Gentlemen’s Longines vintage wrist watch, 1969.

This is a beautiful looking Gentlemen’s vintage wristwatch from Longines, dating to 1969. I was drawn by the clean design and the originality of the watch, based on aesthetics alone, it would look great on my wrist. However, I am looking for classic vintage watches to add to my collection which have a depth to their character and history. I spent some time looking into the background of this intriguing vintage timepiece. The watch has a 17-jewel hand-winding movement, the Longines calibre 490, which is working well. The movement is fully signed and it has the serial number 50,543,564 which dates it back to 1969. The Longines calibre 490 is not one of Longines’ most notable movements.

Longines calibre 490 dial.
Vintage Longines calibre 490 dial. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company.

Longines

Longines was founded in 1832. Founder Auguste Agassiz was trained in business and worked for a time in the banking industry. In 1832, he and two partners, Henri Raiguel and Florian Morel (who were brothers-in-law) elected to launch their own watchmaking enterprise as a comptoir in the town of Saint-Imier. The partnership known as Raiguel Jeune & Cie., later to become Longines, was established. Soon after, they established their own assembly workshop, thereby initiating their move away from the “établissage” system.

Agassiz had important business connections in America, which soon became a large market for the assembled watches of Raiguel Jeune & Cie., Comptoir. Eventually, both Raiguel and Morel left or retired and Agassiz took control of the comptoir. He was forced into early retirement by poor health in 1850 and brought in his nephew, Ernest Francillon in 1852. While Agassiz remained a partner until he died in 1877, Francillon made numerous changes and modernizations. In 1866, he purchased land south of Saint-Imier and built a factory in an area known as les longines, the long meadows, from where the company eventually took its modern name.

In the early 20th century, Longines became synonymous with sporting events as it provided timing equipment for various international competitions, including the Olympics, equestrian events, and aviation milestones. This association with sports further enhanced Longines’ reputation and contributed to its global recognition.

During the mid-20th century, Longines continued to innovate, introducing iconic timepieces such as the Longines Conquest and the Longines Flagship. The brand also played a significant role in the development of quartz technology, launching the Ultra-Quartz, one of the first quartz watches, in 1969.

Longines calibre 490

The watch has a Longines calibre 490 movement. This is a manually wound movement with a lever escapement, 17 jewels, a mono-metallic balance and a Kif Ultra-Flex shock absorber. The Calibre 490 was produced in the late 1960s. It is important to note that the 490 was not an in-house Longines calibre Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about the 490’s specific origins. It is most likely that it was based on another movement, such as a rebadged Record calibre. Collectors tend to focus more on Longines in-house calibres rather than the 490.

Longines calibre 490.
Longines calibre 490. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company.

KIF shock protection

KIF is an anti-shock system made by KIF Parechoc, SA. The company was founded in 1944 and is headquartered in Vallée-de-Joux, Switzerland. KIF is a removable Swiss-made shock absorber found in a wide range of watches and was most notably used in Rolex watches until they invented their own. Shock absorbers are crucial for protecting the delicate components of the balance. The Kif Ultra-Flex ensures that the watch continues to function even when subjected to impacts. It works in a similar fashion to the more common Incabloc shock protection system.

Dial

The watch measures 35mm in diameter excluding the winding crown and the lugs. The case is gold plated while the case back is stainless steel. The case is in beautiful condition, including a signed winding crown. For most collectors, originality is key, and an original dial, crown and case adds value to a vintage watch. The inside of the case back is signed with the Longines logo. The lens is in lovely condition, with just a couple of marks if viewed through a jeweller’s loupe. There are some reflections showing in the photos.

The signed dial has its original subtle sunburst finish with original hands, a subsidiary seconds dial and outer minute markers. The watch has a signed Longines black leather strap with a plain buckle. An original watch strap buckle is a rarity, however, adds value to a vintage watch. In this example, we just have to accept the plain buckle.

Longines calibre 490 case back.
Longines calibre 490 case back. © The Vintage Wrist Watch Company.

Conclusion

A beautiful watch, but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Although it would look great on my wrist it just didn’t have enough history behind it to justify the expense. The Longines calibre 490 movement is not one of the most recognisable and is probably a rebranded movement from a third party. If it was a Longines in-house movement, there would definitely be more interest from the vintage watch collectors market. Also, the watch doesn’t belong to one of the recognised Longines collections from the period. If the dial was signed with Longines Admiral, Conquest or Flagship it would be much more desirable. A beautiful vintage watch, but I think I will leave this for someone else to enjoy.

Related content

Longines official history.

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