Longines’s Heritage Collection, which focuses on reissuing mid-century classics with more modern components and finishing, is likely the most exciting series of models that watch collectors have seen from the brand since the 1970s. That’s not to say that the brand’s best days are necessarily behind it but instead to suggest that Longines is relentlessly committed to returning to its roots. In recent years, Longines released new models that, while derivative if not completely scripted, are nonetheless iconic and met with open arms by collectors since they more directly reflect a watchmaking heritage the brand is famous for but without all the vintage hassle involved in the original timepieces. We reviewed the Conquest Heritage before, a model that promises the look and feel of perhaps one of Longines most respected watches ever produced in the 1950s, and today we’re going to look at another historic but sportier watch built to today’s quality standards, the Heritage Legend Diver, which made its original debut in 1960.
Before examining the contemporary model let’s take a brief look at the original Legend Diver that the Heritage pays homage to. It began in 1953 when the bathyscape Trieste set a new depth record of about 3,150 underwater using instruments onboard the Swiss-designed and Italian-built vessel supplied by Longines. Seven years later, Longines released a professional dive watch to commemorate its involvement in this feat, and it’s these dive watches manufactured in the 1960s that serve as the inspiration for the Heritage Legend Diver.
The 1960s Longines Diver featured a rotating inner bezel and two crowns. The 2 o’clock crown managed the bezel while the 4 o’clock crown adjusted the time. Inside the original Longines Diver was the brand’s in-house caliber 290, a 24-jewel automatic movement that was also found in some its Conquest models. What’s particularly interesting about this diver from the 1960s is its case size. Clocking in at 42mm, it was a huge watch back then but just about perfectly sized for today’s standards.
A Note on Super-Compressor Cases
Folks, including myself until I researched, mistakenly believe that the original 1960 Longines Diver used a Super-Compressor case based on the fact that Super-Compressor cases typically featured two crowns and an internal rotating bezel. Longines most certainly did utilize Super-Compressor cases in its later divers, like the late 1960s Ultra-Chron models, but the 1960 Legend Diver did not have a true Super-Compressor case and instead relied on an in-house case back.
Before I get into why, let me quickly explain Super-Compressor cases. Super-Compressor cases, patented by watch case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA), employed a sealing technology wherein the increasing water pressure at depth presses harder on the case’s gaskets, effectively scaling the water resistance with increased water pressure. More pressure equals a stronger seal. A lot of the Super-Compressors manufactured by EPSA had inner rotating bezels and dual cross-hatched crowns at 2 and 4 o’clock that were used by brands like Bulova, Droz and Jaeger LeCoultre. Collectors see this case and dial design and they think “Super-Compressor” when, in fact, the term only refers to the water resistance technology. A true Super-Compressor case back will have the Brevet (patent) number and, often but always, the trademark diver helmet engraved on its underside. As you can see in the photo below, the 1960s model features neither like in the photo above so it is assumed to not be a true Super-Compressor case.
I’m unable to find any 1960s Longines “Legend Divers” with the same dial design and a true Super-Compressor case. If you happen to know of any other way to identify a S-C case or can provide proof that I’m otherwise mistaken, please post in the comments or get in touch with me.
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Case & Dial
Unlike the Conquest Heritage which did receive a several millimeters increase in case size, the Longines Legend Diver has the luxury of staying true to its original size and still boasting a crowd-pleasing case size. At 42mm, the steel case bears a modern size suitable for most wrists; however, the lugs on both the original and the reissue are extraordinarily long, and it’s often the lug-to-lug distance that dictates how large a watch wears on the wrist as the lugs are the features to physically extend beyond the arm. Lug-to-lug, the case measures 52mm and really pushes the limits on my 6.75″ wrist. It’s a 13mm thick case, about 4.5mm of which owes to the proudly domed sapphire and anti-reflective sapphire crystal that mimics the shape of the 1960s plexiglass. This is one of those features that I particularly love and appreciate the fact that it’s executed using modern materials as such a proud plexiglass would be prone to scratches. As you would expect in a Longines, the steel case has a magnificent polish and heft to it, lending to a solid and sure feel on the wrist. Given the synthetic strap, the weight will surprise you a little.
