More Than Skin-Deep

Longines dives into its past as it brings to surface the Skin Diver Watch

LONGINES can hardly be blamed; the watchmaker does boast a rich 185-year history. Which means it has a huge archive from which to mine inspiration, allowing for pieces which can easily be reissued. And, of late the brand has been doing this, oh it has been doing this. To great effect, too.

Among Longines’s recent releases is the Skin Diver Watch, an homage to no less than the brand’s first diver watch introduced in 1959. This means the new piece has aesthetics evoking the romance of the mid-20th century when watches were tools, first and foremost.

The Skin Diver Watch follows up on the success of Longines’s own Heritage Legend Diver, which itself is a reissue of a piece from the 1960s. But where the Legend Diver harks at a super compressor watch roots, complete with a second crown operating an inner rotating bezel, the Skin Diver is a more basic piece.

Instantly identifying the Skin Diver Watch as a dive timepiece from the period is its black uni-directional rotating bezel marked by simple dots, stick indices, a triangle pointer and small 15, 30 and 45 numerals — no gradated lines from the triangle to 20. This is because, well, as the watch’s name declares, it was originally meant for skin diving, meaning breath-hold, scuba tank-less dives in shallower waters. The modern Skin Diver Watch though is water-resistant to 300 meters, thanks in part to a screw-down caseback (engraved on which is the diver icon) and a screw-in crown.

Though the watch’s stainless steel case is now sized a very modern 42 millimeters, within it lies vintage-looking elements like stick indices, 12, 3, 6 and 9 Arabic numerals in period-correct font, and a dial that is more like a really dark shade of gray rather than true black, suggesting aging. Well, the numerals, indices and hands are rendered in a beige-ish/light brownish tone that, interestingly, seems a slightly different hue from the markings on the bezel, which appear more yellowish. Completing the Skin Diver Watch’s nostalgic vibe are Longines’s period labels (“Automatic” is even written in script) and a selection of straps: black rubber with a crisscross pattern, brown aged leather, or a Milanese-style steel bracelet.               

Beyond aesthetics, the Skin Diver Watch is thoroughly contemporary. Its bezel is coated with PVD. The indices, numerals and hands are covered in Super LumiNova. A domed, anti-reflective sapphire crystal seals in the dial. The movement is Longines’s own self-winding caliber L888.2, based on the proven ETA A31.L01 that has 21 jewels and a power reserve of 64 hours, and which spins at 25,200vph. So while the watch delightfully, unabashedly tugs at nostalgia, its beauty also is more than skin-deep.