Longines Avigation Type A-7 1935 – An Eccentric Pilot’s Chronograph from the Past
A unique single-button chronograph pilot’s watch with a crooked dial.
It’s quite common for brands to reissue watches from a bygone era, especially military and dive watches. The 2019 Rado Captain Cook Limited Edition, Seiko’s Prospex Diver 300m Hi-Beat SLA025 and Longines’ own Avigation BigEye are recent examples (and let’s not overlook the brand’s Legend Diver). The company’s Heritage collection pays homage to many more vintage pieces and the Avigation Type A-7 1935 is a quirky one with design elements to help pilots read the time and operate the chronograph quicker.
Modelled after a 1930s Type A-7 for the U.S. Army Air Corps, it appears as if the crown were fitted at 12 o’clock with the case then rotated 40 degrees to move it away from the lugs (it would clearly obstruct the strap). Although the dial could simply be straightened within the case, there was a purpose for this unconventional aesthetic as it provided a direct view when a pilot’s arm was outstretched to the controls (and they often wore it on the underside of the wrist). And while the Avigation BigEye had a lot of personality, this one’s just dripping with character. Let’s take a closer look.
Longines was founded in 1832 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. The brand registered its logo in 1889, a winged hourglass, which remains the oldest, unchanged, active trademark in the world. Its first chronograph movement (calibre 20H) debuted in 1878 and like the Avigation Type A-7 1935, it was a mono-pusher that utilized a single button at the crown for all chronograph functions (start, stop and reset). The initial goal was to become a major force in the world of sports, and Longines began timing horse races and other equestrian events in the late 19th century. The company is now an official timekeeper for the French Open, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup and Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, among many other sports.
Longines partnered with Charles Lindbergh as the official timekeeper of his historic flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis and later supplied pilot’s watches for the U.S. Army Air Corps in the 1930s. The brand previously released the Avigation Type A-7 Limited Edition (Avigation stands for aviation and navigation) with a large diameter and limited count of 100 pieces, but the latest reissue tones things down a bit with a more manageable size and standard availability. The watch is based on a model released in 1935 (hence the name) with oversized Arabic numerals and a porcelain dial.
CASE AND DESIGN
The newest edition has a restrained 41mm diameter and is 14mm in height (lug to lug is 49mm). The 316L stainless steel case is period correct with round edges and a full-mirror polish, and a large onion crown at 12 o’clock (or about 1:30, if the dial wasn’t angled). A single pusher sits within the crown and I found it required enough pressure to engage to never accidentally start the timer after setting the watch.
To keep things simple, the crown moves in only one position to set the time with a separate (flush) pusher to set the date at 7 o’clock. A domed sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating covers the dial while the caseback is solid steel. Although I prefer exhibition casebacks, especially with a decorated chronograph movement, the solid cover is again period correct. The silhouette of a plane is engraved on the back with LONGINES stretched across the wings and a sunburst pattern radiating towards the edge. The case has a nice weight to it and is water-resistant to 30 metres.
DIAL AND HANDS
The dial is polished white lacquer with oversized painted Arabic numerals with a faux patina. A chronograph seconds track spans the outermost perimeter with numerals printed every five seconds. Two sub-dials sit at 12 and 6 o’clock, with a 30-minute counter at the top (with a vintage serif font printed every three minutes) and small seconds at the bottom. Within the seconds sub-dial is a date window with black print on a white background, and although I appreciate its function, the dial would aesthetically benefit without it.
The blued-steel cathedral hands are filled with paint matching the hour numerals, while the central chronograph seconds hand is blue. The sub-dial hands differ from each other, with a leaf-shaped hand for the counter and a simple baton-shaped hand for the seconds. While on the topic of differences, multiple fonts are used throughout the dial, but everything remains surprisingly balanced and cohesive. The elephant in the room, of course, is the 40-degree twist of the dial, but as mentioned earlier, it was designed for pilots reaching for the controls.
Today’s buyers can enjoy a similar benefit while driving. While my left hand rested on the steering wheel, the dial perfectly aligned with my viewpoint. I may not be Charles Lindbergh, but it’s a cool perk for us terrestrial dwellers and proves to be more than a gimmick.
The beating heart of the Avigation Type A-7 1935 is the Calibre L788.2 automatic, based on the ETA A08.L11. It has 27 jewels, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) with a 54-hour power reserve. Functions include central hours, minutes and chronograph seconds, sub-dial seconds and date at 6 o’clock, and a 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock. This is a column-wheel movement and exclusive to the Longines Avigation Type A-7 collection (three in total, two were limited editions). A somewhat rare feature is the additional pusher at 7 o’clock to set the date, requiring a pen tip or dedicated tool as it’s flush with the case.
The watch is fitted with a 21mm brown calf leather strap with cream stitching and an alligator pattern. It has a stainless steel pin buckle and an XL variant is available for larger wrists. I found it to be comfortable out of the box and it fit the overall aesthetic of the watch very well. For a military-inspired piece, I would’ve preferred a strap sans the alligator pattern, but that’s a minor gripe (and a strap can always be changed).
The angled dial was a bit jarring when I first strapped on the Avigation Type A-7 1935, but it was cool and refreshingly unique at the same time. It wasn’t hard to get acclimated and I never had a problem consulting the dial (it’s not THAT angled and the Arabic numerals are huge). The date window bothered me a little as I felt it added some unnecessary clutter, although I’m admittedly not a fan of date windows in general.
Vintage-inspired pieces are popular throughout the watch industry and many brands have well-conceived, faithful reissues of classic watches. Longines is regarded for having luxury yet attainable throwbacks in its Heritage collection and it’s rare to see such a unique, historically accurate piece at any price, let alone one that most enthusiasts can aspire to.
The Longines Avigation Type A-7 1935 retails for USD 3,500 or EUR 3,010 and is available at the Longines website and participating retailers worldwide.
Cool novelty piece!
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