When I think about Longines, I usually envision a lot of people in silly hats sitting around a track with their umbrellas twirling about. As this track does not have cars going around it, it’s hard for people like me to blend in and associate with the masses. If I’m honest, they probably wouldn’t let me past the gate. Yes, the word Longines conjures up feelings of equestrian nirvana, French tennis, and in some cases, even archery. It rarely makes you imagine wet suits, coral reefs, or the sound of oxygen tanks being chewed on by a shark. Other than a brief stint in the 60s and 70s, divers haven’t really been what the company is known for. They still make those heritage divers that will take you back to the sunburnt oranges of those days, but we’re talking modern divers. And while Kaz and I talk about how it’s often overlooked as a modern entry level diver, Longines does make one, and has for a while. In 2018, they updated the watch with a ceramic bezel and more toned-down dial. This is the Longines HydroConquest.
The Hydro isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around since 2007 to little or no fanfare. At least none that I ever caught. Those older models (that are still available) were classic aluminum bezel divers with the only real difference being that it was offered in two sizes. One size was normal (39) and sumo (44). So, one of them was made for normal watch enthusiasts while the other was made for guys who thought a big shiny watch would somehow make up for, well, smaller things. The new Hydro is also offered in two sizes, and mind bogglingly enough, they’re two different sizes! The ceramic bezel models come in 41 and 43, so just between the other two. As I mentioned before, they didn’t discontinue the older ones (they’re still on the Longines website), so no matter what size you fancy, it’s sure to be found. For this particular story, we’re going to stick with the one that caught my eye and finally had me pull the trigger on a watch that always seemed a little ugly or big, until it was revised.
For the most part, if you own the original model, the case on the new HydroConquest remains mostly unchanged, aside from the size. This particular model measures 41mm wide with a lug-to-lug of 50mm. A 50mm lug to lug is no slouch, and may hang over people with “Steve-sized” wrists, but it’s very much in keeping that Longines long-lug look. While those dimensions may scare some of you, the watch case is designed in a way that the caseback barely extends past the case itself, and at only 11.9mm thick it sits nicely on the wrist. By saying that, I don’t mean that it “wears smaller,” it very much feels like a 41mm or 42mm watch, but with its low center of gravity, it doesn’t feel like a chonk. It’s not top-heavy and if fitted properly, will sit in the middle of your wrist without wanting to flop around every time you move your wrist. And since we’ve breached the subject of comfort, let’s address the massive elephant in the room that everyone must deal with when looking at a Hydro.
Those isosceles triangles it uses for crown guards, rising upon the crown like the Tyrell buildings in an alternate Los Angeles, always kinda looked like they would just dig and dig. At least, that’s what my exhausted mind used to think when I would look at the watch online. The ridges on the crown don’t go all the way to the end, instead giving way to a smooth button. So, that looks ok, but what about those guards? To my surprise, even though the watch sits low, the crown guards and the crown are raised just enough that they almost never make contact with my wrist. I’ve even been able to unscrew and wind the crown without taking the watch off. It’s been unequivocally one of the most comfortable divers I’ve ever worn.
Longines is placed just below brands like Omega in Swatch’s pyramid, but the case fit and finish is top notch. The bezel insert, now with scratch resistant ceramic, changes a little from the old one. Gone are the markers at every minute, the 15, 30, and 45 for a more traditional 10, 20, etc. and a few hash marks to 15 minutes. All of the markers are bright white and sharp, and the gloss black shifts from deep black to a light grey. The edge of the bezel is now a coin edge all the way around, rather than only part way, and are easy to grip. Easy to turn? Well, it’s got 120 clicks! And, it’s not as tight as a Steinhart after a day at the beach. Longines case quality continues around back with the absolutely beautiful vintage EFCo. Longines winged hourglass. The detail is as sharp as any engraving you’ll find at this price, and personally, it’s something I love to see on divers. Really drives home that tool vibe.
Under the heavily AR-coated crystal is a black sunburst dial that glistens like squid ink on the water darting around the surface. It’s basically a carryover from the other model with the exception of some extra applied markers at the 5-minute increments. While it dumbs the dial down to the status quo diver dial, it does clean the surface a bit, making it less crowded and lets those big, beautiful numbers stand out more prominently. While maybe not as original as the other, this is the better of the two. Getting rid of the superfluous markers allows the wearer to pick out the time from those carryover hands easily. Speaking of the hands, they’re chromed and well machined. The hour hand uses a diamond to be pointed out easily. Yes, I know that another brand has a similar hand, but this is more diamond than square, and since only the diamond has luminous paint, you get a nice blue diamond floating around the dial at night. The lume is ok. It lasts, but it’s only really bright straight out of the sun. However, in low light that isn’t total blackness, those big markers in bright white make the time visible even with no charge.