Dual crowns adorn the right side of the case, and like the originals they are decorated with a cross-hatch pattern, although, unlike the original crowns, they both screw down to preserve water resistance. The 2 o’clock crown smoothly operates the inner rotating bezel while the 4 o’clock crown adjusts the date and time. The Heritage version most definitely does not utilize a Super-Compressor case, but it does withstand water pressure up to 300m. Finally, on the case back, you’ll see a diver in relief true to the Legend Diver’s ancestry.
From the logo to the hands, the dial is remarkably faithful to the 1960s original with one big exception: the date. The numerals, minutes track and bezel markings are even given an aged appearance to exude a vintage aesthetic. By far the most significant deviation from the original dial is the date aperture. When the Legend Diver was reissued in 2007, Longines released it without a date feature, but in 2009 it added a version with a date complication. For its historical accuracy and symmetry, watch lovers enthusiastically prefer the no-date model, but Longines unfortunately discontinued the model a couple of years ago. The no-date version is a real prize, but the date version isn’t exactly chopped liver, though. It’s still a beautiful watch and the date window is tastefully executed with a dark background and off-white aged text to match the dial and bezel.
The polished stainless steel hands share similar shapes and proportions with the original diver although the hour hand in the reissue seems to have less luminous paint and the minute hand is not as pointy. Distinguishing the hands is simple and the shape of the hour hand is different from a lot of vintage-inspired and contemporary divers made today.
While the original diver was powered by Longines’s manufacture caliber 290, the L633 is the engine behind the Legend Diver. It’s a modified ETA 2824-2, a perfectly reliable and economical choice that contributes to the timepiece’s strength and accessibility.
Style & Comfort
It comes on a synthetic and slightly padded sailcloth strap lined on the underside with a Nubuck-like material that makes for one of the most comfortable straps I’ve worn in a while. Expect the strap to conform to your wrist without much of a fight. The steel clasp is cross-hatched, making for a more imaginative buckle and a nice touch that coordinates well with the crowns. My chief complaint with the strap is that its floating keeper is quite a wanderer, and often I found the loose end of the strap sticking out.
There’s a versatility in this watch in spite of its casual strap. It’s undeniably at home with either a T-shirt or business attire, and if I were in the right mood, I might even say that its classic aesthetic and polished case could have me pairing it with a suit, especially if I substituted a leather strap for the sailcloth. A strap change isn’t required, but if you have one in mind, it shouldn’t be discouraged either. The lugs are 22mm apart and welcoming to aftermarket straps. Although the lugs are long, the holes for the spring bars are situated closer to the case than you would expect, which means that you’re unlikely to have that nasty side-effect of a strap change where the new shoes leave a huge gap between the strap and the case. You could dress up the Legend Diver with an alligator and deployant or keep it simple with a dark NATO strap just as well.
The Final Word
Like many watches in the Heritage line, the Legend Diver gives its owner much of the character and appeal of owning the vintage original but with today’s quality standards and none of the mechanical inevitabilities of a watch that survived the 1960s. If you love divers and you want to introduce a vintage-inspired option into your collection or are looking for a well-made alternative to the sea of ratcheting unidirectional bezels out there then the Legend Diver is a great option. It’s priced right at a retail price of $2,300, making it easy for you to own an iconic watch with high-quality modern sensibilities and real Longines DNA.
- Model: Longines Heritage Legend Diver Review (L3.6126.96.36.199)
- Dimensions: 42mm x 52mm x 13mm
- Case: 42mm stainless steel
- Dial: Black
- Bezel: Bi-directional inner bezel
- Crystal: Domed anti-reflective sapphire
- Case back: Screwdown with diver relief
- Lug Width: 22mm
- Strap: Black synthetic sailcloth
- Movement: L633 (ETA 2824-2)
- Water Resistance: 300m
- Retail Price: $2,300