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Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting: It's No Flash In The Pan!

Rome was the recent setting for the launch of Longines' new Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting, a watch powered by a highly precise quartz calibre and featuring an innovative setting functionality that uses flash pulses from a Smartphone camera.

By Vincent Daveau

A second time zone that can be set via an app that uses a smartphone camera flash?

It's not often you hear someone waxing lyrical over a watchmaking piece fitted with a quartz calibre. However, when that technology brings something new and unique to the mix, it's impossible to resist the temptation to try it out. Such is the case of the brand new Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting. To all intents and purposes, the steel-clad timekeeping instrument, driven by the now famous V.H.P. quartz calibre (complete with anti-magnetic functionality and the ability to reset its hands at night for a guaranteed precision of +/- 5 seconds a year) appears to be identical to the previous timepiece launched last year. But in fact, it's completely brand new and boasts a GMT functionality that can be reset utilizing your smartphone's camera flash.

The quest for an innovative technical solution

Longines was one of the first brands to take an early interest in quartz technology as a means of guaranteeing extremely precise time measurement. In 1954, it was the first brand in Switzerland to produce a quartz timepiece dedicated to the precision timing of sports events. Enter the Longines Chronocinégine used in athletic timekeeping, which gained a decimal of precision over the mechanical counterparts in circulation. From the beginning, Longines was quick to champion quartz technology in its collections, from the ultra-slim Délirium through to the first ultra-precise Conquest V.H.P., created in 1974.

Relaunched in 2017, the line immediately caught the public's imagination with its impressive accuracy to within five seconds a year, thanks to a built-in system that allowed it to reset its hands in the middle of the night. Already an advanced functionality, it was augmented further to respond to the needs of users in search of a timekeeper that would never let them down, no matter where they were in the world. One of the public's primary concerns was to have a GMT function that displayed home time and local time on the same dial, to ensure optimum time management and free them from the rigors of time difference. Thus the Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting was born.

Walter von Känel, the company's chairman, and Juan-Carlos Capelli, the company's deputy chairman and marketing director, knew how useful a GMT function was to any traveler. Keen travelers themselves, they spent several months a year circumventing the globe in order to keep one step ahead of market developments. For these seasoned globetrotters, it was of utmost importance to develop a GMT model that kept pace with its times concerning adjustment capabilities.

The watch brand managers, therefore, challenged the engineers at ETA, with whom the brand had been working for many years, to come up with an innovative calibre capable of interacting with a smartphone, without it being connected to the watch, or containing any electronic devices, such as those capable of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It was a sizeable challenge, but the developers at ETA had risen to others in their time, and they thus proposed a system whereby telephone and watch could communicate via a network of flash pulses.

A special system designed for the end user

The flash pulse system, similar to the one in use in apps used to lock and unlock doors to rental apartments or hotel rooms in France, led to the creation of the world's first GMT watch paired to a smartphone without the emission of radio waves (light being essentially a wave). The idea was not only unique, and the fact that it was also highly practical and efficient made it like child's play.

"There's a Longines for every wrist," Walter von Känel used to say. However, the brand also set out to satisfy the real needs of users, especially air travelers, given Longines' long-standing interest in the field of aviation. Said users could thus display the time at their destination through a simple flash pulse, once they had set the target country on their telephone through a simple, freely downloadable app. The brand had thus made significant progress in optimizing the electronic functionalities dedicated to watchmaking.

It couldn't be easier. Once the watch is lined up in the Smartphone viewfinder window, a simple press of the button sends a sequence of flashes, which are then received by a photosensitive cell hidden inside the 1 of 12 o'clock. The information is then relayed via a Morse code light signal to the processor in order to instruct the hands to display the desired time. The buzzwords at Longines have always been simplicity and efficiency, and therefore pressing the crown twice enables you to switch from local to home time, and back again. Now if that's not love at first sight, I don't know what is!

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