Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 a very stylish pilot watch
In the 1930s, pilot’s watches were a necessary instrument for the cockpit dwelling professional. Form followed function. Legibility and reliability were key prerequisites.
By Angus Davies
Today, there are many pilot’s watches which are handsome in appearance owing to their purity of design. However, Longines’s reinterpretation of a pilot’s watch from the 1930s is currently one of the more stylish offerings.
It has numerous flourishes of style which differentiate it from a utilitarian military instrument, none more obvious than the dial which has been turned 50° clockwise. The appearance of the original model was driven by practicality. The watch would invariably have been worn on the inside of the arm, allowing the pilot to read off the vital information without removing his hands from the controls. Eminently practical, but, by default, delightfully dashing.
Those of inquiring mind may question the naming of the watch, “Avigation”. It is an amalgam of two words, “Aviation” and “Navigation”. The soubriquet, “Type A-7” was used in the 1930s to show that the Longines watch had met the onerous criteria specified by the United States Army. This criteria related to reliability, quality and legibility of the timepiece.
The modern day interpretation of the 1930s model forms part of the Longines Heritage collection and is a wonderful example of how designs from this period continue to have much eye-appeal.
The matt black dial has stealth-like tendencies. It does not shimmer and shine, and in this instance it provides a pleasing canvas on which to convey time. Breguet-style hour and minute hands impart information with seemly eloquence befitting an aristocrat attending a summer ball. There is no sense of industry but a charming expression of time that transcends any perfunctory offerings.
Roman numerals, in Breguet-style font, communicate the hours with tasteful decorum.
Adjacent 6 o’clock, a subdial is located. It displays subsidiary seconds and the date.
Beneath noon, a 30-minute chronograph counter features. The central chronograph seconds hand is beautifully executed with a comely counterweight. It is narrow in form and points to the minute rail and tachymeter scale with laser-like accuracy.
The first thing you will notice is that this watch is substantial in size, measuring 49.00 mm in diameter.
The watch may be large, but the crown, located at an imagined one o’clock (12 o’clock as indicated on the dial), does not gouge or chafe the skin. Moreover, the crown has a push piece at its centre, indicating this is a mono-push chronograph.
The stop watch function is started, stopped and reset all by pressing the one pusher. The knurled profile allows adjustment of the hour and minute hands. A small push piece, recessed within the caseband, allows the date to be adjusted with a ballpoint pen or similar.
On the caseband, the observant will note a small push piece on the easterly flank of the case, adjacent 3 o’clock as indicated on the dial. This releases the hunter caseback, allowing the wearer to open the lidded caseback to reveal an inner sapphire crystal which reveals a wonderful view of the movement within.
The Caliber L788, is a self-winding movement with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and has a power reserve of 54 hours.A key aspect of the movement which I admire is the column wheel chronograph.
Often the preserve of more costly watches, this is ideally the way all chronographs should be, fully integrated.
Pilot’s watches were instruments worn by military pilots in the pursuit of their daily work. Some models would have had a triangular index at noon. Models created for the German military were often supplied with a hacking seconds.
There has been much written about watches fitted with a soft-iron core, to mitigate the influence of magnetic fields. All of these aspects were justified and purists will seek watches blessed with these details.
I seldom have a need for a pilot’s watch in a professional sense. From a personal perspective, it is the aesthetic appeal that has been the primary reason I have purchased several pilot’s watches in the many years I have been a watch collector.
In the case of the Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7 its skewed depiction of time is highly appealing. It does not follow the route of the majority of watches, but breaks from the flight path favoured by the many and in so doing delivers a stunning and truly elegant example of Swiss timekeeping prowess.
Model: Longines Avigation Watch Type A-7
Case: Stainless steel case; dimensions 49.00 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and inner caseback with hunter caseback