The Longines Spirit Flyback Chronograph

Earlier this year, we covered the launch of the Longines Spirit Flyback Collection. Now, Longines is introducing the Spirit Flyback with a grade 5 titanium case and the option of either a titanium bracelet or NATO-style strap. Since Longines already offers the time-only Spirit in titanium (which we like!), it’s a predictable extension of the collection. Like the existing steel models, the Spirit Flyback in titanium measures 42mm x 17mm thick (49mm lug-to-lug). Some of that thickness is due to the domed sapphire, but there’s no way around it: this is a thick boy. The Longines Spirit Flyback dial is a sunray anthracite, complemented by a black ceramic bezel insert. There’s Super-LumiNova on the applied Arabic numerals and hands, with gilt accents – as our hands-on of the steel version shows, the Spirit Flyback has a strong lume signature on the dial and bezel.

The grade 5 titanium case offers 100 meters of water resistance. When it comes to watchmaking, titanium comes in two forms: Grade 2 and Grade 5. I appreciate that Longines has opted for the slightly higher-quality grade 5 titanium, an alloy that includes aluminum and vanadium (6% aluminum and 4% vanadium, which is why it’s also referred to as Ti 6Al-4V). Grade 5 is harder, and usually, you can expect to see it in higher-end manufacturing, while lower-priced options might use Grade 2. As just one example, the Rolex Yacht-Master uses Grade 5, while the Tudor Pelagos 39 uses Grade 2.
“I know that the five stars offer a link to past Longines models, but I also know that it looks like this watch has an Uber rating,” James wrote in his hands-on review of the 39mm Spirit Zulu Time. This sums up how I feel about the Spirit Flyback. It has one foot firmly in Longines’ heritage and the other in the modern era. It makes for a decent release but with some compromises.

Longines invented the Longines Spirit Flyback chronograph in the 1930s, a useful complication for pilots of the era, allowing them to stop, start, and reset the chronograph with the press of one pusher. This led to the production of the 13ZN (read our in-depth article about the caliber here). It was one of the most legendary calibers of all time and it was put to use in some of the most beautiful chronographs ever made. But with the introduction of the Longines Flyback Spirit this year, Longines hasn’t (yet) fully told this story or made this historical connection. First, there’s the watch itself: it’s a commercial proposition, large, and presumably targeted towards a population that has a taste for watches of this size.

But a Longines Spirit Flyback chronograph is a bit of a nerdy thing and not necessarily a commercial proposition. It’s something enthusiasts covet, understanding that it’s not a common complication but one that’s historically and horologically interesting. As an enthusiast, I would’ve loved to see Longines lean into this heritage and historical tie-in, both in product and in messaging. Longines already makes some of the best heritage-inspired watches on the market, and it is perhaps the most historically impressive maker of chronographs. This release continues to toe the line between modern and heritage. It’s cool to see that Longines has brought a flyback chronograph to its pilots’ line. Like the Spirit Zulu Time (introduced at 42mm, now also offered at 39mm), I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until Longines brings its flyback functionality to a variety of case sizes.

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