Longines

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Compagnie des Montres Longines
Type Member of the Swatch group
Industry Watch manufacturing
Founded 1832
Headquarters Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Key people Walter von Känel, President
Products Wristwatches, timing devices/systems
Revenue €70.3 million (2009)
Employees 340 (2009)
Parent The Swatch Group Ltd.
Website http://www.longines.com
A Longines self-winding watch with several horology complications - chronograph, moon phase, day, date and month display.

Longines (French pronunciation: ​[lɔ̃ʒin], LAWNG-zheen) is a luxury watches house based in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Founded by Auguste Agassiz in 1832, the company is owned by the Swatch Group. Its winged hourglass logo is the oldest registered for a watchmaker.

Longines is known for its 'Aviators' watches. A company director was a friend of Charles Lindbergh; after his transatlantic flight, Lindbergh designed a pilot watch to help with air navigation. Built to his specifications, it is still produced today.

Longines provided timers used at the first modern-day Olympics in 1896. In 1899, Longines went to the North Pole with Arctic explorer Louis Amédée de Savoie. It was the first to use automatic timekeeping for the Federal Gymnastics, at Basel in 1912. Today, Longines remains a widely recognized name in sport watches and chronographs.

History[edit]

Vintage Longines box.

Based in Saint-Imier since 1832, the Compagnie des Montres Longines Francillon S.A. was among the world’s leading watch companies. In 2007, Longines had its 175th anniversary. The brand evolved from a comptoir[1] to a full-fledged manufacturing[2] operation and then back down to an établisseur[3] today, since the early 1980s, as a Swatch Group company.

The Longines’ story began in 1832, when Auguste Agassiz, brother of naturalist Louis Agassiz, found a job in the hamlet of Saint-Imier, joining Comptoir Horloger Raiguel Jeune (a trader of watch parts), in 1833 taking over the business when he and two of his associates set up a company named Comptoir Raiguel Jeue & Cie. The venture was run on the then-prevailing business model based on piecework by people making or processing watch parts in their own homes for the account of a jobber who delivered the blanks, or rough parts, and picked up and paid for the finished ones. The company soon found ways to market its timepieces in distant markets, not least in the Americas.

Agassiz & Compagnie[edit]

In 1847 Agassiz became the sole owner of the company which he renamed Agassiz & Compagnie. In 1852, his nephew Ernest Francillon joined the company. During the 1850s, Francillon took over the business from his ailing uncle, focusing on increasing and improving the production of standard watch designs.

Ancienne Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest Francillon, successeur[edit]

In 1862 Francillon renamed the venture Ancienne Maison Auguste Agassiz, Ernest Francillon, successeur, adding his own name to his uncle’s. As he took over day-to-day management, Francillon looked for ways of improving and streamlining production, then parceled out to a number of different sites. The end result was a factory where the watches were both manufactured and assembled.

Les Longines[edit]

In 1866, Francillon purchased two adjoining plots of land at a place locally known as Les Longines (meaning "the long meadows" in the local dialect) on the right bank of the River Suze in the Saint-Imier valley. Here he built a factory, to gather the entire production under one roof. By 1867, Francillon had convinced some of his pieceworkers to transfer their activities to his newly built factory and hired a young kinsman, the engineer Jacques David, to help him devise the tools and machines which he needed to improve the manufacturing processes. Jacques David was able to mechanize much of the process of watchmaking.

Manufacture Longines[edit]

The first in-house Longines movement was created in 1867. The same year Ernest Francillon returned from the World's Fair in Paris with a bronze medal for this watch. From the 1870s on, Longines’ industrial options proved judicious and the company grew steadily until the first third of the 20th century. The buildings themselves regularly had to be adapted to the needs of a flourishing enterprise which, by 1911, employed over 1,100 people and sold its timepieces worldwide.

[edit]

In 1880, on 19 July, the Longines brand and logo were registered at the Swiss Federal Office of Intellectual Property, now the World Intellectual Property Organization. The company had by 1867 already adopted its Winged Hourglass symbol both as a mark of quality and as a defence against counterfeiting.

