If you are familiar with Eterna as a watch brand, it is likely because of the original KonTiki, which, some maintain, has earned a place in the pantheon of iconic dive watches alongside the Rolex Submariner, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Omega Ploprof, and other deep-sea trailblazers. It is named for the wooden raft that Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl sailed across the ocean on his legendary 1947 expedition from South America to Polynesia — a journey on which Heyerdahl and his crew all wore Eterna wristwatches. (The raft, in turn, was named after an Inca sun god.) The watches’ durability, water-resistance, and timekeeping performance on the 8,000-mile nautical trek inspired Eterna’s watchmakers to create the classical forebear of this timepiece, a model that has been a mainstay of Eterna’s collection, in various incarnations, ever since. And while I did nothing more adventurous with the Super KonTiki Chronograph Manufacture than wear it during a rainstorm, I had a fine opportunity to get up close and personal with it during my two-week loan period.
Aficionados of classic dive watches will instantly recognize The Super KonTiki Chronograph’s overall look, with a dial dominated by large, triangular hour indices, the top one at 12 o’clock decorated by the brand’s logo of five “balls” arranged in a pentagon. (For those who are curious, this logo design is a visual reference to the five ball bearings of Eterna’s groundbreaking “Eterna-matic” self-winding watch movement, elements whose strategic placement in the mechanism significantly reduced friction and resistance on the winding rotor, thus reducing wear and tear on internal parts and increasing the accuracy — a technical milestone for which the company has been justly lauded by horophiles.) The emblem also appears, subtly, as an engraving on the screw-down crown.
The 45-mm-diameter stainless steel case (which designates the watch as “Super,” differentiating it from the regular KonTiki models, at 42 mm) boasts a high level of finishing: brushed on the upper surface of the case, which flows into the sloping lugs, followed by a middle layer of polished finish, then more brushed finishing on the main body of the curving caseband, then more polishing on the lower surface. Add the obligatory notched, rotating diver’s bezel on top, and the brushed-finish, screwed caseback with flat sapphire window, and the Super KonTiki clocks in at a relatively hefty 16 mm thick. Strapping the watch onto the wrist, however, most will find that neither the diameter nor the thickness feel particularly unwieldy. The wrist-hugging ergonomic curve of the case helps here, as does the fact that both crystals (front and back) are flat rather than domed.
A closer look at the bezel reveals its attractive, shiny insert with 60-minute diving scale, made of aluminum. The rather large, eminently legible Arabic numerals at the 10-minute marks make an appealing contrast to the lack of any numerals on the dial. The bezel rotates in one direction (if you need to ask why, you’re probably not that into divers’ watches and you’ll probably want to avoid actually diving with one) and makes an audible clicking sound as it moves in one-minute increments to set dive time — or, in fact, any other interval you’d want to time.
As far as nighttime legibility (or, for that matter, the underwater depth legibility that the watch’s designers almost certainly had in mind), that’s also one for the win column: a generous amount of Super-LumiNova is applied to the hands, hour indices, and the 12 o’clock triangle on the bezel. The period in which I wore this watch happened to be a stretch of scorching heat and bright sunshine in New York City, so these dial elements soaked up plenty of light to illuminate the wee hours.
Of course, why bother using the divers’ bezel to time events when you have a top-notch flyback chronograph built into this watch as well? A light push of the plunger-style pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the central, arrow-tipped counter hand, while the subdial at 3 o’clock tallies elapsed hours/minutes. Another push on the pusher at 4 o’clock returns both hands to zero (12 o’clock.) Conversely, if you’re timing simultaneous events, the flyback function allows the wearer to use the top pusher to start timing, press the second pusher to return the hand to zero and instantly start timing another interval, and so on and so forth until you stop the hand with the top pusher and return it to zero with the bottom pusher.
The movement powering all these functions — and earning the model its “Manufacture” suffix — is Eterna’s Caliber 3916A, one of dozens of variations on the brand’s modular base movement, Caliber 39, with automatic winding and a long power reserve of 65 hours from a single mainspring barrel. (Eterna says that fully 70 percent of the movement parts are manufactured at its headquarters in the Swiss town of Grenchen.) The somewhat axe-like rotor is microblasted and enhanced with circular côtes de Genève; Eterna’s ball-bearings emblem is once again in evidence, engraved in the center of the rotor itself as well as around its pivot point in the center. The circular Geneva wave motif continues on the rhodium plated bridges and plate under the rotor, and tilting the watch in a certain way so that the rotor is off to the side reveals an attractive arrangement of brightly blued screws that almost reminded me of a constellation. Also of note: the use of a column wheel (pictured, third photo down) to control the chronograph functions indicates that Eterna is catering to chronograph purists as well as serious dive watch enthusiasts with this piece.
I was never quite able to confirm the 65-hour power reserve, as the watch stopped unexpectedly a few times while I was wearing it. I can only chalk this up to a quirk that tends to plagues some watches with screw-down multiple-position crowns: because the winding system itself is so quiet, I was at times not sure if I was actually winding the mainspring or simply turning the uncoupled crown in between setting positions. It could be that it wasn’t getting enough winding to actually build up enough power for the long haul. I eventually took to giving the watch a few good shakes of the wrist (it is an automatic, after all) after each winding of the crown as a backup power source.
