The popularity of dive watches is at an all-time high, and there are plenty of big fish in the pond. With stiff competition from all quarters, it’s always encouraging to discover a dive watch from one of Switzerland’s oldest and most respected brands that hasn’t strayed into inaccessible waters. Unlike the popular remakes of family heirlooms in the Heritage Collection, like the vintage-inspired Legend Diver or the Skin Diver, the HydroConquest is a contemporary dive watch at an accessible price. Benefitting from a makeover in 2018 with a fresh palette of colours and matching ceramic bezels, two case sizes, and a sturdy modern automatic movement with an extended power reserve, the HydroConquest has escalated its luxury appeal but without escalating its price. Let’s take a look today at the 43mm time-and-date blue HydroConquest on a steel bracelet.
Big Fish in the pond
Dive watches, which were originally marketed as tool watches, have inched their way up the luxury ladder – along with their price tags – and are increasingly at ease in practically most dryland situations. Apart from their practical water-resistance, for many non-professional divers, it is the solidity of a dive watch that makes it a perfect everyday companion. A dive watch is a carefree watch option that also hints at an active sporty lifestyle with some scuba-diving thrown in during the holidays.
The Longines HydroConquest, a robust diver with 300m water-resistance, has adapted to the latest trends in watchmaking. Since 2018, the models in this family now come with a stylish ceramic bezel and display other design tweaks that have gone a long way in improving their rugged good looks.
archetype of a Modern diver
One thing I have to thank Longines for is the choice of name for this watch. Simple, easy-to-remember and pertinent, the name actually describes what the watch is intended for. Introduced in 2007, the HydroConquest has the essential looks of a classic diver: a robust case with protection, a rotating unidirectional bezel, large luminescent markings and a screw-down crown and caseback.
Following its facelift in 2018, the HydroConquest time-and-date comes in two case sizes – 41mm and 43mm – with blue, grey and black dials and matching ceramic bezels as well as a choice of bracelet or rubber strap. Since it was refreshed two years ago, there have been two other models: one model in full black ceramic and a very popular model with a matte green dial and bezel.
ergonomic 43mm Case
With its sturdy 43mm case, the HydroConquest makes itself felt on the wrist. However, it is not a burly hockey puck of a watch, and you can see that the designers at Longines have passed their course in ergonomics. The fact that it is ‘only’ 12mm thick, that the lugs are curved and the bracelet flows from the case means that the watch sits flush on the wrist. A distinguishing feature of the HydroConquest is the protective structure built around the crown. Two angular crown guards protrude on the right side of the case to protect the crown. The crown is also large and fitted with ridges for better grip. Most of the case displays a matte brushed finishing, perfect for a tool watch that doesn’t want to shine too much or expose its polished surfaces to scratches. However, certain areas like the crown, the notches on the bezel and the inner link of the bracelet are polished to add a bit of contrast. The steel bracelet is fitted with a double-folding clasp and an integrated diving extension.
The colour of the ceramic used inside the bezel is almost navy blue, a slightly darker and more intense colour than the one used on the dial, and as usual, ceramic is a formidable foe in the war against scratches. The crisp lustrous navy blue ceramic contrasts vividly with the white markings on the bezel. Turning the bezel produces a smooth, satisfying click while the well-defined notches on the bezel are easy to grip. True to its function as a dive watch, the all-important 15-minute area of the bezel has minute markers, and the dot in the triangle is luminous.
clean crisp Dial
The on-trend blue dial has a sunray finish with pleasant reflections. However, before we look at the dial, let’s get over the date window hurdle. I am not usually a fan of date windows on dive watches, but the HydroConquest has pulled this feature off with great panache without decapitating any numerals in the process. The large Arabic numbers at 12, 6 and 9 o’clock are a characteristic feature of this watch and contribute to its personality. Although the position for the Arabic numeral at 3 o’clock has been replaced with the date window, the dial doesn’t lose its sense of symmetry. By maintaining the lume dots at 3 and 9 o’clock, the dial remains balanced. You can see that a lot of thinking has gone into this dial because if you look again, you’ll notice that there are no lume dots at 12 or 6 o’clock. This omission means that the dial doesn’t get cluttered and cramped and retains its optimum legibility.
The hands are rhodium-plated and treated with white Super-LumiNova that glows green in the dark. The large hour hand has a diamond-shaped area filled with lume, the longer minutes hand features lume down its centre and the lollipop zone of the central seconds hand is also luminescent. The handset is another defining characteristic of this watch; the hour and minute hands are thick, and the central facet is practically flattened there to avoid any unwanted reflections. In a similar move, the scratch-resistant sapphire crystal sits flush with the bezel to prevent distortions.
Part of Longines’ strategy to contain prices within reasonable limits is its reliance on ETA, its sister brand, for movements. Inside the HydroConquest is the Calibre L888.2 (also known as the ETA A31.L01), first released in 2017. This proprietary automatic calibre has an extended power reserve of 65 hours and beats at a slightly lower frequency of 25,200vph. The caseback is closed and has the brand’s winged hourglass logo in relief in the centre.
The blue and white colour scheme is crisp and sharp for maximum legibility under or above the waves. Blue is very much in vogue, and the incorporation of a lustrous ceramic bezel notches up the luxury factor. I particularly like the way Longines’ designers have tidied up the dial to remove extraneous details and highlight the bare essentials of a dive watch. The case is robust and solid, and the crown guards are pretty massive. However, the curved anatomy of the lugs and bracelet means that it sits nicely on the wrist. Definitely a strong candidate for anybody on the hunt for a solid dive watch from a top-notch brand for under EUR 1,500.
Options and price
The latest HydroConquest models, available in two case sizes (41 and 43mm) in four dial colours (sunray grey, black, blue and matte green) and with a choice of a stainless steel bracelet or a rubber strap, all retail for EUR 1,490. The watches are available from retailers and from the brand’s online boutique.
More information and orders at longines.com.