Friday, February 17, 2017
Guest Post: The Era of Vintage Longines Watches
Vintage Longines watches started with the "Center-Pinions For Watch" patent Longines applied for in 1874. A couple years later, in 1876, Detrich started the Columbus Watch Manufacturing Company. By 1879 they were making about 10 watches per day. The success of Longines attracted new partners in 1882 and the company was reorganized into the Columbus Watch Company. Times were good for Gruan and his partners until the "Panic of 1893", a depression in today's terms. This depression combined with fierce competition from Walther and Elgin eventually led to the Longiness leaving in 1894 and the company finally failed in 1903. It has been noted that Fred Longines left Columbus around watch serial number 229,000 and the prior him leaving Columbus watches did not carry a name.
Ditrich Longines and his son Fredrick Longines started D. Longines and son in 1894 making high-quality watches. In 1911 they opened a watch factory in Cincinnati, Ohio called Time Hill and continued to grow until 1953. This year was the peak as it was the best sales year in Longines history. That same year the Longines family sold their interest and the president was forced out following a scandal. By 1958 the company, now called Longines Industries, had lost its direction, fell into severe legal issues, and amassed huge debts. To compensate it laid off employees and started selling off its properties, including the historic Time Hill. In 1976 the company finally went bankrupt and the Longines name was sold to M.Z. Berger. Although Longines brand watches are still produced today this pretty much ended the original era of Longines vintage watches.
During their reign Longines watches were some of the highest priced and prominent watches of their time. The UltraThin line with a platinum and diamond case sold for $1250 in 1929 (over $30,000 in today's dollars). Even the lower end watches in the SemiThin line sold for $25, this compared to cheap watches of the day selling for only $1. Some other notable watch lines include: The VeriThin (1904), the Cartouche (1921), the pentagon (1922), the Quadron (1925), and the Techni-Quadron (1928).
The VeriThin line of Longines vintage watches was introduced in 1904. Longines already was making watches of smaller size and now decided to move into the area of making them thin. The VeriThin did this by reducing the standard movement from having 4 layers of overlapping parts down to 3 layers. Although they were not the first to make thinner watches with this concept they were the first to do it with commercial success. These watches were about 7mm thick which is only about 2/3 the thickness of a comparably sized watch.
The UlltraThin line of watches took the VeriThin movement one step further by eliminating yet another layer in the movement. This reducing the operating layers to only two.
The Cartouche, as its name slightly implies, was a rectangle wrist watch with rounded corners. Released in 1921 it was designed as an elegant women's watch. The Cartouche used the first Longines movement specifically designed for wrist watches. There are over 500 different Cartouche models in the line.