The rubber strap is straightforward on the top side – matte on the outer edges with an inset middle stripe with a subtly gritty texture. On the other side is a wavy pattern that I can only assume is inspired by this model’s history in the underwater depths. The watch is quite comfortable on the wrist, though the very sporty look of the strap might strike some as a bit incongruous with a suit or dress shirt. The pin buckle is also tool-watch simple, with just the ball-bearings logo engraved on the buckle. The alternating brushed and polished finishes of the case are also echoed here on a smaller, more subtle scale.
Overall, the Eterna Super KonTiki Chronograph makes a fine wrist companion, albeit one more suited to business casual than black tie, and one certain to identify you as an in-the-know connoisseur of important dive watches. And the chance to acquire a timepiece with an in-house flyback chronograph movement, in addition to its historical pedigree, for a relatively reasonable $4,700 ($4,900 for the version with a steel Milanese bracelet), might strike some as one too good to pass up.
You can’t really say that modern versions of these watches are re-editions, because their production has (mostly) never been halted. A good example of a well-executed re-edition is — in my opinion — the OMEGA Seamaster Ploprof 1200M. Another example is the watch that I review here, the Longines Legend Diver.
Approximately 50 years ago, Longines had a very similar diver watch, with an automatic caliber 290 Longines movement inside. This 42-mm Longines Diver watch had dimensions that are similar to the current Longines Legend Diver watch. Longines did a good job in revamping this icon from its own history.
A quick search on eBay tells me that these vintage Longines Diver watches can easily go for up to $8,000. (see below photo of the vintage Longines, captured from eBay). If you are not prepared to pay that, or don’t want to risk the pitfalls I’ve previously discussed of the buying vintage watches, you can always consider its re-edition: the Legend Diver by Longines.
Longines loaned me the Legend Diver Date model for this review. The Legend Diver was introduced in 2007, without a date feature. In 2009, Longines added a version with a date complication. For some reason, Longines decided to stop the production and delivery of the no-Date version in 2011-2012. Personally, I wouldn’t mind the version without the date aperture, as it comes closer to the original and it doesn’t disturb the otherwise clean dial.
The Longines Legend Diver Date has been on my wrist for a couple of weeks and I have to say that is a very comfortable wearer. The 42-mm diameter is just perfect and matches the current “standard” size for such timepieces. I can only imagine that the original version of this must have seemed huge in the early 1960s! One of the reasons why it is so comfortable is probably the synthetic strap that comes with the watch. The other side of the synthetic strap has a lining of a felt-like material. This ensures that the watch is easy on the wrist (no sweating issues) and that it stays put.
The watch has two crowns; the lower one is for setting time (and date) and the upper one is for rotating the inner diving bezel. Both crowns have the same hobnail pattern as the original Longines Diver watches and are easy to grasp and operate.
A “Super Compressor” case like the one on this Longines Legend Diver is not that uncommon, as we’ve seen similar ones from Jaeger-LeCoultre, for example. In the past, companies like Universal Genève (Polerouter Sub), LIP (Nautic Ski), Benrus, and Fortis have used them as well.
The term “Compressor” relates to the case’s seal construction, which ensures water resistance through pressure on the gaskets. “Super Compressor” is similar to standard “Compressor,” but also features a screw-down caseback. (Some people think the term also has something to do with the two crowns, but it doesn’t.) More information about Compressor cases can be found on the Scuba watch website.
On top of the 42-mm diameter case is a domed sapphire crystal. Although I wouldn’t have minded a plexiglas crystal on this watch, I can understand why Longines chose the more scratch-resistant material. And although most buyers of this watch will almost certainly be so-called desk divers, the watch is capable of handling water pressure at depths down to 300 meters.
The black lacquered dial of the Longines Legend Diver Date is just beautiful. It was one of the things, together with the Super Compressor case and two crowns, that make this watch so interesting to me. The painted luminous (Super-LumiNova) hour markers and hands are a bit yellowish, like patina. The lume of the dial is good and makes it very readable in the dark. The hands are polished and contrast very well with the dial, perfectly readable from all angles.
Another aspect I like about this watch is that it lacks a lot of needless information on the dial. All you see here is the Longines brand name & logo and the fact that it is an automatic watch. All other information, like the water-resistance level, the reference number, the model name, and even the fact that it is Swiss made is on the caseback, along with a central embossed emblem of a diver holding a harpoon.
Longines is part of the Swatch Group, and one of the advantages of that is that the brand is able to use various movements from ETA. While other watch companies seem to be concerned about developing in-house movements more for marketing reasons than for the sake of creating cool watches, Longines picked the ETA2824-2 for its Legend Diver Date. I really believe that a reasonable price is more important to most consumers than an in-house developed movement. I’ve seen other companies double the price for certain watches after adding an in-house movement to them, which frankly doesn’t make sense to me. Also, the ETA 2824-2 (like many other ETA movements) has a perfect track record of being a solid and accurate movement.
