For some time now, Longines has skillfully mastered the art of reissues, paying tribute to historical models, all to the great satisfaction of collectors and those with a good eye for classic timepieces. One of the vintage-inspired watches that caught our attention a few years back was the Longines Heritage 1935, a modern interpretation of the Longines Czech Pilot watch developed in the 1920s and supplied to the Czechoslovakian Air Force in the 1930s. The watches were marked as “Majetek Vojenske Spravy”, meaning “property of military administration”, earning the Longines Majetek nickname among collectors. (I believe Longines Vojenske would be a better name, translating into Longines Military and not Longines Property, but it is too late for that). This week, the manufacturer presented a new take on the historical Czech Pilot watch, the Longines Pilot Majetek. The new timepiece is an improvement compared to the Longines Heritage 1935, released in 2014. Let us see if you agree, but first – a little bit of history.
The Rotating Bezel
We all know the rotating bezel to be an integral part of any dive watch. However, the rotating bezel was initially developed by pilots to facilitate navigation. It was invented by none other than US Navy Lieutenant Commander Phillip Weems, whose connection to Longines and cooperation with Charles Lindbergh produced groundbreaking results. Lindbergh was famous for his transatlantic flight in the Spirit of Saint Louis from New York to Paris in 1927. He was the first to do it alone; he flew much further than anyone before him and made history since he was also the first to connect two major cities across the ocean.
Lindbergh was reportedly dissatisfied with celestial navigation and needed equipment precise to a second that he could rely upon to fly around the world, making proper calculations without relying on the stars. The two met when Weems was conducting navigational experiments, and what followed changed how flight variables were calculated. Based on their findings, Longines made the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch – try learning how to operate this one by watching the tutorial on Longines’ website. Don’t be harsh on yourself; even trained pilots had trouble using the Lindberg watch back then. So, Weems came up with an elegant and simple solution to help pilots align their vertical zero position with the second hand or a radio command – an external rotating bezel calibrated from 0 to 60 seconds. The innovation was adopted by many brands that supplied the military, Longines included – see the Weems A11 or the original Majetek, which employed a different rotating bezel variant.
The Original Majetek Vojenske Spravy
The 1935 model produced by Longines to fill the order for the Czech military had a 40mm cushion-shaped stainless steel case, a black porcelain dial with big white Arabic numerals, and a fluted rotating bezel with an internal marker. The bezel with the triangular marker and crystal turned in unison, allowing several simple but helpful timing functions. The size was considered huge, but a big case was necessary to fit the pocketwatch calibre 15-94 and to operate it while wearing gloves. The watch was anti-magnetic, reliable and well-built to survive in a dangerous environment. There are still a few around, still looking good at 88 years old and ticking at 18,000vph.
The New Longines Pilot Majetek
The new Majetek is not a reissue but a nuanced interpretation of the original. The Longines Heritage 1935 that the same model also inspired lacked the rotating bezel and the triangular marker, instead adding a date window – lucky for us, Longines made no such adjustments this time, but let us not get too much ahead. The Longines Pilot Majetek is not a small watch by modern standards, but the case dimensions should not shy you away.
The new Majetek measures 43mm instead of 41mm of the original. However, the stainless steel cushion-shaped case is slightly curved, with rounded lugs for a contemporary look, and the watch wears comfortably despite the size. The fluted bezel with a triangular marker is much more pronounced and turns in both directions so that the luminous starting time indicator can fulfil its purpose. Only this time, the triangle is independent, and the crystal does not turn when you move the bezel with the marker above the dial. With the sapphire crystal firmly fixed, this new construction ensures water-resistance of up to 100m.
Turn the watch sideways, and you’ll see a plate with “1935” engraved to commemorate the year Majetek went into production. The plate, the brand reports, hides the patented gear mechanism for the bezel coupled with the triangular marker. Still, there needs to be more information on whether you can unscrew the hatch to satisfy your curiosity. On the right, the protruding elements protect the crown. Turn the watch over to read the engravings on the screw-in solid caseback: Longines Pilot Majetek, Chronometer Officially Certified, Magnetic Resistant, etc. Turn it back and admire the near-perfect dial that lacks a date aperture.
As with the original 1935 model, the dial is matt black with white Arabic numerals, railroad minutes track, and the recessed small seconds sub-dial replacing the 6 o’clock index. The digits are embossed and treated with “old radium” coloured Super-LumiNova for a retro feel. The rhodium-plated hands have a baton shape and look in harmony with the rest of the dial elements – “cathedral-type” as in the original would spoil the balanced appearance. Again, since this Longines Pilot Majetek is not a reissue but a contemporary take on the vintage avigation (aviation & navigation) watch, the dial leaves nothing to wish for – it is legible and genuine to the original aesthetics and purpose.
The movement for the Pilot Majetek comes from the L893 series (ETA A31.L91) that was developed specifically and exclusively to power the Longines Heritage collection watches. Longines chose to equip the new Majetek with the L893.6 calibre with a silicon balance spring for better resistance to magnetic fields. This automatic L893.6 movement is chronometer-certified by COSC. It operates at 25,200vph and has a power reserve of up to 72 hours, which is more than enough to fly around the globe.
The Longines Pilot Majetek has three strap options. The NATO-style strap made from recycled polyester fibre is a winner, but if the leather is your choice, you can wear your new Pilot on a brown or dark green leather strap, both with beige stitching. The Longines Pilot Majetek retails for CHF 3,500 and is now available through Longine’s e-commerce platform and retailers. It is part of the permanent collection.
In less than ten years, Longines will celebrate its 200th anniversary, a moment highly anticipated by the manufacturer from St. Imier and watch collectors worldwide. One can only imagine what kind of mechanical beauties the brand will release. With its rich history as one of the oldest watch manufacturers still in operation today and vast archives to inspire modern creations, we are all in for a real treat. The Pilot Majetek may very well mark the taste of things to come.
For more information, please visit www.longines.com.