n times of rapid change, such as we have experienced since the beginning of the millennium (and particularly in this year 2020), it is wise to find inspiration in those who have shown a pioneering spirit in the past. It should therefore come as no surprise that Longines, one of the brands with the richest heritage in the watch world, should show a keen interest in those who succeeded in pushing the boundaries of the last century. Can we draw inspiration from their spirit to overcome contemporary challenges? There are certainly lessons to be learned.
With its new Longines Spirit collection, the brand is invoking the pioneering spirit of aviators Amelia Earhart and Elinor Smith, the explorer Paul-Emile Victor, as well as the pilot and entrepreneur Howard Hughes, among others. It does so with a remarkable sense of parity (another contemporary challenge), highlighting as many female figures as male.
When they achieved their records, all of these people were equipped with instruments supplied by the Saint-Imier brand. To fully understand the meaning of the new Longines Spirit collection, it is worth revisiting the fascinating lives and adventures of some of these pioneers, who pushed the boundaries of human achievement.
Amelia Earhart, sweeping away preconceptions
14 hours and 56 minutes: that is the time it took Amelia Earhart to become the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic in 1932. With this crossing, the Kansas native swept away all the preconceptions of her time. In 1921, at the age of 24, she bought her first airplane. A year later she piloted the open two-seater with its modest 60 horsepower engine up to 14,000 ft (4,267 m), setting the women’s altitude record.
In 1928, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a co-pilot, just one year after Charles Lindbergh’s flight. But she was not satisfied, saying, “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” The aviatrix clearly preferred the pilot’s seat. That same year, she became the first woman to fly solo across North America and back. She also founded an association to promote the role of women in aviation.
- In 1932, Amelia Earhart performed the first female solo flight over the Atlantic, using her Longines chronograph as a navigation instrument.
In 1932, Amelia Earhart achieved her ambition to cross the Atlantic, flying solo from Canada to Northern Ireland, battling strong winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems. On both of her Atlantic crossings, she was wearing a Longines chronograph. At the time, watches were the only navigation instrument available.
Flying around the globe close to the equator, a 29,000-mile (47,000 km) trip, was meant to be Earhart’s final project, together with her navigator Fred Noonan. After reaching Papua New Guinea, their twin-engine Lockheed Electra, running low on fuel, disappeared into the Pacific. The wreckage of the plane was never found. Amelia Earhart’s pioneering spirit nevertheless lives on.
Paul-Emile Victor, understanding the spirit of “the Other”
Despite being originally from the French Jura, Paul-Emile Victor, unlike many of his contemporaries from this cradle of precision mechanics, did not become a watchmaker. He became a renowned scientist, and decided to settle among the Inuit. Fascinated by their civilisation, he shared his experiences and his unparalleled knowledge in a number of books and lectures.
His experience also led him to take a closer interest in the poles, and in exploring the mysterious glacial expanses that overlook our planet. In 1936, Paul-Emile Victor spent seven weeks crossing the Greenland ice cap, equipped with three Longines stopwatches that enabled him to calculate longitude and thus to find his way across.
- In 1936, Paul-Emile Victor spent seven weeks crossing the Greenland ice cap, equipped with three Longines stopwatches.
During the Second World War, he was a pilot and paratrooper in the United States Air Force. When peace was restored, he founded the French Polar Expeditions. Over almost 30 years, Paul-Emile Victor led 150 expeditions to gather information uncovering the mystery of the poles. He bequeathed a vast corpus of research on culture, the environment and humanity in some of the remotest places on Earth.
Elinor Smith, a child’s dream come true
“I knew from age six that I wanted to fly,” said Elinor Smith. At 10, the Long Island native started having flying lessons. Aged 15, she mastered her first solo flight. Just a year later, in 1928, she received her license from the Federal Aviation Administration. This made the 16-year-old the youngest certified pilot in the world.
A few months later, Elinor Smith flew under the four bridges of New York City, a challenge she wanted to take up because one of her male acquaintances, who had tried and failed, told her that she would not succeed.
