A legendary dive watch from Longines

The watch for this review was provided for a trial period by Swatch Group Canada.

underwater

I had been underwater for so long I’d lost track of time. And I hadn’t seen a thing: not a person nor a fish, not even a stone or some seaweed. The ocean was empty except for me. Above, the ultramarine blue of the sky and below, undulating white sand. Both stretched towards a never ending cloudy blue. I swam slowly, confidently, assured I was absolutely alone. And then I wasn’t. The creature appeared from nowhere, directly in front of me. A long, sharp face full of long, sharp teeth. Coming towards me fast. I felt every nerve in my body explode. I pushed up and away, swimming frantically. My commotion startled and scared my assailant and as I broke the surface of the water I was alone once again.

That is my only experience diving and sadly, I had to obfuscate for effect. I was not in the deep sea but snorkelling in 10 feet of water off a Cuban beach. And the creature that charged at me was not a Great White but a two foot barracuda. And while they have been known to take bites out of divers, barracudas are more an annoyance than a real danger. And to top it all off, I wasn’t even wearing a diving watch.

lld-back

The back of the Longines Legend Diver’s case is engraved with a lovely image of a diver.

Then again, you’re more likely to see a diving watch on a dry wrist than a wet one. Ever since Bond famously wore one with a dinner suit, divers have become acceptable every day wear. But it’s not just Bond’s doing: the design of that early Rolex Submariner, while sporty, was also elegant and minimal. Unlike the chronograph, developed for racing and with its many crowns and sub dials, most divers feature at most two crowns and a rotating bezel. The numbers might be rather large (to be better seen underwater) but beyond that, they are like suped-up and rugged dress watches.

lld-front

All that said, I’ve never been a big fan of divers, even that iconic Rolex Submariner (here comes the hate mail). I appreciate the design and craftsmanship but they are just a bit too sporty for me. That’s why when I first heard of the Longines Legend Diver I didn’t take much notice. That is, until I saw one in person. I was mightily intrigued. There is something so unique about the watch’s design, from the crowns at 2 and 4 o’clock, to the internal rotating bezel to the simple, retro design of the dial and hands. So I jumped at the chance to wear the LLD for a two week trial period.

Full autumnal.

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The first thing to know about this watch is that it’s on the bigger side. A 42mm diameter may be moderate by today’s standards but the LLD is also 14mm thick, which means it sits rather high on the wrist. This was a challenge because some of my custom shirts have slim cuffs. And I wouldn’t recommend this watch to anyone with a sub-7″ wrist, unless you like the look of really big watches. And while the LLD case does not wear large – I got used to it after a short time – the lugs protrude quite a bit. They add a lovely retro look, but extend the watch out over the wrist.

However, size is a small quibble to have with a remarkable watch that punches well above its weight. Priced at under $3000CAD, the Longines Legend has the look and feel of a high-end diver. The contrast dial makes it very easy to read and because the markings are off-white, almost a light beige, the contrast is softened without looking like intentionally aged patina. The internal bezel is a pleasure to use, with a smooth, satisfying operation and lovely clicking sound when turned with the upper crown. The lower crown has three settings – the first to manually wind the watch, the second is a quickset date (a much appreciated feature) and the third to set the time. Like the Longines Flagship I reviewed, I probably would have preferred the no date version to be even truer to the original but I have to admit, I found myself consulting the date window almost every day. And my experience jives with what a Longines representative told me: aficionados loved the discontinued no-date version of the LLD for aesthetic reasons, while most customers wanted the date window for practical reasons. Plus, having white numbers on a black background, the date window fits very nicely within the design of the watch.

On the wrist for a test run, the #longines Legend Diver.

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Overall, of course, the LLD’s look is sporty, so it matches best with a casual wardrobe. However, the simple, elegant design means it’s not out of place with tailored clothes. I was surprised, in fact, with how well the watch worked with my less formal tailored outfits. The only thing I would change, to up the versatility of the watch, is the strap. The LLD comes with a kevlar strap (with felt on the inside for comfort) which is obviously intended for diving, being both strong and durable. And while the strap is rugged, the contrasting white stitching adds a touch of elegance that a pure rubber strap would lack. All that said, I would want at least two other straps for the LLD: dark brown leather to dress it up a bit as well as a black/beige NATO for a casual look. Originally, the watch came on a stainless steel bracelet which definitely adds a classic touch. 

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Original 1964 ad for the Logines Legend Diver (courtesy the Longines Museum)

And the history of the watch is the part of its story I like the most. As you can see from the above advertisement, today’s LLD is a remarkably faithful reproduction of the original (except for the already discussed date window). Longines has long been an industry leader with their heritage line, re-issuing classic watches from their back catalogue with almost spot-on accuracy. Interestingly, however, the LLD is not Longines’ first dive watch. That honour goes to the Nautilus Skin Diver, pictured below. The Nautilus, released in the 1950s, featured the more common outer rotating bezel. As easy as it is to use an outer bezel, they are also more prone to damage and so Longines switched to the internal bezel of the Super Compressor style of dive watch. This case uses the pressure of being underwater to help insure the case is water tight. The added benefit is that the bezel is moved inside the watch, so it can’t get damaged. The only trick is that, to insure the watch is water resistant, the crowns must first be unscrewed to use.

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The Longines Nautilus Skin Diver from 1959, reference number 6921 (courtesy of the Longines Museum)

In those days, Longines made their own movements, the internal workings of a mechanical watch which are much admired and studied by watch lovers. Today, since Longines is owned by the Swatch Group, the movements are supplied by ETA SA, a subsidiary of Swatch. This helps explain why the watch is on the more affordable side: the movement they are using, while customised for the LLD, is “stock.” Some watch historians lament that the current ETA 2824-2 movement is not as reliable as the old in-house movements. And while I’ve read that early versions of the LLD could lose or gain up to 15 seconds a day, the watch I wore lost only about 3 seconds, which is quite respectable.

Ultimately, however, wearing the Longines Legend Diver was not about the movement, or the date window, or even about it being a diving watch. For me, I simply enjoyed the experience of wearing it. And hopefully I’ll be wearing one the next time I encounter a beast in the briny depths.