Certainly most of the watch industry is leaning on mid-century design (and this is also true of much of the world outside of watches), but releasing heritage pieces is a game that Longines is extraordinary at playing. Not every one is a home run, but Longines is rightfully winning back a lot of the attention it lost at the close of the twentieth century by reeducating watch buyers one throwback at a time.
For Longines, Baselworld 2014 was another opportunity to further revive the brand’s heritage. So strong was the press coverage of this year’s vintage-inspired releases that I’m willing to bet most of us didn’t even notice that Longines launched an entirely new contemporary collection (its Elegant Collection, by the way). That’s because Longines hit us hard this year with some of their best reissues since the Legend Diver: The Conquest 1954-2014; the Heritage 1935; and the topic of today’s review, the Heritage 1973, a modern interpretation of the 1973 Conquest, a mechanical chronograph that housed Longines’s revered 30CH caliber.
The Longines Heritage 1973
What’s particularly interesting about this watch is how dead-on it satisfies today’s vintage watch preferences. Collectors new to the vintage scene often wet their feet with chronographs casing robust and legendary calibers with dials signed by less prestigious brands at prices more affordable than today’s chronographs. Wakmann, Zodiac, Hamilton–all these watches with Valjoux 72s or 7730s are perfect entry-level options for collectors who have their eyes and hearts on a Heuer Carrera with a panda dial.
Now, the Heritage 1973 celebrates an aesthetic that arrived a few years after the aforementioned examples, but until its arrival modern collectors didn’t have many options if they wanted a new watch with a panda dial. With the Longines Heritage 1973, they not only have a panda dial option but it also comes packaged in a vintage-inspired execution.
Right away the dial strikes you with it’s panda coloration, named so because of the white background and the black chronograph registers. Panda dials are coveted by collectors, especially in vintage circles where Rolex Paul Newman Daytonas and Heuer Carreras are king, so I think when Longines chose this as one of the two colorways, it really set the watch up to succeed. There is sophistication–and maybe a little bit of intrigue–in the minimal use of color. Around the dial is a blue tachymeter serving as the only splash of color. Chronographs often feature a colored stopwatch second hand, but in this case it’s just a fat stick of metal, which is a real utilitarian look.
Love it or hate it, this watch is an exceptionally faithful recreation with only a couple of unscripted moves. The subdials are arranged in a tri-compax dial layout, but you may not notice it at first. The 12-hour totalizer at 6 o’clock blends into the dial, so it seems like a dual register chronograph, just like the 1973 version, but it’s not. There’s a lot going on here–maybe it’s even a little busy with the polished hands and markers and the excessive hashing around the dial–but that’s all true to the original.
The date window is not so subtly squeezed into place, contributing to the dial’s overeagerness, and I’d rather have seen it at 6 o’clock. The added 12-hour subdial and the date aperture may be a couple of strikes against the watch as a heritage release, but it’s still a killer modern watch.
Does this watch, specifically its case, look at all familiar to you? An interesting fact about this case on the original 1973 Conquest is it shared the exact same case with the Heuer Camaro. For the reissue, Longines retained the original lines and barely upped the size. The cushion case on this watch is perfectly sized and well finished. Cushion cases tend to wear larger and 40mm strikes the right balance of vintage styling and modern size preferences. Coming in at 47mm lug-to-lug and 14mm thick, you have an extraordinarily wearable piece perfect for a range of wrist sizes.
There’s a lot to love and very little to complain about. I love the radial brushing on the top, which contrasts sharply with the mirror finishing on the sides and on the chronograph pushers. There’s real charm in the profile, too, because the domed sapphire crystal sits proud above the bezel. You see a lot of bold crystals in classic chronographs from brands like Omega Speedmaster and Sinn, and it’s a feature that really cements the vintage look in the Heritage 1973. My only complaint with the case is how the recessed pusher at ten o’clock interrupts an otherwise smooth steel surface on the left side of the case.
Turn the watch over and you’re treated to a view of the movement through the sapphire display back. Now, in 1973, the Conquest utilized the legendary 30CH movement, an in-house handwound column-wheel chronograph movement developed by Longines. The Heritage release houses caliber L688, an automatic column-wheel chronograph movement with a 54-hour power reserve developed by ETA specifically for Longines.
For aesthetics sake and convenience, I wish the date were adjustable through the crown. This seems to be a trend ETA has been following for the past couple of years. We’ve seen it in Longines watches, like the Heritage Column-Wheel Chronograph, as well as in other Swatch Group references like the Rado D-Star 200 and the Omega Speedmaster MkII.
On the Wrist
The 1973 comes on a black alligator strap with a signed pin buckle. It’s a high quality strap with some nice contrast stitching to accentuate the sportiness. The case has a 20mm lug width, so switching out straps should be easy if you prefer something even sportier like a rally strap or a NATO, but this is a strap I’ve seen on many Longines models and it’s an absolute winner.
Weighing in at 88 grams and being 14mm thick, it’s wearable under most conditions and will find its way beneath most shirt cuffs. It’s really an ideal everyday watch, as you can dress it up or down, but it’s also special in that it’s a panda-colored and vintage style cushion case that you don’t see on a lot of wrists today.
The Heritage 1973 is priced at $3,250 which puts this piece in entry-level automatic chronograph territory. Yes, you can get cheaper automatic chronographs from Sinn, Christopher Ward, Hamilton–you name it, but for what you get here–a vintage-inspired design, a column wheel chronograph and a panda dial without having to deal with the hassle of owning vintage–it’s a solid value.
Now, I wish there weren’t a date forced into the dial, and I would really have rather adjusted the date via the crown than have to use a key to access the pusher on the case, but the 1973 is all around a laudable execution. There’s so much to love about it that makes these flaws much more tolerable.