It says a lot that Swiss luxury horologer Longines' first ad ever cued to horse racing. The brand, which celebrates its 185th anniversary in 2017, has become synonymous with equestrian disciplines
By: Dimitria Vitanova
Posted on: March 14, 2017
Marking its 185th anniversary this year, Swiss high-end horologer Longines has broken in such a determined gallop into equestrian sports that today, it is safe to say, it truly reigns them.
Launched by Auguste Agassiz in Saint-Imier in the Swiss Jura mountains back in 1832, Longines (or “the long meadows” after its location) started off manufacturing what its early-day peers all did – pocket watches. As the watchmaker’s creations ticked off prizes – more Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris than any other label – they also found new inspiration and intent. Horse racing.
In 1878, watchmaker Alfred Lugrin patented Longines’ 20H calibre, the brand’s first venture into exact timing. The movement, which allowed for second-precise measures, chugged inside a simple chronograph. Its engraving – a jockey leading his mount – relayed the horologer’s ambitions. The watch gained traction on the racetracks of America, where Longines had garnered acclaim due its founder’s business connections, and soon became a brand icon used by most sports judges in New York.
“This chronograph was the first milestone in a long history that has led the Swiss watchmaking brand to partner with world-renowned institutions, races and jumping competitions around the globe,” a press release states.
In 1912, Longines’ precision seized the racetracks – formally. The label teamed with a jumping competition in Lisbon, Portugal. What followed next can be described as Longines’ steady trot into the equestrian industry. Today, having developed sophisticated timekeepers, it keeps counts at coveted events like the Royal Ascot, Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the Dubai World Cup, the Japan Cup in association with Longines, the Breeders' Cup World Championships, the Melbourne Cup Carnival and the Triple Crown among others. Longines is also associated with the peculiar White Turf St. Moritz races, which give an alpine flair to the sport.
Since 2013, Longines has partnered with two authoritative equestrian organizations – the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) and Olympic sports governing body, Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). Together with the latter, the Swiss horologer awards Longines World’s Best Horse Race, Longines World’s Best Racehorse and Longines World’s Best Jockey – prizes that honor the very top brass of equestrian sports and laud performance, elegance and tradition.
These core horsemanship values form Longines’ watches as well – from recreations of its signature 1878 piece to its Equestrian collection. In 2016, the label reissued its 1878 pocket watch in an exclusive 20-piece collection, rendered in 18-carat rose gold. With a diameter of 55mm, the piece’s white dial includes both Roman and Arabic numerals, with the latter swerving around a minute ring. A small display at 6 o’clock tracks the seconds, which a long central hand also ticks. Adorned with a jokey and his horse, the back is as stunning as that of the original watch, which blazed Longines’ foray into equestrian sports.
The same year, the Equestrian collection – which takes inspiration from riveting details that populate the equine world – grew with four novelties. The four watches flaunt lines and shapes that quote the rectangular buckle of the show bridle of the Franches-Montagnes, the only Swiss horse breed, which, like Longines, hails from the Jura. The elongated dials come in five variations. The black lacquer, white mother-of-pearl and silver checkerboard dials boast diamond indexes. The silver-hued flinque model features blue Roman numerals, while the matte white dial carries black Arabic numerals. Dedicated to female horse sports enthusiasts, the timepieces are fitted with either steel bracelets or leather straps, whose stitching evokes the outfits of women riders.
From its timepieces that pay tribute to horse racing to its leviathan presence at the best tracks across the world, Longines has nourished a century-long passion for equestrian disciplines that no other watchmaker has shown.