Send in the Crown: Testing the Longines Avigation Oversize Crown

The Longines Avigation Oversize Crown, launched in 2013, is modeled on a Longines pilots’ watch from the 1920s. Its most salient feature is, as its name suggests, its crown, which is prominent not just because it’s huge but because it protrudes very far from the case. In the chronograph version of the watch, the one we tested, a chronograph button is integrated into the crown. The watch is a monopoussoir: the same button is used to start, stop and reset the chronograph.

The movement is ETA’s automatic Caliber A08.L11, which Longines renamed the L788.2. That name appears in gold-filled lettering on the winding rotor. The L788.2 is a variation of ETA’s A08.L01, which debuted in 2010 and is derived from the ETA 7753. ETA sells the A08.L11 only to Longines; both companies are owned by the Swatch Group. Unlike the ETA 7753, which has coulisse switching, the L788.2 has a blued column wheel. It also has a longer power reserve, 54 vs. 46 hours. Other modifications made to the ETA movement include altering the shape of the regulator mechanism and of the shock absorbers.

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Longines Avigation Oversize Crown

Thanks at least in part to the column wheel, the chronograph is easy to operate: little pressure is needed to trigger the start, stop and reset functions. The column wheel is invisible, though, because the watch has a steel caseback, which is pressure-fit rather than screwed in place. It is rather unexcitingly   engraved with the model’s long name, “The Longines Avigation Oversize Crown Single Push-Piece Chronograph,” and with its serial production number. Historically, pilots’ watches from Longines and other brands had opaque metal backs with nothing on them but engraved lettering; this watch is upholding that tradition. Purists will laud that fact but movement voyeurs will lament it.

L 788.2 is Longines’s name for ETA’s A08.L11 column-wheel caliber.
L788.2 is Longines’s name for ETA’s A08.L11 column-wheel caliber.

The decorative patterns on the bearing parts and rotor are competently applied, and the polishing on the chronograph’s lever is also satisfactory. The A08.L11 does not have beveled and polished edges. Longines has retained from the ETA base the rocking pinion that serves as the chronograph’s coupling mechanism. This rocker device is inarguably reliable and robust, and is suitable for Longines, which is known for affordable yet high quality watches. But it isn’t likely to inspire oohs and aahs from aficionados of mechanical timekeeping.

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The watch had acceptable rate results, gaining six seconds per day on the timing machine and seven to eight seconds on the wrist. The results were even better when the chronograph was switched on, and the amplitude declined by an average of only 11 degrees.

This watch is handsome, distinctive in design, easy to operate, comfortable to wear, and equipped with an interesting movement. And at $3,500, it is attractively priced.

We have a few caveats for a potential buyer, though. First, he should know that the lone button in the crown won’t allow him to restart the chronograph from its stopped position: pushing the button triggers the chronograph’s three functions (start, stop and return to zero) in unchangeable succession. Second, the bezel’s bearing is not firm – in fact, the slightest touch will move it, so the wearer should definitely not rely on it for timing intervals, and instead use the chronograph.

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The case has a doubly fluted bezel and stirrup shaped strap lugs.

Finally, the nighttime legibility is not as good as we would have expected. The luminous substance glows quite brightly in the dark, but the rather small luminous fields on the hour and minutes hands look nearly identical at night.

In daylight, though, the time and chronograph are easy to read. All in all, the watch offers far more advantages than disadvantages, and hence received a good score.

SPECS:
Manufacturer: Longines Watch Co., Francillon Ltd., Les Longines, CH-2610 Saint-Imier, Switzerland
Reference number: 950.011
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with counter for 30 elapsed minutes, date display
Movement: Automatic ETA A08.L11 derived from the ETA 7753, 28,800 vph, 27 jewels, stop-seconds function, rapid-reset function for the date via a corrector, Nivachoc shock absorption, fine adjustment via a regulator, 54-hour power reserve, diameter = 30 mm, height = 7.9 mm
Case: Stainless-steel case, cambered sapphire crystal is nonreflective inside, bezel rotates in two directions, button integrated into crown, pressure-fit stainless-steel back, water resistant to 30 m
Strap and clasp: Alligator-skin strap with stainless-steel pronged buckle
Rate results (Deviations in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up                        +9 / +7
Dial down                   +10 / +8
Crown up                    +5 / +3
Crown down               +3 / +2
Crown left                   +6 / +4
Crown right                 +3 / +2
Greatest deviation of rate       7 / 6
Average deviation       +6 / +4.3
Average amplitude:
Flat positions               313° / 302°
Hanging positions      284° / 273°
Dimensions: Diameter = 41 mm, height = 15 mm, weight = 100 g
Variations: Without chronograph ($2,400); without chronograph but with second time zone ($3,100)
Price: $3,500

 

SCORES:
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The cut alligator-skin strap is very well crafted; the clasp is merely stamped, but the prong is milled from a solid block of metal.    8
Operation (5): The crown works perfectly, but a pointed object is needed to operate the date corrector.     4
Case (10): The bearings for the rotatable bezel aren’t firm enough; the simple, pressure-fit back also detracts from an otherwise good impression.     7
Design (15): Distinctive styling with handsome details such as historically inspired, stirrup-shaped strap lugs.     13
Legibility (5): Each hand is exactly the right length and the scales are readily legible, but the shapes of the low-contrast hour and minutes hands are too similar.     3
Wearing comfort (10): This watch is very comfortable to wear thanks to its supple strap and flat pronged buckle; we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the big crown doesn’t press uncomfortably against the wrist.     9
Movement (20): The functionality and appearance of the automatic ETA A08.L11, exclusive to Longines, are more than adequate.     14
Rate results (10): The rate results are satisfactory with the chronograph off or on.     7
Overall value (15): The price is fair, but there’s still some room for improvement in the craftsmanship.     13
TOTAL:     78 POINTS

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