The ceramic model has a slightly different bracelet and, unfortunately, this is where I feel Longines cut the cost a little to keep the watch at a certain price point. I mean, it’s not bad, even though a committee sat around and approved a lug width of 21mm. In a world where Instagram tells us we need to change the strap every week for a new photo, who in their right mind ever thought 21 was a good idea? It’s your basic oyster design instead of the H-link that the non ceramic model carry’s. It’s also the only polished surface on the watch, as though they thought, “Crap. We made a tool watch. But we’re Longines,” and then broke out the polishers. The clasp is ok. Basic. Fat. It’s 20mm. So, the taper is almost nil. The clasp is a flip lock type, and holds tight (so tight that someone who bites their nails will regret it somedays). A basic stamped diver’s extension lets you know it’s a diver. While it is comfortable and does its job, it’s just so, bleh. The swatch group has some great clasps among brands and this was the best Longines could do? For a watch head that is so nice and well made, the bracelet is a bit on the basic side for a brand that is positioned above Mido, whose Ocean Star has a great clasp. This one might as well be named Ashley and shopping for pumpkin spice candles at Target.
Screwing off that lovely caseback reveals the Longines L888, an ETA-based power plant that is modified to last approximately 72 hours at full wind. The way this is achieved is similar to how Swatch built the Powermatic 80. In this instance, the beats per hour are reduced to 25,200, or 7 beats per second. Accuracy is -5 to +15 seconds a day. Not COSC, but no slouch. This is the same movement that comes in the Legend Diver, which cost about $1,000 more. Now two generations removed from its ETA 2892 base, the movement still retains a slim 3.85mm profile that keeps the watch thin. It’s also extremely quiet. I don’t hear the rotor at all. In fact, I never notice it. Also, winding resistance is nil. If you don’t have your ear to watch, or the second hand didn’t start moving, you’d never know you’re winding the watch.
I got rid of a Christopher Ward ceramic Trident to get this watch. At the time, I was hardly wearing the 42mm CW, so it would seem to be a lateral move to the HydroConquest, but something told me that maybe it was the watch and not the design. I took the risk, and to be honest, this has been one of the most worn watches in the last year. Although, I feel that the ceramic HydroConquest has lost some of its individuality in favor for a wider range appeal, the Ashley’s, like myself, will definitely be drawn to it. And it’s not just the looks, the watch has the numbers to be a real diver from an entry level luxury brand. 300m water resistance. 72 hours of power reserve. A bph that isn’t 21,600 (albeit just barely). And finish quality that is just as nice as some nicer watches I’ve touched. Also, let me restate that this, even with its ho-hum bracelet is still one of the most comfortable divers I’ve ever worn. I don’t miss the CW at all. Longines wants $1,600 for the HydroConquest ceramic and personally, I think it’s a deal.
I don’t know why these don’t get more respect in the dive watch circles. I don’t know if it’s the lack of serious marketing, or if it’s just the Longines brand that doesn’t carry the weight when it comes to modern dive watches. The Legend Diver and the Skin Diver get so much more attention. Both of those watches are equally equipped and cost $1,000 more. Regardless of the reason, the HydroConquest is a great entry level luxury diver that gives you everything you want without having to offer sexual favors to the Affirm Gods. Even if most people won’t know what it is, this could be a watch you wear every day. I’ve been wearing it almost every day since the beginning of December. It’s been tough outdoors, tough at work, and has looks that aren’t over the top or so subtle it becomes boring. It fits nicely under a shirt cuff and works well with a jacket. It’s just a nice freakin’ watch. Could it compete with the Tudors and the Omegas of the world? Well, let’s not go there. Does it deserve a little bit more recognition than it gets? Without a doubt.
Baird is an avid motoring enthusiast and a self taught hobbyist watchmaker from Bristol, TN. He has a love for all things mechanical and has an affinity for the style late 60s and 70s Chronographs and Dive watches. Baird views watches as engineering marvels and tools for everyday life rather than just jewelry. His writing style is inspired by certain “British automotive journalists” and his own experiences growing up and living in a blue-collar society.