Longines Silver Arrow – Boring?

Longines Silver Arrow - money shot

The Longines Silver Arrow is the watch that Don Draper would wear to the race track timeandtidewatches.com pronounces. You’ll remember Don Draper as the hard-drinking, chain smoking, womanizing ad man in Mad Men. “The dial is remarkably close to the original and really takes us back to a more elegant era – a time where people still wore formal attire when boarding a plane.” Either that or the Longines Silver Arrow is a slavish retread of a watch that remains as it was at the beginning: ditchwater dull . . .

Vintage Longines Silver Arrow original

More charitably, you could call the new $2100 Longines Silver Arrow “unobtrusive” and laud it for being faithful to the original design. It’s yet another beautifully built example of Longines raiding its archives to position the brand upstream of the all conquering Apple Watch (sitting on 100m+ wrists and counting).

You may notice the new Silver Arrow’s railroad track minute indices have a silver “frame” separating them from the hour markers. You may not. As no latter day Mad Man would dare show up at a company-mandated Workplace Sensitivity Training session wearing a dress watch smaller than 39mm, Longines increased the case size from 35mm to 38.5mm and added 3mm width.

Longines Silver Arrow at rest

The extra bezel girth creates a fatter looking timepiece than the original. More monolithic. More . . . bland. I’d like to see the Silver Arrow in the flesh before passing final judgement, but the PR shots make the watch look like nothing so much as nothing so much.

Along with the bigger bezel and the new “cupcake” crown, the mechanical bits are thoroughly modern. Longines’ caliber L888.5 (base ETA 2892) movement motivates the hands, complete with an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring and 72-hour power reserve.

Fangio driving silver arrow

The hype surrounding the original 1956 Longines Silver Arrow is dubious. According to T&T’s Mr. Blass, “The name stemmed from a contest within the company to name the watch, and among 450 proposals ‘Silver Arrow’ was the winning moniker with the name deriving from the dominant German racing cars of the era.”

Really? I hope the watch’s nomenclature had nothing to do with the Daimler-Benz AG “Silver Arrow” race cars. Mercedes retired from Formula One in 1955 after the LeMans disaster claimed 83 lives and injured 180 more. Linking the watch to the ill-fated MB team a year after the horror would have been bad juju. Superstitious watch buyers need not apply. Or, I reckon, worry.

Silver Arrow caseback

The Silver Arrow’s caseback features a delta-winged jet flying into the heavens – hardly a motor racing-inspired motif. But it is a silver, arrow-shaped airplane.

After consulting my old TTAG colleague, whiskey blogger and airplane nut Nick Leghorn, the only arrow-named delta wing aircraft aircraft from that era we can find is the Canadian CF-105 Arrow. Yes but . . .


The elevator is in the wrong place (on the watch image), the real world plane’s fuselage was white (not silver) and “The first Arrow was rolled out to the public on 4 October 1957, the same day as the launch of Sputnik I.” That’s after the Longines Silver Arrow hit the streets.

Longines’ website is no help. So unless one of our commentators can set me straight, I’m thinking the “winning” caseback design depicts an aircraft entirely of Longines’ imagination, perhaps drawn by a marketing maven’s seven-year-old (nice work on those stars Jimmy!). Yeah, it’s that generic. And generic means . . . bland.

Don Draper Jaeger

The world of Mad Men starts in March 1960, four years after the Longines Silver Arrow’s debut. Don Draper wouldn’t have worn a dated design from such a mid-market brand. In fact, Mr. Draper wristed Jaeger-LeCoultre (Reverso above), Rolex and OMEGA. Who’d wear the Longines Silver Arrow 3.0 today and would you’d hire them as a creative?

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