The human spirit of pushing boundaries is one that defines us as a species. As knowledge and technology grow in depth and accessibility, the potential for progress is greatly accelerated.
Take computers: its earliest iteration was the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) machine that took three years to construct. Upon its launch in 1946, it spanned 1,800 sq ft, used close to 18,000 tubes and weighed almost 50 tons. Three-quarters of a century later, a wealth of global information can be summoned in a device that fits into one hand.
Similarly, the grand adventures undertaken by the early pioneers might today be events we take as ordinary – cross-continental flights are everyday affairs now for the travellers among us, but it was the intrepid explorers and trailblazers before us who made this so.
Longines played a great role in that movement, creating instruments of exceptional precision and durability to make such feats possible. Some of the aviators and explorers it worked with in the early 20th century are now legends whose names instantly evoke the daring and fortitude required in conquering the skies.
She might be better remembered for her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, but Amelia Earhart made history a decade prior. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a co-pilot in 1928, and continued to set records for speed, altitude and accomplishments such as being the first to chart solo flights connecting various destinations. In 1932, she wore a Longines chronograph while piloting her Lockheed Vega in a solo flight from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Culmore in Northern Ireland. The feat took 14 hours and 56 minutes, and immortalised her as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I have always said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty.” – Amelia Earhart
It was Longines that timed Howard Hughes round-the-world flight record in 1938, an endeavour that took him three days, 19 hours and 14 minutes. Of all his passions, the eccentric American polymath – he was a business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director and philanthropist – was most interested in aviation and film. His feats in the former were often measured by Longines instruments, from the patented Sidérograph on-board his aircraft that utilised celestial navigation to the chronometer watches worn by his crew.
“Do the impossible, because almost everyone has told me my ideas are merely fantasies.” - Howard Hughes
The American aviator experienced first-hand the extreme risks of flying. While cruising at 30,000 feet in 1931 in an attempt to break an altitude record, Elinor Smith blacked out and her plane plummeted to the ground. She regained consciousness at the last minute and managed to pull the plane into a safe landing. Rather than allowing the shock to deter her, she repeated the attempt 10 days later and surpassed expectations with a new record of 32,576 feet with the aid of a Longines watch. After becoming the youngest licensed pilot in the world at 16, Smith went on to set multiple solo endurance, speed and altitude records in her lifetime.
“Children must be allowed to dream and have a horizon to work toward. For me, there was only one path: I knew from age six that I wanted to fly.” - Elinor Smith
In 1936, French ethnologist and explorer Paul-Émile Victor undertook the mammoth challenge of crossing the Greenland icecap. It was an expedition that saw him suffer -40°C temperatures and unforgiving conditions in the icy terrain for a whopping seven weeks. He later credited his Longines chronometers for their unfailing operation even in the harshest conditions, allowing him to accurately calculate longitude. “These watches made the difference between failure and success,” he said. He would devote his entire life to polar expeditions, continuously drawn to the wild and enigmatic landscapes.
“The only thing we are sure to fail is that which we do not attempt.” - Paul-Émile Victor
Inspired by these brave men and women, and hoping to spread their stories far and wide, Longines has dedicated its Spirit collection to those who dream of conquering land, sea and air. Look out for a special story on its novelties soon.