Few kinds of watches stir up the same amount of enthusiasm as a new GMT from a well established watch brand, but even within this supercharged category, the Longines Spirit Zulu Time is something special. Combining the brand’s longstanding history as a maker of precision flight instruments with its modern clout as a maker of high-quality, accessibly-priced Swiss watches, the newest member of the Spirit family has all of the ingredients of an instant classic. Here’s what makes it stand out from the pack.
A high-flying backstory
In the early 20th century Longines was a leader in aviation watches, providing cockpit timers to the world’s most famous aviators, including Amy Johnson, who became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930, and Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, who completed the world’s first nonstop, transpacific flight from Japan to the United States in 1931. The new Longines Spirit Zulu Time is a tribute to this legacy, and to the first Longines dual time wristwatch: the 1925 Zulu Time.
While this watch looks nothing like the original Longines Zulu Time watch, its function remains exactly the same. “Zulu” refers to the name for the letter “Z” in the NATO alphabet and “Zulu Time” (otherwise known as “zero time,”) is another word for Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±00:00), the standard time used by pilots when crossing multiple time zones. As such, the Longines Spirit Zulu time features a dual-time complication comprised of a GMT hand and a bidirectional rotating bezel that’s graduated over 24 hours, both of which make it easy to keep track of home time and a second time zone at a glance.
Among Longines’ greatest strengths as a watchmaker is its ability to combine vintage and modern design cues in just the right proportions to create pieces with broad appeal. In the Longines Spirit Zulu time, this means a modern 42mm stainless steel case featuring vintage-style applied Arabic numerals, an oversized winding crown borrowed from golden-era pilot’s watches, and Longines’ “Five Star” emblem — a historic indication of their highest-quality movements — on the dial.
Modern looks and performance
While the Longines Spirit Zulu Time remains a true pilot’s watch in its functionality, its design doesn’t skimp on stylish details. The new watch is available in three distinct variations featuring three unique colour combinations on the dial, bezel, and GMT hand, as well as a choice of three leather straps in beige, brown, and blue and a polished steel bracelet. All straps are equipped with folding clasps and Longines’ new fine adjustment system for maximum comfort.
As a member of the Swatch group of watch brands, which includes movement manufacturer ETA, Longines has access to some of Switzerland’s best workhorse automatic movements. Powering the new Zulu Time is Longines’ L844 (based on the ETA A31.411 if you’re curious), which features a 72-hour power reserve and uses a silicon balance spring to meet COSC chronometer standards for accuracy. That’s a whole lot of style and value for a $3,600 watch, but that’s exactly the kind of proposition we’ve come to expect from Longines.