Compagnie des Montres Longines, Francillon S.A., or simply Longines , is a Swiss luxury watchmaker based in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Founded by Auguste Agassiz in 1832, the company has been a subsidiary of the Swiss Swatch Group and its predecessors since 1983. Its winged hourglass logo, which was registered in 1889, is the oldest unchanged yet still active registered trademark.
Longines in 1867
Longines was founded in Saint-Imier in 1832 by Auguste Agassiz, a Swiss watchmaker and brother of biologist Louis Agassiz. Auguste had two partners, lawyers Henri Raiguel and Florian Morel, and the company’s original name was Raiguel Jeune & Cie. By 1846, Raigeul and Morel had retired from the watch industry, leaving Agassiz as sole company head.
Several years later, Agassiz brought in his bright, enterprising nephew, trained economist Ernest Francillon, into the business. Francillon was the mastermind behind several impressive innovations that would distinguish the company from its competitors. One early stroke of genius from Francillon was to solely produce crown-wound pocket watches rather than the prevalent key-wound alternative. Later, when Agassiz started suffering from ill health, he passed leadership to Francillon.
Under Francillon, the company began segueing out of the établissage system and moved towards more modern production methods. Francillon solidified his firm’s progression to mass production in 1867 by establishing his first factory. Its location, an area in southern St. Imier known locally as Les Longines (“long meadows”), gave rise to the Longines name. To help further his efforts to improve the production at Longines, Francillon brought on Jacques David, a talented engineer. In addition, Francillon appointed David as Technical Director and put him in charge of the new factory. By 1867, it was also marked the year the Longines factory produced its first in-house watch movement, the 20A. The 20A, built with an anchor escapement (usually employed in pendulum clocks), was wound and set via a pendent crown. The innovative movement won an award at the 1867 Universal
Exhibition in Paris.
Several years later, the U.S. watchmaking industry was earning fame worldwide for making great strides in industrialized watch manufacturing. Francillon sent Jacques David to the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia to gather new ideas and strategies from the Americans. Upon returning, David wrote a comprehensive 108-page report on what he had learned about American watch production. This report is considered one of the most significant documents in watchmaking history. It detailed the inner workings of American watch factories, including the entire production process from raw materials to finished watches. Additionally, David also shared the highly-effective internal structure and quality control measures implemented in these factories. In his analysis, David concluded the Swiss watchmaking industry needed to change significantly to keep pace with American competitors.
Longines Serial Number 183 “Attesa” date 1867
Longines caliber 20H
On November 6, 2018, Longines announced the discovery by Seiji Lépine of serial number 183 dating the watch to October 23, 1867. This is currently the Oldest Longines watch known in existence. The caliber is an August Agassiz 4 (AA4).
Longines “Second Setting Watch” belonging to P.V.H. Weems Smithsonian
Charles Lindbergh designs “Hour Angle Watch”
In 1878, Longines developed its first chronograph movement, the 20H. It was a “mono-pusher” chronograph, in which all 3 chronograph functions- start, stop, and reset – were controlled via the crown. With the 20H, Longines could produce stopwatches suitable for precise timing in professional events. This was when Longines began building its reputation in equestrian sports such as horse racing and jumping.
By 1880, Longines was known for the quality and precision of its timepieces.[ To Francillon’s dismay, the brand became a target for counterfeiters looking to pass off cheaply-made watches as genuine Longines products. “Knock-offs” of Longines were not only directly stealing business and revenue from Francillon, but also potentially damaging his company’s reputation. Therefore, Francillon made the wise decision to trademark the Longines name in 1880, and distinctive winged hourglass logo in 1889. By 1886, Longines had already established itself as a primary supplier of timing equipment for most New York sporting officials.
Notable Longines calibers:
Longines 20H pocket chronograph
Longines 18.72 pocket chronograph
Longines 19.73 pocket chronograph
In 1927, P.V.H. Weems collaborated with Longines to produce the first wrist watch Weems avigation watch. This watch was 47mm in diameter.
In 1931, Longines collaborated with Charles Lindbergh to introduce the Hour Angle aviation watch. In 1954, Longines introduced a timekeeping instrument called Longines Chronocinegines.
In 1937, P.V.H. Weems again collaborated with Longines to produce a second smaller 33mm Weems avigation watch reference 4036.
Notable Longines calibers:
Longines 12.68z time only or wrist watch chronograph
Longines 13.33z wrist watch chronograph
Longines 13ZN wrist watch chronograph
Longines 30CH wrist watch chronograph
Longines 37.9 time only
In 1983, Longines’ owner ASUAG merged with SSIH (which owned Omega SA) to form the Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie (SMH). SMH became the Swatch Group in 1988 and Longines continued without R&D and production activities of its own.
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