- Equipped with Longines instruments, Elinor Smith set an altitude record by flying at 32,576 ft in 1931.
At the age of 17, the “wonder child” of aviation broke the women’s solo endurance record, flying an opencockpit plane for 13 hours and 16 minutes. Equipped with Longines instruments, she set numerous solo records for endurance, speed and altitude. In November 1929, she remained in the air for 42 hours thanks to the innovation of in-flight refuelling.
Two years later, after almost dying on a first attempt, she set a new women’s altitude record by flying higher than any other, at 32,576 ft (9,929 m). The woman who never lost her childlike sense of wonder and possibility eventually retired from perilous adventuring and lived to be almost 100 years old!
Howard Hugues, the ultimate iconoclast
In 1925, the young Howard Hughes inherited his father’s company, which manufactured drills for the oil industry. Over the following years, Hughes managed to multiply the family fortune with his ventures and investments, as a film producer and entrepreneur in aviation, airlines, electronics, media, manufacturing, real estate and petroleum drilling.
Known as much for his entrepreneurial instinct as for his eccentricity, Howard Hughes, a passionate aviator, tackled all the records of his time. In 1938, on a flight timed by Longines – and in an aircraft equipped with the brand’s chronometers and chronographs – the business tycoon broke the record for the fastest around-the-world flight with his Lockheed 14 N Super Electra: 3 days, 19 hours and 14 minutes.
- Howard Hughes was the most famous user of the “Siderograph”, an on-board device for aerial navigation patented by Longines.
He was the most famous user of the “Siderograph”, an on-board device for aerial navigation patented by Longines. This model did not display the usual civilian time, but rather sidereal time in hour angles, minutes and minute arcs. Sidereal time measures the rotation of the earth with reference to the stars, not the sun, enabling the navigator to determine the position of an airplane at night or over the sea, before the era of modern GPS instruments.
Longines equipped the Siderograph with the most accurate movement manufactured at the time, placing it inside a heat-toughened aluminium case. This material was perfectly suited for aviation because of its lightweight and anti-magnetic nature.
THE NEW LONGINES SPIRIT COLLECTION
The collection takes traditional features from pilots’ watches and combines them with contemporary lines and codes. The oversized crown, the flange, the pronounced step around the crystal, the typeface on the dial, the diamond-shaped indexes and the large, luminous baton hands are all elements drawn from the days of pioneering aviation. Great care has been taken with the various finishes, whether brushed, matt, polished or in relief.
- The Longines Spirit ref. L3.8188.8.131.52 (42 mm) houses a COSC-certified column-wheel chronograph movement (L688.4) with silicon hairspring.
Longines has fitted this range with exclusively selfwinding movements (L888.4 and L688.4) featuring silicon hairsprings to guarantee extreme accuracy and increased longevity. The calibres, with a power reserve of 64 and 60 hours respectively, are chronometer- certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). The advanced technology of this new collection is also complemented by the domed sapphire glass with multi-layered anti-reflective coating on both sides, screw-in crown and engraved case back secured with six screws.
- On the Longines Spirit ref. L3.810.4.73.6 (40 mm), the domed sapphire glass protects a grained silver dial set with Arabic numerals and black sandblasted hands coated with Super-LumiNova®.
Available in three-hand/calendar models (40 mm and 42 mm) and a chronograph (42 mm), it comes with a matt black, grained silver or sunray blue dial, all bearing five applied stars. In the Longines tradition, this has always signified an improvement of the quality and reliability of the brand’s movements. Five stars is the maximum number that can be achieved. This cutting-edge technology is a fitting homage to those who, in their time, pushed the limits of human achievement.
- Like the other references of the new collection, the Longines Spirit L3.810.4.73.2 (40 mm) features a satin-brushed and polished stainless steel case. It houses an exclusive COSC-certified self-winding movement (L888.4) with silicon hairspring.