made a watch that honours its past. No mean feat, since some other brands tend to get it wrong when they attempt to do the same.

Thanks for reading!

*****************************************************************

Credits

Photos taken on location around the house and nearby.
Special thanks to my wife for posing for photos and my kids for taking some of the pics.
Any and all errors regarding watch history, technology and terminology are my own.
Copyright teeritz, 2011 


12 comments:

  1. Your wife is awesome - and I can say that cos it's me! You lucky SOB.

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  2. Gee, honey, I didn't think I had to lock my computer in the safety of my own home. And yes, you ARE awesome!

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  3. The world is no longer safe from Tee's brain!

    OzO

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  4. Terrific read, as always, T.

    Thanks

    DD

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  5. I'm going to have to come back and take a more leisurely scroll through this post.

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  6. Excellent watch writeup and Bond interludes. One small point: you should've gotten some Dunhills instead of just cutting the filters off of Marlboros. :D

    PS, very nice lighter and cigarette case there (:

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  7. Thanks, all.
    @ Ted, I was gonna open up an old pack of Camel no-filters, but...
    I should have twisted the Marlboros around so that the name didn't show.

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  8. The master of the vignette strikes again.

    Surpassed even your usual standards, Tee. The icecliff was a nice touch. (Although if you want to use a proper ice tool, you just have to ask).

    Nice watch, too.

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  9. Admittedly, I'm not much of a Bond fan. But I appreciate the creativity of this post. And the beauty of that watch!

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  10. I love the story boarding! My typewriter and vintage tech habits are bad enough. I had successfully kept the watch fascination at bay and now this...

    Awesome tech junkie fuel. Keep up the good work!

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  11. Lovely watch and a great blog overall. However the pedant in me deems it necessary to point out that Bombay Sapphire wasn't around in 1957!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mr. Todd. I did already know that, but the basic Bombay Dry Gin hasn't been readily available in Australia for at least the last fifteen years. I'm not even certain that it's still in production. Besides, it was primarily a wristwatch review, so I was none too fussed about historical innaccuracy where alcohol is concerned. Or cigarettes, for that matter. Filtered Lucky Strikes weren't produced until the '60s.

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