The Philadelphia Universal Exhibition of 1876[edit]

In 1876 Jacques David attended the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and was shocked by the high level of mechanisation and automation that had been achieved by the American manufacturers. On his return he wrote two reports that triggered a wide-ranging debate within the Swiss watch industry.[4]

David's first report was a detailed description of the current state of American watchmaking, a summary of the state of Swiss watchmaking and recommendations of changes he thought necessary to counter the threat to Swiss watchmaking from America. This confidential report was presented to the Intercantonal Society in January 1877. Less than two months later David presented a second report vigorously complaining about a lack of action in response to his first report and predicting the end of watchmaking in Switzerland should action and change not be made properly and on time.[4]

The 1970s[edit]

In the 1970s Longines experienced a breakthrough[vague] in development and production. In 1972, Longines was the first world watch maker to introduce a LCD-display watch on the consumer market.[5] There were advances in performance of the watches and their appearance continued to change. In 1980s there were a series of ultra-thin designs following another world record of Longines in 1979 - the thinnest[citation needed] quartz watch called the Feuille d'Or - it was just 1.98 mm thick.

The 1980s[edit]

In 1984 Longines introduced the Conquest VHP (Very High Precision) caliber - the first thermocompensated quartz movement. It set new accuracy standards with a variance of only +/-12 seconds a year. Thermocompensation uses a highly sensitive thermometer to measure surrounding temperatures and slightly adjust the frequency of the quartz oscillator to compensate for adverse effects on timekeeping caused by temperature fluctuation.

Thirty million watches[edit]

Longines HydroConquest diving watch

On 19 February 2001 Longines produced the 30 millionth watch at their factory. In 2002 the brand celebrated the 170th year of the flying hourglass logo.

Longines in sport[edit]

Longines gradually built a special relationship with the world of sport. Present in Athens in 1896, the company has been closely associated with the worldwide development of sport, timing Olympic Games fourteen times, beginning with Oslo in 1952. Its partnership drove the company to devise a variety of inventions and developments enabling it to determine and display winning times.

Aeronautics[edit]

Longines Hour Angle Watch

Official supplier since 1919 to the International Aeronautics Federation (FAI), Longines has provided the watches required to set and then certify numerous world flight records – not least Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 first nonstop solo crossing of the North Atlantic. Instruments designed and built by Longines have thus helped world explorers and trailblazers of the skies. Thus, in 1927 Longines timed Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, which lasted 33 hours and 30 minutes. In the middle of the 20th century Longines was part of the rise of women's aviation, with Amelia Earhart who was another famous wearer of the brand. This period also marked the appearance of the first in-house self-winding watches and the company won several prestigious awards. Among those awards there were four Diamonds-International Academy Awards and the Prix d'Honneur of Lausanne. In the mid-1930s Longines patented the flyback chronograph.

American sports[edit]

The Longines name was once conspicuously displayed above large analog clocks topping many scoreboards at various sports stadiums and arenas, in the days before the time of day was kept digitally.

Three notable examples in baseball parks were the scoreboard clocks at Yankee Stadium before the stadium was remodeled during the early 1970s, at Shea Stadium, removed at the end of the 1979 season and replaced with a digital clock, and at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. So nostalgic were Cincinnati fans for the latter a replica was installed at Great American Ballpark when it replaced Crosley's "cookie cutter" successor, Riverfront Stadium.

The Longines logo received much free publicity when Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski's 1960 World Series-winning home run was hit directly above a Longines sign at Forbes Field. Similarly, a Longines sign was prominently visible at San Francisco's Candlestick Park when San Francisco 49ers receiver Dwight Clark made a famous catch of a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Montana in the 1981 National Football Conference championship game.

While many of these original Longines clocks have been removed, a handful remain, including one in full working order above the basketball court at the University of Kansas's Allen Fieldhouse.

Basketball[edit]

Longines was an official sponsor of Los Angeles Lakers televised broadcasts from the late 1970s to 1984. During "lead-in" segments, the Longines brand name appeared as a graphic as Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn announced the brand as the "official timepiece of the Lakers".

