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 . . .

Avro-CF-105-Arrow--Serial-No--25201-

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?

23 comments

  1. Longines is a company, like Heuer, Breitling, and Zenith, that makes brilliant, giant slaying modern chronographs, while having a storied history with chronographs, but everything else is meh.

    I can’t think of a single reason to get this instead of a Tissot Gentleman Silicium blue dial.

  2. Stop this blasphemy. The crinkle-cut indices alone make this the hotness, though I do wish they’d stuck with the superior 35mm size. Besides, do you want boring or tacky? I have never gone to a barber and said “do something interesting!” I do have a pair of interesting shoes. They get worn half a dozen times per year.

    I understand the journalistic desire for new, groundbreaking, controversy. The actual consumer may be less interested in all this. As Tommy Hilfiger (yeah, I know he’s a copy of a copy) said, men want things that won’t embarrass them, and this satisfies that.

    And now a list of ‘interesting’ things: skeleton and open hearts, tourbillons, whackadoo case materials like carbon fiber or sapphire, dials made from coffee grounds or old vehicles, power reserve indicators, those corny watches that have the whole dial cocked some angle, bullhead crowns, fake patina, crown locks, and so on. I want none of these things.

    1. First time I heard the Tommy Hilfiger quote. Rings true, especially since “real men” don’t give a rat’s ass what might embarrass them and thankfully they choose style/design/product that they like, for whatever personal reasons.

      1. Hilfiger said that on a 60 Minutes interview. Admittedly, his stuff had some differentiation back in the 90’s and is now utterly commodity grade AFAIK, But he knows how to get wide appeal. Most of us aren’t secure enough to make the fashion choices of Vanilla Ice or Kanye West. Better safe than sorry.

        And the non-enthusiast doesn’t necessarily have a taste or preference. It’s like asking me about audio equipment or kitchen appliances. I don’t know, just get something that doesn’t look stupid and won’t break.

        Boring watches are best watches. If I’m bored with it, that means it isn’t interjecting itself into my notice. Like acting, if you notice it, it’s not good.

        1. Men’s fashion is inherently conservative. Nobody every failed to get a job because they wore a white dress shirt to a job interview. Fashion forward is best left to celebrities and athletes who either have professional stylists or get a lot of free stuff. I want something that isn’t going to look stupid a year two after I bought it.

    2. Watches can be interesting without resorting to gimmicks or complicated complications. Sinn, Cuervo Y Sobrinos and OMEGA are but three watchmakers who know how to make a stylish timepiece.

      1. I’ll cede Cuervo Y Sobrinos, and maybe some of the traditional Omegas, but Sinn? They are the epitome of boring design, functional and forgettable.

        1. ?!?

          Sinn pops on a wrist. I don’t own one, but Sinn does have a distinctive design language. Every Sinn I’ve seen takes a Seiko approach and “breaks the mold” instead of shamelessly following Rolex’s lead.

          1. I know you’re a fan, but I seriously can think of no brand more generic and boring than Sinn. The lume shot is nice and the bracelet is the most original thing I’ve ever seen from the brand. But the case and dial are (I have to keep flipping back to remember what they look like) just the most derivative dullness imaginable. On the plus side, they aren’t ugly.

    3. Wait. What’s wrong with a bullhead? I’m a lefty, and if I want to be able to use the pushers chronograph watch with relative ease, the case has to be destro or bullhead. A bullhead is agnostic on the question of whether or not a watch should be worn on the left or right hand.

      1. “…not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
        I just said that I don’t want them. Too interesting for me.

    1. Thanks for the link! Fascinating three-man crew bomber, Mach 2 and all.

      I don’t see where the B-58 was called an “arrow,” and those engines hanging off the wing are nowhere to be seen. There were a bunch of delta winged aircraft at the time, but none that looks like the caseback engraving. FWIW.

    1. Can you be more specific? We’re always willing to reconsider opinions and correct facts.

      Can you do better? We’re always looking for new writers.

  3. Everyone has different taste, but… I think this watch and the Marine Nationale are the most elegant throwback watches out there right now. The indices are interesting in an understated way. The heavy smooth bezel and lugs balance out the clean dial and hands. To me the essence of “boring” is yet another Rolex-like dive watch or a retread only with a green dial. Or a field watch that is too big and has a display case back. I’m in for this Longines all day…

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