In the 21st century we tend to think of watches as design objects, fashion accessories, and — increasingly — asset types, but not so long ago watches were prized above all else for an entirely different function: accurate timekeeping. In the 1960s, watchmakers were making great strides in this pursuit thanks to the latest technology of the day: electronic movements. Longines, whose pursuit of highly-accurate timekeeping goes back more than a century, decided to take on the competition with a mechanical timepiece that was just as accurate — if not more so — than an electronic one, and the result was the Ultra-Chron. Equipped with a high-frequency movement and a waterproof case, 1968’s Ultra-Chron Diver was the first-ever “high-beat” underwater watch and was accurate to within just two seconds a day — a true feat. More than 50 years later, this achievement still stands, and to celebrate this accomplishment (as well as the watch’s beautiful 1960s styling), Longines has released the 2022 Longines Ultra-Chron re-edition.
A legacy of high-accuracy movements
While the Ultra-Chron was at the leading edge of technology in 1968, its development relied on decades of research and refinement. As early as 1914 Longines had developed a high-frequency stopwatch movement for timing sporting events, which was capable of accurately measuring down to 1/10th of a second. The trick to this was a movement with a balance wheel oscillating at 36,000 vibrations per hour (VPH), a feat it topped just two years later with a movement beating at an astonishing 360,000 VPH and capable of measuring 1/100th of a second. Longines continued to refine its mechanisms through the 1950s, and by the decade’s end, it had produced the world’s first high-frequency wristwatch, the Observatory Chronometer. With a daily deviation of just 1/10th of a second, it took both first and second places at the Neuchâtel Observatory’s 1961 Chronometer Competition.
A new kind of sports watch
By the late 1960s, Longines was ready to unveil its next achievement: the Ultra-Chron. Powered by the new Calibre 431, it exceeded the chronometer standards of the COSC — Switzerland’s official chronometric governing body — and marked a bold new step in the pursuit of accurate timekeeping. With a tonneau-shaped case, a calendar mechanism and a directional bezel, the 1968 Ultra-Chron Diver was the world’s first high-beat dive watch, and one of the most stylish timepieces of its day. This is the inspiration for the new Longines Ultra-Chron, a vintage-style dive watch with a high-beat movement in the mode of the original.
The Ultra-Chron is reborn
The new Longines Ultra-Chron (from $4,200) does more than just pay tribute to a historic model in its vintage looks. Its in-house Calibre L836.6.A oscillates at 36,000 VPH just as the original (you can hear it ticking double-time through the case), but is now equipped with a silicon balance spring for added temperature and magnetism resistance, and features a power reserve of 52 hours. While most chronometers come with COSC certification, this one exceeds it with certification as an “ultra chronometer” by Timelab, an independent testing laboratory in Geneva. While the new Ultra-Chron pays faithful homage to the 1968 original in its cushion-shaped case and vintage logo, subtle improvements are everywhere: in the hands augmented with rhodium and SuperLuminova, in the sapphire box crystal with double anti-reflective coating, and the luminous sapphire bezel. Available with a bracelet or leather strap, in addition to a red and black NATO-style strap made of recycled material, the Longines Ultra-Chron is just the latest reminder that when it comes to archival editions, no one can touch Longines.