Longines Avigation Big Eye

Hands-On: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Longines Avigation Big Eye

This detailed review of the Longines Avigation Big Eye includes live images, specification and pricing.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

Watch brands spend an inordinate amount of money on marketing, endeavouring to gain valuable column-inches for their timepieces. Indeed, public awareness of luxury watch marques and specific watch models is of vital importance to prestigious maisons.

However, I seldom find inspiration for an article in a newspaper or a magazine, choosing to look to alternative sources for editorial ideas. The Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) is a wonderful source of inspiration. It plays host to numerous watches of merit, each entered into one of several categories. However, there are only a few companies which succeed in winning one of the highly valued prizes. This year, the winner of the ‘Revival’ category was the Longines Avigation Big Eye.

The inspiration for the brand’s Avigation Big Eye model was a pilot’s chronograph acquired for the brand’s museum. The Avigation Big Eye captures the aesthetics of the past with each carefully considered detail.

On seeing images of the Longines Avigation Big Eye I felt compelled to put pen to paper. This watch piqued my interest with its period styling and value for money. I contacted the brand and arranged for a sample to be dispatched to my office and soon a period of evaluation ensued.

The dial

The black dial has a slightly glossy appearance and features three subdials. Each subdial is snailed and sits virtually flush with the main dial plane. All details are subtle and softly spoken, with the exception of the distinctive 30-minute chronograph register which is big and bold.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

Every hour, save for 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, is denoted with Arabic numerals. The numerals are painted and feature luminescent treatment. The baton-shaped hands and said numerals emit a green hue in dim light.

Located at 3 o’clock is a 30-minute chronograph register. It is termed the ‘Big Eye’ and dwarfs the other subdials, assuming a dominant role. The ‘heritage’ inspired design replicates the styling of pilots’ watches from the 1930s. Each short stroke indicates an elapsed minute, while the long strokes signify 3-minute integers.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

A 12-hour chronograph register is positioned above 6 o’clock and a small seconds display resides at 9 o’clock.

The Longines nomen, located below noon, features vintage typography avec serifs. The references to bygone times are omnipresent.

The Avigation Big Eye eschews a date display, upholding the styling of the original watch. The absence of a date display makes for a clean, uncluttered layout with each indication having sufficient room to breathe easily.

While Longines has upheld the period styling of the 1930s nothing mars the lucidity of dial or the overall practicality of the watch.

The case

The case measures 41mm in diameter making it suitable for most would-be wearers. While Longines does not specify the height of the case, it does appear substantial, imbuing the watch with a robust character.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

Both the bezel and case-back are highly polished, with all remaining surfaces featuring satin-brushed treatment. The lugs are short and sharply taper downwards. The leather strap exhibits an aged appearance courtesy of the delightful patination on its surface.

Unlike the original Longines pilot’s watch of the 1930s, the Avigation Big Eye features a scratch resistant sapphire crystal making for a highly practical watch. The numerous coats of anti-reflective treatment confer a glare-free aspect when viewing the dial below. The box-glass sapphire crystal provides the watch with a vintage appearance which proves most becoming.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

The case-back is adorned with an aeroplane motif and engraved moniker.

Longines Avigation Big Eye - column-wheel chronograph featuring caliber LM688 movement

In common with the scale of the ‘Big Eye’, the push-pieces also exhibit behemoth proportions. Their oversized dimensions allow operation of the pushers with gloved hands, a pre-requisite of the original pilots’ watches. However, practicality is not sacrificed on the alter of style. The push-pieces do not impose their presence upon the wrist with restricted mobility or annoying chafing of the skin. Quite the contrary, exalted levels of comfort are a fundamental strength of this watch.

The movement

The self-winding Caliber L688 doffs its cap to modernity. Traditionalists may prefer a hand-wound movement, but the automatic calibre does augment ease of ownership and makes this timepiece ideal for daily use.

The balance oscillates to a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the power reserve is an impressive 54 hours.

Where the Caliber L688 stands out is that it is a column-wheel chronograph. This provides a silken-action to the push-pieces. Moreover, when the stop-watch function is actuated there is no discernible wobble as it leaves its starting position. When the central chronograph seconds hand is reset it lands perfectly on zero without a moments hesitation.

The fact that Longines has delivered a column-wheel chronograph for the modest sum of £1940.00 (RRP as at 30.12.2017) is incredible. Indeed, this chronograph outclasses many inferior cam-actuated chronographs which are often costlier. This aspect has to be attributed to the impressive economies of scale Longines enjoys as part of the Swatch Group.

There is a part of me which would have liked to have seen the movement, but I accept traditionalists will agree with Longines’s decision to fit a solid case-back.

Closing remarks

Longines has deftly respected tradition with the Avigation Big Eye. The dial layout, painted hands and numerals, box-glass sapphire and solid case-back wonderfully coalesce and uphold the characteristics of the past.

However, Longines has not doggedly held on to the past at the expense of practicality. The sapphire crystal is robust and, in my opinion, technically superior to acrylic. The scale of the watch befits today’s tastes without proving too large. The convenience of a self-winding movement makes the Avigation Big Eye a practical watch for daily wear.

Personally, I feel the biggest attribute of this watch is the Caliber L688 with its column-wheel chronograph. This type of chronograph is technically superior to cam actuated chronographs and usually commands a hefty price premium. Indeed, some cam actuated chronographs are sold for five figure sums. It is therefore surprising that Longines offers this model for the just £1940, making it a bargain.

There are few watch companies which can deliver so much for so little. It is the economies of scale which allow Longines to deliver an impressive timepiece with a broad range of talents for comparatively little.

It is not surprising that Longines won the GPHG ‘Revival’ category. This is a watch that should not only be inspiring to the jury members of the GPHG or journalists looking for a story, but also for watch lovers who appreciate vintage styling and value for money.

Further information

Technical specifications

• Model: Longines Avigation Big Eye

Case: Stainless steel; diameter 41mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).

• Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph

• Movement:Caliber L688; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); power reserve 54 hours.

• Strap: Brown leather strap with stainless steel pin buckle

• Price: £1940 (RRP as at 30.12.2017)

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