Longines, part of the Swatch Group family of brands, has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to reissues of vintage watches. It was Longines, after all, whose Legend Diver — which came out all the way back in 2007! — paved the path for the industry at large to begin digging into its back catalog. And while the cynics among us will argue that this perpetual glance backward has come to preoccupy the horological landscape in the interest of making a quick buck and at the expense of developing new and inventive designs, there’s also no doubt that many of these reissues revive strikingly beautiful timepieces that would otherwise have been relegated to the dusty pages of history.
To wit: the new Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve. Produced in celebration of the Conquest collection’s 70th anniversary this year, it takes an otherwise pedestrian complication — the humble power reserve indicator — and moves it front and center, as it was on the original model from 1959. Every mechanical watch (of the hand-wound or automatic variety) has a power reserve, or the amount of time the watch will continue to function once the mainspring is wound, either manually via the crown or via an automatic-winding rotor. On an automatic watch, we rarely consider the power reserve, as the act of wearing it winds the mainspring. On a hand-wound watch, however, it can be difficult to know how much power is left — which Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve is why the power reserve indicator is so handy.
Generally, this indicator (if present at all) takes the form of a small crescent with hours printed alongside it, sort of like a dashboard gauge — a small hand generally points to the number of operational hours remaining before the watch needs winding. Other systems exist, however, including the interesting layout from the 1950s-era Longines Conquest in which an inner disc rotates within the greater dial, pointing to the appropriate power reserve number printed around its periphery. An elegant, compelling (yet unobtrusive) placement for the power reserve indicator, this design made for a fairly unique product — one made all the more interesting by the framed date window present at 12 o’clock, rather than the more typical 3 o’clock.
It’s this design that Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve has revived in time for the Conquest collection’s 70th anniversary, though there will doubtless be more anniversary releases spread throughout the year. Available in champagne, anthracite, or black dials, Longines decided to upsize the piece from the original’s ~35mm dial — but only to 38mm. Had this watch come out five years ago — and most certainly had it come out 10 or 15 years ago — it would’ve measured an ungainly 42mm, or 40mm at best. But even a mid-priced brand such as Longines, which has to cater to casual watch buyers in department stores as well as to deep enthusiasts, has embraced the industry’s move to expand its smaller-sized offerings. (Which, in 1959, would’ve measured large!)
TL; DR — this is all welcome news. Here we have a watch with a unique take on a common complication, housed in a 38mm case, and available as a standard-production model. Its dial is visually dynamic — as the watch is either hand-wound or wound on the wrist, the central disc rotates, indicating higher power reserve. Alongside the Conquest’s signature, circular track running outside the power reserve indicator, it features uniquely shaped, applied hour markers in yellow gold, rose gold or silver coloring (depending on the dial configuration), plus a trapezoidal enclosure for the 12 o’clock date window, and skyscraper/modified syringe-shaped hands filled with SuperLumiNova. Housed in a stainless steel case with both satin and polished surfaces and topped with a box-shaped, vintage-inspired sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, the watch is heavily informed by its vintage ancestor, though it does make concessions to modernity in the form of its movement.
While the original Longines Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve model from ‘59 was indeed automatic — a relative rarity for all but heavy-duty dive watches (and certain other exceptions) at the time — the new Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve makes use of a movement equipped a longer power reserve (64 hours), a silicon balance spring, and ten times the magnetic resistance of the ISO 764 standard. This new caliber, the Longines L896.5, is visible via sapphire caseback, while the case offers 50m of water resistance.
If you’re like me — someone who loves vintage watches, but also wants to see the industry place more of an emphasis on designing fresh products — the Conquest Heritage Central Power Reserve will prove a mixed blessing. But what’s not in doubt is that this is a handsome take on a cool price from the classic era of watch design, and that it looks damn good in each of its three different iterations. If I were in the market for a new dress watch, it would certainly be on my short list.