Thoughts on the Longines Legend Diver
I’ve always been a fan of dive watches. I own many. While Longines has not been on the top of my list for dive watches, I recall distinctively noticing the Legend Diver when it was re-issued in circa 2008. The no-date model in particular. It’s been a hard one to get, and sold out soon after release.
So when I started this site during Baselworld 2018 and visited Longines for their novelties, I was pleasantly surprised by more editions of their Legend Diver offering, which while having a date, used a black background on the date wheel to make it as clean as the prized no-date version.
I was glad when Longines agreed to loan me one for a long term review. In this post I discuss my experience with the watch, the things I liked, as well as the quirks I discovered wearing it for about one month almost every day.
Longines as a Swiss watch brand has been around for well over 100 years. It was founded in 1832 in Saint-Imier. And since its inception has been selling pocket watches all over the world, and in particular to the lucrative market of the United States of America. It started manufacturing in 1867 and created its first wrist watch in 1913.
While today, it is considered more as a entry level luxury brand, with a particular focus on the Asian and specifically the Chinese market, Longines has a deep catalogue of watches from its past that it has recently leveraged periodically. In particular the Heritage line of watches has consistently dug into that vault to re-issue watches from it’s old line of field, military, and aviation themed watches.
When Longines re-issued the Legend Diver it did so with this historical backdrop. The watch was an immediate hit with collectors who quickly grabbed all of the pieces from the limited no-date version. It took a few years for Longines to offer another attractive model that I believe also resonates with collectors.
The basis of the new models had not changed much. Instead Longines is offering a series of small variations and even some ladies models. The one I tested is the basic steel with steel mesh (shark) bracelet. Let’s take a look at the details of the watch and my experience wearing it.
The diver’s watch that Longines re-released as the Legend Diver was first introduced in the early 60s during the time when dive watches were being first introduced after the invention of SCUBA and with the many attempts at conquering the depths of the oceans.
Jeff Gharakhanian ran a detail review with history of the first re-released model on GMT Minus Five. And Louis Westphalen, at the time from Hodinkee, wrote a week on the wrist article where he has a good brief discussion of the history of the model including museum photographs of the old models.
Like many of it’s contemporaries, Longines went into the dive watch competition with a solid attractive offering and with a different approach for measuring emerged time. Longines opted then to use a super compressor-based case that includes an internal flanged internal bezel to help divers mark their immersion time.
Using two crowns symmetrically placed on the right side at 2 and 4 o’clock. The top crown is used to turn the internal uni-directional bezel while the other (also screwed down) is used with a pull to set the time, and with two, to quickly advance the date.
But what makes this watch attractive are the proportions and importantly the well balanced dial. Measuring just over 42 mm in diameter and with a rather thin profile 13.5 mm height, the Legend Diver actually wears more like a dress or field watch than a dive watch.
Steel Mesh Model
The model I received was the stainless steel with polished case, that includes some bevels, and a mesh bracelet. The reference number L3-774-4-50-6. The mesh bracelet is perhaps the most distinctive feature, with tiny intertwined wires that are polished on the exterior. Measuring 22 mm it gives a larger presence to the watch than when this watch comes on black rubber or leather strap.
The lug-to-lug size is 52 mm; meaning that this watch worn perfectly on my 22 cm wrist. And with its 22 mm standard lugs, the mesh can easily be swapped for various third party leather straps or for a wide variety of NATO bracelets in as many colors as you would can imagine.
The black dial is well balanced with markers done with brown vintage looking indices covered by a domed sapphire crystal. I really like the way the numerals 12, 6, and 9, are marked while at 3 o’clock the date window completes the dial with a black background and with numerals that have similar font and color.
The best part of the Longines diver is the rotating internal ring that matches the rest of the dial such that it feels as if one unified dial. The typical diver’s watch 60 minutes markings align well with the dial’s minutes markers (when not rotated) to give you the current minute at a glance.
Finishing the dial is the interestingly shaped hour hand just as with the original diver. It’s like a rounded short arrow hand that is distinctive while the minutes hand is normally shaped but longer. Short of touching the ring, but close enough to make it easy to read elapsed time when the crown at 2 o’clock is used to mark the start of measurement.
The rotating crown is easily used. When unscrewed it has just enough hold to prevent easy change of the position in only one direction. A protective measure for divers since when in used only more time can be added thus preventing a measurement that would be less than actual.
The back of the Legend Diver is decorated with an embossed diver with spear. A great complement to an overall simple utilitarian design. There are really no negatives about the overall styling of this watch, though I did have some issues with aspects of it’s implementation that I will discuss later on.
PVD and Ladies Model
During the Baselworld fair in March of 2018, Longines introduced variations of the diver which is sure to even attract more fans to the Legend Diver. In particular, the PVD black model (reference L3-774-2-50-9). It’s essentially the same watch as the one I got to review but with a PVD matte black coating. The watch also includes a black rubber "mesh" band. The overall result is hipper and more up to date to modern tastes and gives a nice variation to the model.
However, perhaps the most interesting new additions were the ladies models, also introduced at Basel. Remaining in stainless steel but with a reduce case size of 36 mm, the ladies editions go farther by also changing the dial and the strap.
Coming with a series of fumée colored dials in red and blue with matching straps as well as one with beautiful mother of pearl dial, the resulting models make for perfect sporty-chic look that any woman could wear everyday or at the beach or during other sporty activities.
