The Longines Hydroconquest Collection
If you are in the market for a luxury dive watch, the biggest problem you will likely have is deciding just which model out of the seemingly endless selection on offer is your favorite.
Practically every manufacture worth its salt has at least one on its books, and all are more than capable of living up to the official ISO guidelines and the real world expectations of even the most demanding diver.
In the end then, the criteria most customers use to determine one from the other comes down to looks and price. Fortunately, the Longines Hydroconquest series can’t be faulted on either.
The Longines Hydroconquest Range
First released in 2007, the Hydroconquest collection has since slipped into that well-populated niche of the entry level diver, albeit one with a truly impressive range of both abilities and options.
There are 56 variations to choose from, with sizes taking in 39mm, 41mm, 43mm or 44mm and in either automatic (mechanical) or quartz versions. While the vast majority are simple time-and-date models, there are also a smattering of chronographs in there as well, in either 41mm or 43mm and all with self-winding calibers.
As you would expect, there is a heavy design language which permeates across the entire Hydroconquest range, and each model shares a number of characteristic styling elements. Perhaps most noticeable is the distinctively shaped crown and its sharp, angular guard.
All case surfaces are given an attractive brushed satin finish, as befits a proper diver, and the dial is legibility itself; again, as it should be on a working watch. The Arabic numerals at the 12, 6 and 9 o’clock are simply massive and the lume-filled handset has a touch of Tudor’s Snowflake to it (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
The numeral font on the aluminum bezel is similarly writ large, making it easy on the eye even underwater, and it is only the relatively small date display which may cause a squint on those of us with aging vision.
Longines has been in the business longer than most (established 1832, believe it or not) and they know what makes a watch sell.
One of those things is giving their potential customers plenty of choice, and the Hydroconquest lacks for nothing in the options stakes.
The bulk of the collection is forged from 316L steel, but there are some beautiful two-tone pieces as well, with both red and yellow gold used for the crown, bezel edging and the inner links of the bracelet.
Likewise, there are a slew of dial colors to choose from, with a lovely sunburst black or blue the most abundant, as well as some more unusual and up-to-date shades, such as grey or a matt military olive green. Most of the dials have their color mirrored across onto the bezel too.
One particular standout, and the most expensive of the series, is the L3.718.104.22.168; an ultra stealthy, ultra sexy example cast in jet black ceramic. The undoubted Hydroconquest flagship, it has also been given a redesigned crown and crown guards, and the use of the high tech, lightweight material even extends onto the excellent diver’s clasp for a completely cohesive look.
Speaking of bracelets, most of the different configurations can be had on either a sturdy three-link steel bracelet or a sporty color matched rubber strap; all with the same double safety folding clasp with push piece opener.
Longines was bought out by the Swatch Group in 1983 and, although the brand does manufacture its own calibers, the Hydroconquest relies on units from ETA—another Swatch concern.
The chronograph models run on the L688, a modified ETA A08.L01. The 27-jewel movement is used in vast swathes of Longines chronos, with the robust powerhouse beating at 28,800vph, leaving it good for a 54-hour reserve.
The chronograph mechanism itself is column-wheel controlled and drives the central seconds hand, running small seconds at the nine o’clock, 30-minute counter at the 3 and the 12-hour totalizer at the 6.
As for the time-and-date models, they all run on possibly the most widely-used third party caliber there is, the ETA 2892-2. The biggest modification Longines undertakes (making it the L888) is to drop the frequency to the slightly unorthodox 25,200vph in order to maximize the power reserve. But it is a movement which has served across an incredible assortment of watches from many different brands since it was unveiled in the ‘80s and it is recognized as one of the most reliable engines ever built. It is also extremely thin, at just 3.6mm high and offers a date function, Quickset and hacking seconds.
It is staggering the amount of watch you can get for your money these days if you know where to look.
The Hydroconquest collection is a very good case in point, with the range starting out at just $1,000. That is for any of the three-hander quartz pieces in steel, in either 39mm, 41mm or 44mm. To secure a bimetal version in 41mm, you only have to find an extra $125.
The cheapest automatic model is just $1,275—this for a high quality Swiss timepiece, with a 300m water resistance, from just about the oldest manufacture there is. You will look for a long time before you find more for less.
The first of the chronographs kicks off at $2,400, which is still a comparative bargain when you take heritage, longevity and engineering quality into account.
And that racy all-black ceramic number? Yours for only $3,725.
Longines, although it lacks the name recognition of the likes of Rolex or Omega is, nevertheless, the third biggest selling luxury watchmaker in the world.
The brand has managed that enviable achievement by simply designing superb watches, building them to be pretty well bombproof, and then charging realistic amounts for them.
If you are a collector after an everyday beater, or someone looking for that one good watch to last you the rest of your life, the Longines catalog could well represent the beginning and end of your search.