Equestrian sports[edit]

In 1952, its Photogines was the first device to visualize the finish line as it measured times. By 1960, the Contifort combined moving images and timing functions. These and other inventive developments contributed to Longines’ sporting credentials. Longines started equestrian timekeeping in 1926 at the Concours Hippique International in Geneva. It has since then officiated at more than one hundred national and international show-jumping competitions in Europe and in North America,[citation needed] providing timing services at competitions including World Championships, European Championships, and Olympic Games along with many CSIO meets as well as, more recently, Arab League competitions.

Horse racing[edit]

Longines sponsors various horse racing events. For example, the Dubai Sheema Classic, Grosser Preis von Baden, Prix de l'Opéra, Singapore Gold Cup, Hong Kong International Races, and Kentucky Oaks are all currently sponsored by Longines.

Gymnastics[edit]

After the great success of wristwatches at the beginning of the 20th century, the Longines factory underwent a massive reorganization of methods of production during the 1920s and 30s. In 1912 Longines began a close partnership with gymnastics as the official timekeeper for the 1912 Swiss Federal Gymnastics Meet in Basel. The result of this partnership was the introduction of automatic timing. In 1912 at the Swiss Federal Gymnastics Meet, it introduced the "broken wire" automatic timing system.

Formula One racing[edit]

Longines' mastery of advanced technologies[vague] moved it also to approach Formula One racing,[citation needed] an experience that ultimately led to a partnership with Ferrari of Italy.

Skiing[edit]

Longines started in skiing in 1933, and returned to it in 2006, becoming official timekeeper for the FIS’s 2006-2007 Alpine World Cup competitions.

Tennis[edit]

Longines has been the official timekeeper and partner of the French Open since 2007, as well as the Kremlin Cup and the Japan Open Tennis Championships since 2009.[6] Former world ATP No. 1 Andre Agassi and WTA No. 1 Steffi Graf were named "Ambassadors of Elegance" in 2008[7] and Longines has been a longtime partner and sponsor of Agassi's Foundation for Education and Graf's foundation Children for Tomorrow.[8] In 2010, the brand has announced its U.S. and global tennis program aimed at supporting and developing junior athletes.[9]

Tour de France[edit]

In addition to the Olympic Games, Longines has timed 31 Tours de France.[citation needed]

Worldwide acclaim[edit]

Over the years, the company’s various technical research projects earned so much acclaim abroad that Longines could claim the title of “leading prize winner” at international exhibitions up to the Barcelona Exhibition of 1929. It garnered ten Grands Prix (Antwerp 1885, Paris 1889, Brussels 1897, Paris 1900, Milan 1906, Bern 1914, Genoa 1914, Paris 1925, Philadelphia 1926 and Barcelona 1929). In 1969, Longines’ corporate tradition of technical innovation yielded the first cybernetic quartz electronic wristwatch ever designed by a watch manufacturer’s in-house research facilities.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ In a business system based on an agreement between producers or salesmen, the comptoir acts as the intermediary between them and their customers.
  2. ^ A manufacture is a watch factory which itself produces the components (particularly the ébauche) needed for the manufacture of its products. The ébauche is an incomplete watch movement which is sold as a set of loose parts, comprising the main plate, the bridges, the train, the winding and setting mechanism and the regulator.
  3. ^ An établisseur is a watch factory which is engaged only in assembling watches, without itself producing the components, which it buys from specialist suppliers.
  4. ^ a b Jacques David and a Summary of “American and Swiss Watch making in 1876” with Emphasis on Interchangeability in Manufacturing by Richard Watkins. NAWCC Bulletin, No. 350 (June 2004): pp. 294-302.
  5. ^ "The World Watch War", Time, June 19, 1972
  6. ^ "Kremlin Cup (Moscow, Russian Federation)". Longines.com, accessed November 4, 2011.
  7. ^ "Longines invites Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf to the French Open". Europa Star (May 7, 2009), accessed November 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "Longines Teams Up with Andre Agassi Foundation for Education". International Watch Magazine (November 2, 2011), accessed November 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Longines Looks for Tennis’ Superstars of Tomorrow". Long Island Tennis Magazine (April 1, 2010), accessed November 4, 2011.

External links[edit]