Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On The Wrist - Longines HydroConquest Chronograph XL

The HydroConquest is part of Longines's renewed push back into the sports watch arena. They were very well known for their sports watches and sports sponsorship in the past but had taken their focus off sports watches in the 90s and 2000s for some reason. This doesn't mean they completely neglected the sports line. They'd just made a half arsed effort… if that.

The decision to get back into the game for sports watches in the middle of the noughties was a very welcomed move and they went all in, launching with a number of lines: Conquest, HydroConquest, Grand Vitesse and Admiral. Some of these names you've seen before while others are new lines.

Longines Grande Vitesse

Longines Conquest

I like the fact that they've come up with very classy ad distinct styling to separate the lines. They have also priced the watches extremely well, making the sports line excellent value for money when you compare them to the likes of Tag Heuer, or even their in-group offerings from Omega.

We need to keep in mind that Longines, prior to becoming part of the Swatchgroup family, was a proper watchmaking house viewed in the same vein as omega. They manufactured in-house movements and were highly respected. Not that they're not respected nowadays but the intra-group structure kinda dictated their positioning…

This particular HydroConquest is rarely seen, possibly due to its size but I'll get to that in a minute. This line is in my opinion the sportiest in styling out of all the Sports collections, but having said that it is still quite versatile, as Longines has managed to add elegance to their sports, which makes sense in keeping with the whole “Elegance is An Attitude” thing.

The HydroConquest Chronograph XL - those two letters at the end gives the game away doesn't it? One would say that 47mm doesn’t warrant the XL tag any more, but this is also quite a chunky watch, and if you fit the non-tapering stainless steel bracelet to it, you could almost use it to tone your muscles. But size aside the overall proportion of the watch is excellent. This is also partly due to the use of the Valjoux 7753 movement, (a tri-compax version of the 7750) giving the dial much needed balance. And the way the lugs are shaped it sits very nicely on smaller wrists. It will look big, but it won't feel like you've strapped a clock/dinner plate onto your wrist.

Speaking of 7753 movements there are a couple of gripes I have with this movement. One, the crown to hand turning ratio is not very high, (setting the time, for example) even compared to the 7750! It’s like riding a bike on the highest gear. You get calluses on your thumb and forefinger from winding the crown so much and yet the hands don't seem to have moved any closer to the desired time.

Two, the external pusher needed to change the date at 9:00 position. Why? What's wrong with 2 positions on the crown? Surely moving a subdial from 12:00 to 3:00 position doesn't warrant that many changes? But, to be fair, you'll only notice this if you don't wear the watch every day... If it's a daily watch then none of this would've mattered... Other than that, it's an extremely reliable movement. It's tough and will last a lifetime provided you take good care of it. I also have no doubts regarding its accuracy. From experience even the cheapest versions of the 7750 are ridiculously accurate. If not, any good watchmaker will be able to quickly regulate it to a very high level of accuracy.

Others will say that the date window at 4:30 is neither here nor there, but this, surprisingly, doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s not an ideal place for it, but definite not the worst.

Ok, back to the watch itself. Case construction is simple, but solid and robust. Love the raised numbers on the bezel, giving it a premium look and feel. The whole watch reminds me of a Rolex Yachtmaster on steroids. The chronograph pushers are flush with the crown guard, which is a big plus, but the way they’re angled does make using them a little tricky. The screw-in case back features a giant medallion-like hourglass-with-wings logo, which reminds me of the Omega Seahorse medallion case back of the planet oceans. Love it. The hands are well balanced and the lume is good enough.

The watch is rated to 300m, and it does have a screw-in crown. However, the pushers aren't and I have my doubts about the 300m. I'm sure it's fine but I'm not game enough to try.

Overall it’s not a watch that will appeal to everyone, but if you like your big watches, you could do much worse. It is striking and attention grabbing. Its 24mm lugs makes it perfect for perennial strap changers as this is the same width as Panerais and the choices of straps for this size is as numerous as the sand on the beach. A fat, thick strap goes especially well with the chunky case, and stops it from being overly top heavy. The watch is shipped with either the steel bracelet or the rubber strap (which is extremely long) but personally I feel a nice aftermarket dark brown strap suits best. At a list price of $3300 AUD it’s extremely great value (yes even at full retail), given the amount of watch you get, regardless of the brand.


Reference: L3.665.4.76.2 (on black rubber strap)

Case: Stainless steel case, Sapphire crystal with a single layer of antireflective coating on the underside; screw-down case-back and screw-in crown.

Diameter: 47.5 mm

Water-resistant to 300 metres (1000 feet)

Movement: L696 self-winding mechanical movement at 28,800 vph, approx 46 hours of power reserve.

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o'clock.

Chronograph: central 60 seconds, 30 minutes counter at 3 o'clock and 12 hour counter at 6 o'clock.

Dial: Silver "sunray" Big "12" Arabic numeral at 12 o'clock and 11 Superluminova luminescent dots. Silvered hands with Superluminova luminescent material.

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