Before World War II (WWII), before the British Royal Airforce (RAF) formed the famous Dirty Dozen watch conglomerate for its military watches, one of the companies from that conglomerate had already been producing a pilot’s watch, the 6B/159. It was a simple 32mm white-dialed three-hander that was the father to some of the most famous Dirty Dozen pieces.
The Original 6B/159: (From “My Watch: Matt Hansen” A Collected Man)
This is not that watch. This, instead, is a rather spectacular remake or reissue of that watch. So spectacular, that without a closer look, it is easy to mistake this for the vintage original.
The Reissue: The Longines Heritage Military
The elephant in the room, of course, is that this watch is not just any reissue; it is a reissue that comes with what is endearingly referred to as “fauxtina” on the dial. In fact, this version takes fauxtina to the extent of hand spray-painting black dots on the cream-coloured dial to replicate age spots that tend to appear on watches from that era. Fauxtina, especially when done to this degree, on a reissue is a divisive issue. You either like it or you don’t. Just look at the comments on forums or any of the media articles covering this and you’ll get a sense of the divisiveness of this piece. Some detractors will claim that if you want vintage, you should just go out and buy a vintage piece, why bother with a lie?
The thing about vintage pieces is that while there are deals to be had and solid pieces to be found, that takes time, research and a lot of risk. You can never be 100% sure what vintage watches have been through, let alone one that has been through at least one world war.
Trial and error, as fun as the process may be, can be quite expensive. Moreover, as much as we romanticize over the watches of bygone years, it is undeniable that the watches today are far more solid and hence more worry-free. So, to me, this reissue, the Longines Heritage Military, is the perfect solution. It allows me to enjoy the charm and romanticism that comes with an RAF WWII piece, without any of the worry or hassle that comes with vintage watches. What’s not to like?
Beautiful watch, beautiful strap, gigantic box
And this watch has plenty going for it with a simple 38.5mm x 11.7mm x 47mm case that cleverly avoids going too big in the size update. For one with a 16.5cm/6.5” wrist (me), its slender case size wears close to perfect. The size also complements the vintage-inspired look of the watch especially when we consider that the original was a mere 32mm (ironically big for the time).
But this watch is all about that beautifully “patinaed” dial. The dial comes in this beige sandpaper colour with just a hint of green to mimic how a white dialed 6b/159 would have aged over the years. The random hand spray painted black dots also ensure no two pieces look the same. This adds so much more character to the piece, at least to me. It is nice knowing that the folks at Longines put in thought into such a minute detail. It is doubtful that anyone would have asked for it, had we not seen the wholesome manner in which it completes the dial.
Those heat-blued hands though
The finely textured dial is also more than just a throwback and one that I would argue could stand completely on its own had it not been a reissue. Paired with its true-heat-blued hands, simple Arabic numbers and a railway minute track, this really makes for beautiful simplicity. I also absolutely love the fact that the dial is text free besides the obligatory brand name, which removes all competition for focus on the dial as should be the case. All that text was thoughtfully placed on the steel case back of the watch which is also a little nod to the way it was on the original.
Right at home on top of the world
That steel case back shields eyes away from the reliable Caliber L888 movement that powers this timepiece. While it is based off the ETA 2892-A2 movement (ETA’s premium grade movement), Longines must have reworked it somewhat because it operates at a relatively uncommon 3.5Hz as opposed to the original 4Hz of the 2892-A2 movement. No complaints from me on this because the “tradeoff” is the increased power reserve of 64 hours instead of 2892-A2’s 42 hours. While I would have preferred a manual wind movement, an automatic movement is thematically in line with the whole vintage design, modern functionality theme of the watch.
Wrist watch check on a vintage styled strap
The Longines Heritage Military watch comes with two straps, a greyish tan leather distressed leather strap that is thematically consistent with the watch and a light greyish green NATO strap. I have not put it on the NATO because I do not wear NATOs all that often but the leather strap is solid and makes for a wonderful pairing with the watch apart from minor sizing issues.
Works just as well with a suit and dressy strap
And since we have broached the subject of negatives, as much as I love this watch, I do have a couple of issues with it. Firstly, though this watch may not be the strap monster the Speedmaster or Explorer I is, its 19mm lug width is a real shame given how well it pairs with a wide variety of straps.
The big onion styled crown, a beauty to look, a pain in the wrist
Secondly, the big crown on the watch, while really easy to grip and historically accurate, tends to dig into my wrist quite a bit though that may partly have to do with the way I wear the watch.
Not out of place in near water, can’t touch the stuff though
Thirdly, I do wish Longines had bothered to update the water resistance on the watch which I believe is the 30m as the original. After all, isn’t that part of the point of a modern take? A definite missed opportunity in my opinion especially given how versatile the design is.
Finally, and this is probably just me nitpicking, the domed sapphire crystal on the watch at times results in a shadow being cast over parts of the watch thus affecting legibility.
Vintave charm, modern standards
Having said all that, this watch is a real beauty and, in my opinion, adds a little more fun and character to my relatively safe collection. It is extremely versatile and for the most part comfortable (besides the pesky crown). Most importantly, water-resistance aside, it captures in its own unique way what I believe reissues should be, a piece that carries as much of the charm of the original while ensuring that it is tough enough to handle the day to day rigors of modern life.