- DANNY MILTON
Hands-On The New Longines Spirit Titanium Is, In Fact, A Hit
From horse-jumping to apartment-hunting, this watch can handle it all.
Two months ago, Longines introduced a new titanium timepiece into its fledgling, but quite popular, Spirit collection. Upon its release, our own Logan Baker proclaimed it to be the "best pilot's watch of the year." In a year with some stiff competition, including the little Big Pilot from IWC, my interest was piqued after seeing that.
I first saw the watch in the metal the very same day our introductory coverage hit the HODINKEE website. I – along with our Deputy Editor, Nora Taylor – was attending the Longines Heritage Classic, a competitive equestrian event. Seated at a long table with an impressive spread of food, surrounded by horses (and bees) and jockeys hurdling over obstacles, a brand representative handed the watch to me with a grin and said, "Check this out." I knew what it was since the news had dropped earlier that day, but I was excited to see it, live.
It's interesting because this wasn't an entirely unfamiliar piece to me. Last year, I reviewed the OG piece in the Spirit Collection – aptly named the Longines Spirit – a 40mm pilot-adjacent watch in steel with large applied Arabic numerals, a matte black dial, and oversized crown. I thoroughly enjoyed that watch and wrote as much in my story at the time. I made some statement about how Longines had created the quintessential prototypical value proposition – a watch punching far above its weight class.
And then I saw this one, a slightly different take on its steel predecessor. You see, the original model had a decided heft to it, a weight that gave it a real premium feel. Titanium is stronger than steel (though more prone to scratching) but it is far lighter. It also brings to mind the 2011 Sia and David Guetta hit, "Titanium." Handling titanium watches, time and again, I am constantly fooled by the way they feel in relation to the way they look. They are preposterously light, and this time was no different.
The watch comes fitted to a bracelet, also fashioned from titanium, and the whole package feels no heavier than a plastic pen. My first thoughts when I held it were "this would be a treat to wear daily because you wouldn’t even feel it on wrist." Yes, my thoughts are as nerdy as I am. But before I could thought-bubble more watch-y things, my time with the piece was cut short. As a horse flew over a piece of wood, the watch was taken away from me, left for someone else to play and get acquainted with.
I wouldn't see it again for weeks, when I was able to secure a sample for review, taking it out on the town for an interesting jaunt. My wife and I were searching for a new apartment. We left our old spot in Brooklyn – our first place in New York – in search of greener pastures (spoiler alert, we would, in fact, return to Brooklyn). No neighborhood was off-limits at the time, the whole city would be our playground. On one particular Friday afternoon, with the new Longines Spirit Titanium in tow, we headed to Long Island City in the borough of Queens.
I had the light, wearable, 40mm piece on my wrist as we toured building after building, unit after unit. One apartment was on the 30th floor – a corner unit with endless sunlight. As the sun hit the watch I got a true glimpse of how this dial differs from the original steel variant. The new dial has a gradient effect, which when paired with the gilt numerals provides no shortage of visual interest and a whole lot of shininess. That apartment was just outside of our budget, though, so we went south ... to the 7th floor.
This unit felt a lot more like a dungeon than an apartment. Our view out the living room window was of a massive brick wall that blocked out any and all sunlight (an unfortunately regular occurrence in NY living). It was here that I got to test the prowess of the lume. I walked into the equally dark bedroom and saw very clearly the strength of the green glowing Super-Luminova. This also reminded me of a key design upgrade on this watch – no date display. This means perfect symmetry on the dial and that all of the Arabic numerals are represented and accounted for.
We struck out in LIC – none of the apartments were quite right for us. But we didn't entirely waste the day. On the edge of the neighborhood is a vast expanse of parks and piers along the East River, overlooking Manhattan. With the sun shining, and our dog Mia along for the trip, we walked along the water, taking in the view. It also gave me more chances to see just how versatile this watch is.
Sure the titanium presents as darker than steel, but this watch really thrives in its monochromatic appearance. The splash of red for the seconds hand, along with the golden gilt-ness of the dial text and markers really bring to mind shades of the Tudor Black Bay. Considering that this watch is also chronometer-certified, courtesy of the caliber L888.4 movement beating inside, and costs less than $3k – I think it will really turn itself into a value-packed competitor of the slightly upmarket watch choices from the likes of Tudor and Omega. It has star quality, matched only by the five literal stars applied to the dial surface.
On this watch, the modern titanium material really compliments the heritage-esque design, sort of like Avocado on a Cheeseburger. What I appreciated most is just how simple the piece is. The clasp, the bracelet (it also comes on a fabric strap), and the dial are all pared down to the bare essentials. This is the kind of watch you could wear every day, never think about, and never get bored of. It took no attention away from me when I was looking for my next place to live. But when I felt down on my luck, like I’d never find an apartment in this overcrowded city, I needed only to look at my wrist, see the watch, and smile. It has that effect, you can trust me on that. I had the chance to see it in the presence of horses and real-estate brokers, and that effect never wore off.
I think this piece is really going to be – as Logan alluded to – one of the sneakiest hits of the year. It has the sort of unquantifiable simplicity that you want from a watch. Pairing that with the ultra-strong case material is just the – um – egg on the avocado on the burger.
The Longines Spirit Titanium 40mm Ref. L3.810.1.53.6 is a 100-meter water resistant watch. The Spirit is 40mm in diameter, featuring a screw-down crown and closed caseback. Titanium bracelet. Automatic caliber L888.4 movement with a frequency of 25,200 vibrations per hour, and a power reserve of 72 hours. Black dial with applied gilt markers and Super-LumiNova on hands and markers. Price: $2,950.