The latest entry from Swiss fake Longines in their long running and well curated Heritage line has been announced. The Heritage Military Marine Nationale is an updated take on a classic watch designed for the French Navy. Longines, of course, has been down this road before with the Heritage series, becoming more adept as the years roll on in picking interesting pieces from their archives and giving them just the right amount of modern spin. The Heritage “Sector” I reviewed back in July is a personal favorite, and a good expression of what makes this ongoing series worthwhile: vintage design cues, modern movements, contemporary but still conservative sizing, and a compelling story. It all adds up to vintage inspired watches that even someone like me, who loves modern design and tires easily of reissued watches, can easily appreciate and enjoy.
The Heritage Military Marine Nationale (we’ll call it the Marine Nationale from here on out) is inspired by the mid-century best copy Longines reference known as the 5774. This was a simple 33.5mm time only watch powered by the historic 12.68N caliber, and custom made for the French Navy beginning in 1947. The Navy required a watch that was both reliably accurate and capable of standing up to the elements, namely exposure to water. The end result was a watch of unusually robust design for the time period, with a clean, hyper-legible dial bearing a simple “Longines FAB. SUISSE” signature, and nothing else.
That original design has been bumped up in size for the new Marine Nationale (to 38.5mm, still discreet by modern standards), and of course the movement is a modern automatic, with a silicon balance spring, but otherwise it’s a faithful representation of the issued watch from 1947, which is exactly what we’d expect from Longines. Clear Arabic numerals at every hour are matched with smaller Arabics on an outer track counting off the minutes in increments of five. It’s field watch-esque, to be sure, and has the same kind of no nonsense absence of fussiness that we love about watches like the Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical and others that have military roots.
There are perhaps two surprising things about this watch that are worth mentioning. First, is the seeming incoherence between this watch having Navy heritage and an aesthetic that’s often associated with watches that are, specifically, land based. Remember that not everyone in the French Navy needed a dive watch (even though Tudor is currently capitalizing on the ones that did). The lack of a rotating bezel here is an authentic design choice that speaks to the original watch’s intended purpose – to be resistant to water at shallow depths, but not a tool for technical diving.
Secondly, we should address the coloration of the dial. Quality replica Longines has previously released watches in their Heritage line with dial effects that add an element of faux-patina. This of course is common with radium colored lume, but a smaller number of brands actually make their dials look weathered. Whether or not this is desirable is ultimately a matter of personal preference, but will surely be the topic of some significant debate once these watches start hitting social media and your local Longines retailer.