Options: Longines is celebrating its 190th anniversary this year, an incredible milestone. The brand has such a rich heritage.
Matthias Breschan: Actually, when you look at the history of Longines, there are two things that have defined the brand’s DNA: elegance and watchmaking tradition. And the latter is something we have been celebrating for the past 190 years because Longines has created so many unique milestones in the Swiss watch industry that very few people are aware of. When I joined Longines two years ago, of course I knew the brand well, but I was surprised by how rich and unique the history is.
I didn’t know that Longines not only developed the first GMT watch but also the first flyback movement. Longines had made big advancements in high-frequency technology. This is why the brand became so strong for timekeeping events. This is something so fascinating, but many people don’t know about it. This is exactly why we have started to develop a whole series of exclusive very high-end movements for Longines that allow us to recall these milestones from the past [and relate them] to the consumer. We still have a lot of events around the world to celebrate [190 years], but you know, it’s not just this year. I think we can continue to celebrate our watchmaking tradition in the years to come.
Tell us a bit about the highlights of Longines 2022 and the pieces you feel are really special.
For me, it’s really three pieces. First, it’s the Spirit Zulu GMT. In the 1920s, when the aircraft industry was exploding, many pioneers and pilots came to Longines because there was a high risk of collisions and accidents. There was a need to standardise time measurement for pilot communication around the world. And they defined this as Greenwich zero time and the letter ‘Z’ in the pilot alphabet is Zulu. So now what we call the Spirit Zulu GMT has a brand new high-end movement that uses a silicone balance spring.
The second piece was launched in June, and that was the Ultra-Chron, actually a wristwatch that has a high-frequency movement integrated. Now the challenge for us is that Longines is positioned in the price range of US$1,000 (RM4,406) to US$5,000. There is no need to go up because we have Omega in the group, and there’s no need to go down because we have Tissot. We always need to try to offer the best possible state-of-the-art technology within this price range. So we developed a new movement, and were actually able to achieve this with Ultra-Chron, a movement that is ultra-precise. This is why this watch is actually certified by Timelab in Geneva. It’s not only a COSC certification for a naked movement; the whole watch is certified.
The last piece is the Longines Master 34mm watch, which includes a moon phase movement. We are using it now in collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence, who is our new ambassador.
You joined Longines when the world was battling the pandemic in 2020. What were some of the larger challenges you faced when you took over?Longines was so successful in selling to tourists that when it came to places like Kuala Lumpur, a popular destination, the points of sale were directed specifically to them. The problem was that somehow we neglected domestic customers. That was definitely something we had to correct over the past two years. Every single point of sale in Malaysia must cater to domestic customers as well. Of course, we will continue to sell to visitors, but our top priority must always be to develop domestic customers. So here, we’ve made a lot of changes in the collection, in the new product developments, in marketing and also in new store concepts.
Not everybody is working five days a week in a watch store to find out what Longines has developed. Now, I think we just need to make sure all these changes and evolutions of the brand that we have developed in the past few years are brought to the consumer, that it’s visible to the consumer, and they perceive this as a very desirable, cool, sexy approach to the brand. That [Longines] stands for something extremely emotional. We can see now that the tremendous growth rates of Longines in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, [South] Korea and Thailand have made us hugely successful. It’s the same for Europe and the US because we are again targeting the locals.
Why do you think Malaysians respond so well to Longines as a brand?
I believe it is the result of the brand’s loyalty to its origins and values of tradition, performance and elegance, which have characterised Longines’ production since its inception. We have always remained reliable, timeless and constant throughout the years, no matter what was happening in the world or the industry. Furthermore, investing in a Longines watch is a guarantee of acquiring a high-quality product with outstanding value for money. Our retail prices are and will remain really attractive.
Another appealing aspect of Longines is that it has roughly 50% ladies and 50% gents models.
Can you tell us a little bit about your plans for Longines in Malaysia?
Today, we are broadly successful in Asia as Longines is a popular brand and these markets like the classical touch of our watches and are sensitive to the great heritage we have. Malaysia is indeed an important market for us in this region, being totally aware of our philosophy as well as our watchmaking expertise, and our goal is to keep on consolidating our presence in this country by holding our course.
What are some of the greatest lessons you have gained from being in the industry?
It is the only sector I know of that always returns to tradition in order to develop. In watchmaking, keeping a tradition alive is what keeps the industry alive. Longines, in particular, has impressive historical archives and today offers very technically advanced, high-performance products. For this, the brand benefits from the extensive facilities of Swatch Group, a decisive factor in pushing the limits of innovation.
Which watch do you reach for while travelling?
The Longines Spirit Zulu Time we launched last March harks back to the pioneering role that Longines played in developing watches with multiple time zones. Its origin and name come from the first Longines dual-time zone wristwatch manufactured in 1925, which featured the Zulu flag on its dial, with Zulu referring to the letter ‘Z’, which designates universal time for aviators and members of the armed forces. The development of other GMT models, aimed mainly at the aeronautics sector, has continued to bolster the pioneering role that Longines plays in this field.
This article first appeared on Dec 12, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.