Hands-on Review – Longines Heritage Classic Sector Dial

The Skinny

  • Movement: L893 Self-winding mechanical movement
  • Width: 38.5mm
  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Strap: Vintage-style leather
  • Price: $2150

The Longines Heritage Classic Sector Dial is the dark-dialed variant of the 2019 Heritage Classic release which had a silver and white dial copied from a 1934 model. The original Heritage Classic was very well-received at the time by press and consumers alike and was proof that re-issues could be made relevant today rather than being simple pastiches of historic models. This latest version of the Heritage Classic makes minimal changes to that very successful recipe. 

2019 model (left) and 2021 model (right)

For this negative-image facsimile, black paint has replaced white, dark grey-brown brushed sectors have replaced silver and the blued hands are now highly polished. The case is the same and the vintage leather strap options are similar albeit not exactly the same colour. The release of this updated dial colorway gives me the opportunity to explore why both modes are remarkable watches worthy of anyone’s consideration.

Longines Heritage Dial

An Eighty Year Old Dial Never Looked So Fresh

The sector dial on this watch, updated colour scheme excepted, was copied from a watch released in 1934. Think about this for a second… It is incredible that a design laid out 87 years ago can be re-used, unchanged in a modern watch and NOT look out of date. Can you think of something else from 1934 that still looks fresh and modern today? I am not sure I can. That year, Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of modern art, was fine tuning his abstract painted language of converging lines, squiggles and hanging, glowing orbs. Modern yes, but presented as art today it still feels old and maybe even a little quaint.

Wassily Kandinsky, Untitled, 1934, watercolor, ink, 31,6 × 24,6 cm, Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou

Prior to 1934, Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus in Germany until its dissolution by the Nazi Party in 1933. My choice of Kandinsky is no coincidence, because the Bauhaus is a pretty good place to start looking for something that still looks modern. The design principles of minimalism, functionalism and industrialism established within the Bauhaus school at that time, still resonate with us now as the epitome of modern design. So it is somewhat counter-intuitive , if not plain contrary, that I find the period-correct Bauhaus style watches, such as the Stowa Antea somewhat old-fashioned. For me they take functionalism too far and the lack of embellishment dates the design. Those thin, straight lugs in particular makes look basic and crude to my eye – the watch case equivalent of a stick person drawing.

Stowa Antea 1937
An Original Stowa Antea, circa 1937

That Dial

The Longines sector dial design by contrast looks as fresh now as it did in 1934. In fact, I am sure it was ahead of its time back in 1934. The close kerning of the strictly sans serif numerals at 12 is very contemporary. The ‘3’ is stylized but you have to look hard or you’ll miss it. The painted white sector lines gives the dial a level of ornamentation that could still be described as functional.

The brushing of outer sections breaks the monochromacity by adding a second tone to the background. Depending on the lighting, these sections can appear anywhere from a tungsten grey to a chocolate brown. The dark dial provides a sophistication that the 2019 model lacked. While the silver dial version felt like more of tool watch, which of course the 1934 original was, the black dial definitely lends itself to an altogether dressier watch. 

Out of direct sunlight, the dial is the epitome of clarity and functional elegance. Once direct light begins to fall on the dial then legibility suffers and sometimes an additional wrist movement is need to precisely place the hour and minute hands. In my experience this is typical of dark dials with polished hands – sometimes the hands get a little lost amongst all of the reflections.

Longines Heritage Classic Lugs
The hooked lugs ape the long lugs of the original 1934 watch

Is It Old, or New, or Both?

As I spent time with the Heritage Classic, I enjoyed flipping back and forth between the historical and contemporary perspectives. On one hand, this is a re-issue variant of a historic model but on the other hand this is a brand new watch. The case seems too tall when viewed through the historical lens but appears a regular height when viewed through the contemporary lens. The lugs which spring from the uniformly brushed, straight-sided CYLINDRICAL case appear a little too long, too narrow and overhanging too far for the contemporary perspective but switching back to a historical viewpoint and you will find them to be stylized tributes to the earlier Longines cases. Overall, the case impresses with its unadorned modern minimalism providing a supporting role that always makes the dial the star of this ensemble.

The author’s 1945 art deco Longines Model 5581 alongside the Heritage Classic.

This duality of being old and new at the same time is really what makes this watch special for me. Longines have kept the elements that work with modern style, modernized other features that would date the design and simply dropped those incompatible with today’s watch market. So, the new watch winds automatically and is water-resistent where the historical model was not. The case is a little bulkier and less ornate than the original but the new case is clearly designed with Longines 1930s DNA. Where changes have been made, they are consistent with, and framed by this historic influence. So given that the original watch looks pretty modern in 2021, if we could travel back in time with the Classic Heritage re-issue, I suspect it would not look out of place in 1930 either. I particularly appreciated the use of the traditional Longines logo on the dial with its period-correct font; a small but important detail for Longines fans.

Longines Heritage Caseback

The Movement

Behind the polished and precisely etched case back lies the same 27-jewel L893 automatic movement as the 2019 model. Derived from the ETA A31.501, it has a silicon hairspring for anti-magnetic resistance and a healthy power reserve of 72 hours due, in part, to the slightly lower than average beat rate of 25200 vph. Over the week I had the watch, it’s accuracy remained within +/- 5 seconds a day.

Any Negatives?

There is really not much to note and certainly nothing that would stop me from purchasing this watch. First, there is the box. In this modern age of lower consumption and more environmentally-sensitive packaging, it was quite a shock to see Longines still shipping this watch in a large, heavy wooden box. I thought we had moved on from these veneered monoliths. I mean, it’s nicely made and satisfyingly heavy but I do wonder if we need watch boxes like this in 2021. Secondly, there is the leather strap. Perhaps it needed to be broken in but I found it a little stiff and uncomfortable. If you intend to swap out the strap for something a little more supple, bear in mind that the lug width on the Heritage Classic is 19mm. It’s an uncommon size that often leaves the manufacturer open to valid criticism for choosing it but here I feel Longines is justified given the absolutely perfect proportions of the Heritage Classic case. Neither 18mm nor 20mm would have worked so well with the case.

Longines Heritage Classic

In Conclusion

The 2021 Heritage Classic Sector Dial is every bit as good a watch as the 2019 Heritage Classic was. Longines have perfected the art of taking a watch from their (far) back catalog and bringing it bang up to date in a way that is both tasteful and in keeping with the original. While the 2019 silver dial reprised the vintage model, the black dialed 2021 model coherently moves the design forward into something that feels a little more elegant and a little more dressy.

Quality is high and although sometimes there does not seem to be much to this watch, what is there is simply done to the highest level. For example, the tolerances on the case construction are very high and the dial printing is damn-near perfect. Given the price point, the quality of construction, the connection to Longines illustrious past and the over-achieving visual design, it’s impossible not to recommend the Longines 2021 Heritage Classic Sector Dial.