By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Back in early 19th century, Auguste Agassiz, the soft-spoken second son of a conservative Protestant family that had, for centuries, lived in same rural Swiss village of Agiez, near Lake Neuchatel, in the mountainous canton of Vaud, decided to break with tradition and move to the western canton of Bern.
For Auguste – who, it had been expected, would follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become a minister of the church, or, at the very least, to assume a respectable academic career like his geologist brother Louis — the decision to abandon his family’s native Vaud and venture off to the much more urban, much more industrialized canton of Bern was an act of rebellion.
In the beginning, the change of environs was difficult for Auguste, and at first, he wandered about the region, uncertain what he would do for a living.
But he soon settled down in the peaceful village of Saint-Imier, known for its precision watchmaking and delicate lace industries.
Fascinated by the delicate and meticulous genius that went into making the exquisite timepieces that were synonymous with Saint-Imier, the young Agassiz decided to become an apprentice and learn the local art of horology.
Auguste was a quick study, soon mastering every aspect of the watchmaking process, and, in keeping with the staunch protestant work ethic that had been ingrained into him by his family, set out to build his own watch company.
In 1832, Auguste, together with two other Swiss entrepreneurs, founded what would become Longines (named after the long meadows along the River Suze of the Saint-Imier valley), the oldest registered watch brand in the world.
Using a comptoir d’établissage assembly system that employed local artisans to produce each timepiece individually, to later be completed by a master horologist in the Longines premises, Auguste Agassiz supervised every detail of the watchmaking process, painstakingly endowing each piece with the bespoke elegance, time-honored tradition and infallible performance that have come to be the three pillars of the Longines brand today, with its trademark winged hourglass logo.
In each watch, that inherent pioneering spirt of adventure that first led Auguste to leave his native Vaud is reflected and embellished with the refinement of a flawless attention to detail and stern commitment to uncompromised quality.
Over the years, Agassiz (who eventually became the sole owner of the company) consolidated the Longines production process, incorporating all assembly under one roof, and, thanks to his extended international relations and brazen willingness to explore new markets, by the mid-1840s, the label had gained global recognition, particularly in the United States.
But while tradition has always been at the core of the Longines essence, the company has never lagged in technical advances and contemporary breakthroughs.
In the 1860s, Longines catapulted the start of the industrialized age of watchmaking in Switzerland and produced one of the earliest chronometered watches. It also began the arduous recording of the serial numbers of each of its watches to ensure dependable service and authenticity for all its clients.
By the turn of the century, Longines was pioneering a single push-piece caliber and was developing shaped calibers for wristwatches.
Throughout its history, Longines maintained a close relationship with sports and the military, sponsoring events and athletes and providing customized precision timepieces to meet the demands of army life.
And in 1919, Longines was named the official supplier for the International Aeronautic Federation, developing highly accurate and reliable navigation instruments for aviation pioneers.
In the years ahead, the Longines brand would be distinguished for its first electromechanical sports timing watch, its first self-winding watch, its revolutionary siderometer, a new hand-wound mechanical movement watch with a chronometer function and its first quartz clock, but it was that close union with the world of aeronautics that would cause the brand to encapsulate the daring spirit of the first explorers of the heavens.
And it is precisely in tribute to those early pilots and their unfailing sense of adventure and discovery that Longines to launch its newest collection of watches, the Longine Spirit, due to be available in Mexico starting in early October.
The Longines Spirit line takes its place beside the other Longines families of watches, including the Grande Classique de Longines, the Longines Flagship, the Longines Heritage, the Longines Conquest Classic, the Master Collection and, of course, Longines female lines of PrimaLuna and DolceVita.
The new Spirit was created to endure across the ages, built with the same features that were so dearly trusted and loved by the world’s first aviators, from proofed accuracy to an oversized winding crown, made to be adjusted while wearing gloves.
Like the watches worn by the original fly-men and fly-women, the Spirit has prominent high-contrast numerals and reflective hands with a luminescent coating for easy reading at night.
The crown is an elegant blend of microblasted and polished textures, revealing the embossed Longines logo, and from the watch case and wristband to the outer dial flange, there is a stunning aesthetic coherence to this masterly crafted timepiece.
A tiny silicon balance spring ensures a constant and precise rhythm of time, and utmost precision is guaranteed by the Longines chronometer certificate.
The new, limited edition Longines Spirit is available with either a leather or steel wristband, and with a white, black or sapphire blue face.
…Sept. 24, 2020