The image above is not a Longines Heritage Military 1938. It’s the original watch. You can see why someone would want one – the dial is as clean, uncluttered and as elegant as an Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39. You can also understand why someone wouldn’t want one. Eighty-one years later, reliability, accuracy, parts and service are a thing. Now, here’s a pic of the Longines Heritage Military 1938 “re-issue” . . .
The new watch’s dial and case are identical to the old watch’s dial and case, except for a few crucial details. The new 1938 has zero signs of age. Its Arabic numerals are painted (as opposed to printed) and coated with imperfectly applied Super-LumiNova (as opposed to imperfectly applied toxic radium). Most importantly, the Longines Heritage Military 1938 is HUGE compared to its 32mm to 36mm forebearers.
I’ve yet to see a Longines Heritage Military 1938 wrist shot, but I guaran-damn-tee you nobody’s going to mistake the 41mm new watch for its World War Two-era inspiration – not like they did with the previous 38.5mm Heritage Military timepiece (above). A watch that tricked the uninitiated with fake pitting on the dial.
Is the new old-style Longines Heritage Military 1938 a bridge too far? I mean, a watch too big? At least it isn’t too thick – unlike the non-period-correct automatic Heritage Military watch above. Like the original, the new old-style 1938 is powered by a [thinner] handwound movement. Its Longines caliber 507.2 is based on the ETA/Unitas 6498/2, a modified pocket watch movement born just after World War II.
Close enough for rock and roll? That’s central question surrounding the 1938. Do you want a watch that looks exactly like a vintage watch only blemish-free, bigger, shinier, more reliable and accurate (-5 to +10 seconds/day) and waterproof to 30m, with a two-year warranty against defects? Sure you do! Do you want to pay $2,450 for it? Uh . . . maybe?
I reckon the answer has nothing to do with historical homage. The 1938 must stand on its own merits. While the new old Longine is a handsome beast that no doubt appeals to minimalist watch wearers, it’s a fake. Like Laco’s “antique look” German pilot’s watches, the 1938 pretends to be something it was, but isn’t. Nice watch. Pass.