While many of these models were a hit with the online watch communities, it’s not clear how much have been delivered to retailers. The black PVD has been slowing coming in, while the ladies versions are hard to find. Even on Longines web site, there is little mention of the ladies models. So it’s not clear if the releases are just delayed or are all together canceled.
From a wearability perspective I have little but positive comments for the Legend Diver. It sat perfectly on my wrist without issues. I thought the double crown arrangement would become a nuisance after a few hours but that was not the case. On the other hand, the difficulty in easily adjusting the mesh bracelet was more of the problem. This is especially the case during hot summer days.
I could not even adjust the bracelet with a tool. Longines assured me that this was because I had a pre-production model and that the final version would at least include a means for micro adjustment with tools. The folding clasp was pretty straightforward otherwise. Nothing fancy, though it scratched quite easily. Something I cannot say about the case nor the mesh part of the bracelet.
With the bracelet on, the overall weight is around 150 grams which gives some heft to the watch, though as a diver this is well within range of what is expected of a watch with a steel bracelet. My primary complaint here (besides having some easy adjusting mechanism) would be to include a rubber or leather strap in the package. For instance, the black rubber mesh-like strap that comes with the PVD model, would have been a great addition.
Besides the minor issues with the bracelet, the main other quick with the watch comes from the domed crystal which seemed like it reflected a bit much for different lights. It’s not as clear as my other dive watches. While I did not get a chance to take this watch under water as I do other dive watches, I have my doubts to how well this would do in deep water.
The luminescence application is also another quick worth mentioning. Dive watches need to be legible at night (or at depth) by definition. This one has a faint application of lume on the hour arrow, the minutes hand, the cardinal numbers and faint dots on the hour markers. Application on the inverted arrow on the rotating ring is worthy, but not enough.
Overall the lume inclusion makes the watch visible at night, but not enough to be considered in the top 10 of dive watches I have handled. This is something Longines could easily rectify. But perhaps it’s the price to pay for bringing back an old model of the past which tries to maintain its design heritage with little modern touches and additions.
Who is it for? For what Activities?
While originally designed for diving, this re-issue is more suited today as an everyday watch. I am sure it could handle a pool plunge, snorkeling, or even a few shallow dives. However, I’d be wary using it as a serious dive watch where knocks and scratches are frequent (e.g., taking dive equipment on and off the boat). Plus, importantly, without a good luminescence, the limits of visibility while diving would be reached rather quickly.
So what’s the ideal purpose of a re-issued diver if not for real diving. Desk diving? Well yes, I see this watch as a perfect day-to-day companion for a modern watch aficionados wanting a watch with vintage looks but modern enough materials that you don’t need to worry much about it’s daily operations.
By including a modified ETA 2824 or the L633 caliber, Longines helps strengthen the purpose of this watch for day-to-day since it used a workhorse movement from the same group. It is one that can easily be maintained and should give even the most ardent of wearer a few years of accurate timing without much intervention or service needs.
Starting at just under $2,500 the Longines Diver has many completions. Perhaps the most direct competitors are the Doxa Sub300 and the Oris SixtyFive series of watches. Both are re-issued watches with vintage styling, interpreted for modern technologies and tastes.
The Oris SixtyFive divers are distinctively different in styling yet should offer similar vintage-retro look to its wearer while coming in at a lower price point. The Doxa has a unique look that I think is love it or hate it; it also includes a mesh bracelet and the pricing is identical to the Longines.
I would have a hard time to select between the three as they have similarly much to offer while being very different in design and yet commending the same price point. The best advise if choosing between the three is to go to authorized dealers and try them side-by-side, wrap them around your wrist, and decide with the one you remembered most after a few days.
The final watches in that relative price range that I could point to are the Sinn U1 models, the NOMOS Ahoi, and Oris Aquis diver. These are all designed to be modern new diver watches. So they don’t directly compete with the Legend diver, except for pricing.
My recommendation is that if you are looking at the Longines Legend Diver watch for its retro style but would want something a bit more modern, is to try on the PVD model which would offer more of that latter aspect. Other modern dive watches in that category such as the Sinn, Oris, NOMOS, or even a Seiko will give you a solid dive watch but will not scratch the vintage itch.
I enjoyed my time with the Longines Legend Diver. For the price, it’s a solid offering with a few quirks that I could live with. Especially by swapping the mesh bracelet to a leather or rubber strap when the season would ask for a lighter or a more adjustable watch.
As I said, the primary reason to get this watch is it’s unique design and retro look. If that speaks to you as it does to me then it’s a no-brainer. Having seen the PVD model, I will admit that it is now my favorite version. Unless I could find, at a reasonable price, a true vintage 1960’s exemplar in great condition or even the coveted sold-out no-date model...
It’s hard to argue against the Longines Legend Diver or many of the brand’s re-issued Heritage models. The designs are classic for a reason and the modern interpretations are worthy your attention, especially because Longines tries hard to stay in its lane when it comes to pricing.
Longines is meant to be the introductory luxury brand in the Swatch group and with their long history they have a vault of design to lean on. That’s exactly what you get with this Legend Diver model.
Now if only they could venture a bit more and offer some of the fumée dials I saw at Baselworld that they created for ladies, but also for men, even as a limited edition — similar to what Glashütte Original had done for their limited Sixties models. They would perhaps create another buzz of interest from collectors like myself. longines.com