There is no denying that Longines’ latest and most prolific collection, the Spirit, has been quite a success during its two years of existence. With its attractive combination of modern features and historical references to the brand’s aviation past, the Spirit has already been released in multiple editions, including time-and-date, chronograph, no-date and recently, GMT Zulu time. And now, it appears in its most complicated edition so far, a new chronograph that’s fairly different from this classic version that pays tribute to an important function for the winged hourglass. Let’s discover the new Longines Spirit Flyback.
Longines’ expertise in the field of aviation-related watches and chronographs is undeniable. We’ve explained this in the first article covering the Spirit collection. What matters most today actually has to do with what’s under the hood, with a complication or function that has a lot to do with Longines: the flyback chronograph or retour-en-vol function.
Quick technical reminder about the flyback
On a classic, two-pusher chronograph (meaning the vast majority of the production), the sequence to reset and restart the chronograph is composed of three steps. When the chronograph is running, you need to pause it by pressing the pusher at 2, then reset it by pressing the pusher at 4, and then relaunch it by pressing the pusher at 2. An acceptable manoeuvre, as long as you don’t need to make multiple timing sessions in a row. In the context of flight calculations in a plane, it is not a practical way to measure average speed.
Enter the flyback function, which is mostly seen in pilot’s chronographs (e.g. the Type 20 series). The idea was to simplify to the maximum the stop-reset-start sequence. The retour-en-vol or flyback function allows the execution of this sequence in just one action, by pressing the pusher at 4 when the chronograph is running. This allows performing multiple calculations in a row, without a delay period.
While the authorship of the flyback complication is a topic that is still discussed (most sources indicate 1923, Breitling), examples of flyback movements at Longines can be traced back already to 1925, with the brand’s wristwatch chronograph with two independent pushers and flyback function in Longines’ archives – equipped with a modified calibre 13.33Z. However, if the creation of the function itself remains hard to demonstrate (without extensive research), an essential factor is that Longines filed a patent for the flyback on 12 June 1935, which went on to be registered on 16 June 1936. That same year, the brand released the first serial chronograph with a flyback function, the all-time great calibre 13ZN. Just after WWII, Longines developed yet another emblematic movement, the calibre 30CH, which, once again, was equipped with a flyback mechanism.
If the Spirit Zulu Time was to be seen as the bigger brother of the classic 3-hand models, the same could be said about the Spirit Flyback next to the classic automatic chronograph. In both cases, we have sportier watches with an external rotating bezel and a more advanced movement. And when you look at the specification sheet of this new Spirit Flyback, Longines has been working hard to bring its best game: advanced materials inside and out, certifications, modern features and traditional mechanical solutions. Fully equipped.
The case of the Longines Spirit Flyback relies on the same overall proportions as other chronographs in the collection. The diameter is thus on the large side, at 42mm. And while already relatively thick in its standard configuration, this new Flyback version is thick. At 17mm in height, it won’t be a watch that wears under a cuff. Explaining this stoutness is the combination of an automatic chronograph, a comfortable level of resistance and the presence of a new, bi-directional bezel on top. Equipped with a 60-minute scale, it is quite special. Made of black or blue ceramic, all white markings are coated in Super-LumiNova, and the rest of the markers are in negative relief (quite cool).
The rest of the case is familiar Longines Spirit, with a combination of brushed surfaces and nicely executed polished bevels on the side. The large crown, which screws down, is easy to operate, and so are the oversized pushers. The caseback is fitted with a see-through crystal and secured by six screws. Water-resistance is rated at 100m, which is always pleasant for an aviation-oriented chronograph. Overall, the quality of the watch is impressive. But no doubt, it looks and wears large.
The dial of the Longines Spirit Flyback, available in sunray black or sunray blue (with a matching bezel insert), doesn’t differ much from other watches in the collection. It retains the same stepped inner flange with diamond cutouts for the markers, applied Arabic numerals and an overall rather luxurious feel, despite the efficient legibility. The main difference with the classic chronograph is the display, here a balanced and symmetrical two-register style. Not easily visible in our images, the hands and markers are bronze-coloured, adding a warm retro touch. Longines once again chose a no-date display, and the five stars at 6 o’clock indicate the presence of a precision movement.
Speaking of the movement, this new model is equipped with a refined engine, produced by ETA but exclusive to Longines. The calibre L791.4 is a deeply modified 7753, now equipped with a column wheel, a flyback function, a silicon balance spring (with anti-magnetic properties), a revised 3.5Hz frequency and a comfortable 68-hour power reserve. The decoration has been revised, with perlage and blued elements, as well as the collection’s signature globe logo engraved on the rotor. Finally, the movement is certified chronometer by the COSC.
The new Longines Spirit Flyback is released in five different editions, according to the choice of strap/bracelet. It can be fitted with a brushed and polished 3-link steel bracelet (for black and blue). Also, it can be chosen on a brown leather strap (black dial) or a blue textile strap (blue dial), both closed by a folding clasp fitted with a new micro-adjustment system for maximum comfort. Finally, the black dial can be fitted with a beige NATO strap. All options feature an interchangeable system.
The Longines Spirit Flyback Chronograph is a mechanically advanced yet sizeable addition to the collection. As always, the quality is undeniable. The model on straps retail for CHF 4,200, while the model on steel bracelet is priced at CHF 4,300. For more details, please visit www.longines.com.