And the previous paragraph brings us to the price of the watch. As with the Longines Saint-Imier Retrograde Moon Phases, the price is one of this watch’s most attractive features. This Longines Legend Diver Date has a retail price of $1,900.
At first, I couldn’t believe that this was the actual price tag. It is very competitive with a lot of similar watches out there. For that kind of money, you could probably buy a nice vintage piece from certain other brands, but there are always a number of things to consider (possibility of expensive repair or maintenance costs, very small case diameter) with that option. If you don’t want to deal with these issues and would prefer a cool modern watch (with interesting heritage), the Longines Legend Diver Date might do the trick for you.
To sum up, here are my pros and cons, followed by detailed specs:
– interesting heritage
– competitive price
– pretty dial
– “super compressor” case
– finish of dial and case
– comfortable strap
– date aperture disturbs dial design (you can find a No-Date on the pre-owned circuit)
CALIBER 5719: JAPAN’S FIRST WRIST CHRONOGRAPH
When Seiko set out to design Japan’s first wristwatch chronograph, its goal was to produce a watch that was as much status symbol as timing device. Suwa Seikosha, i.e., Seiko’s factory in the city of Suwa, developed the watch, which was launched in time for the 1964 Summer Olympics. It was powered by the 12-ligne, hand-wound Caliber 5719. The salient features of this 6.1-mm-thick movement included a single button to trigger the chronograph’s functions, horizontal coupling, and a column wheel to control the start, stop and return-to-zero functions. The balance was paced at 5.5 hertz, or 39,600 vph. With the chronograph mechanism switched on, the movement would run for 38 hours. The case was made of steel and was 38.2 mm in diameter and 11.2 mm thick.
The watch had no elapsed-time counter, so Seiko equipped it with a rotating bezel calibrated in 1-minute increments. To measure an interval longer than 1 minute, the user started the chronograph and then rotated the bezel until the tip of the large triangle was directly opposite the tip of the minutes hand. After he stopped the chronograph at the end of the interval, he read the elapsed minutes using the rotating bezel and the elapsed seconds using the regular dial. The problem with this first chronograph series was that the bezel had a tendency to break. Seiko rectified this by replacing the fragile bezel with a sturdy, steel one.
Seiko brought out another version of the movement, the 6.4-mm-thick Caliber 5718, in a limited-edition steel watch that today is extremely rare and highly coveted by collectors. What looks like a date window at 12 o’clock is actually a golf-stroke or point counter, operated by means of the two buttons on the left side of the case. Another special feature is a subdial at 6 o’clock that doubles as an elapsed-minutes counter and a running-seconds display. There is a tachymeter scale along the dial’s periphery.
CALIBER 6139: FIRST AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH ON THE MARKET
It’s well known that Swiss companies were working feverishly in the 1960s to develop a self-winding chronograph, but no one knows whether their Japanese competitors knew about these efforts. Seiko started working on the self-winding Calibers 6139 and 6138 in 1967, even though by then much of the watch industry was focusing its attention on quartz technology. It took the company just two years to develop Caliber 6139. Remarkably small, it had a diameter of 27.4 mm and a height of 6.5 mm. Its mainspring was a ball-borne, center-mounted rotor, which worked in conjunction with Seiko’s innovative Magic Lever (still in use today), a click-winding system that can use the rotor’s kinetic energy regardless of which way the rotor turns. After being fully wound, the watch would run for 36 hours with the chronograph switched on.
To improve the rate performance, the caliber’s developers gave the balance a frequency of 3 Hz (21,600 vph), instead of the then-standard 2.5 Hz (18,000 vph). Other technical specifications included a column wheel to control the chronograph’s functions, a counter for 30 elapsed minutes at the “6,” and vertical coupling. This last feature was quite innovative at the time: its debut here significantly predated its premiere in Swiss watches. In addition to a date display, Seiko also equipped this model with a bilingual (Japanese and English) indicator for the day of the week.
The new movement, housed in a watch called the 5 Speed-Timer, appeared in stores in mid-May of 1969. Seiko therefore won the race to bring the first automatic chronograph to market. (Two competitors, Zenith and a consortium of other Swiss companies − Breitling, Heuer, Hamilton-Buren and Dubois Dépraz – brought automatic chronographs to market later in the year.) Caliber 6138, which was 7.9-mm thick, debuted in 1970. It differed from Caliber 6139 because it had a running seconds hand and a counter for 12 elapsed hours. Seiko also incorporated Caliber 6138 into a so-called “bullhead” model, similar to Omega’s manual-wind bullhead, with pushers at the top of the case instead of on the side.
Incidentally, Seiko can also claim the honor of having sent the first self-winding chronograph into outer space. When U.S. astronaut William Reid Pogue flew aboard the Skylab-4 mission in 1973 to 1974, he wore a watch (nowadays nicknamed the “Pogue Seiko”) powered by Caliber 6139.
Apart from being 44mm wide versus 42mm wide, the Superocean dial continues to be cleared up and it is now more legible. To compare reasons you should check out the Breitling Superocean in 2010 here. The dial maintains the main appearance of the timepiece that arrived on the scene this past year, but I think you will agree it’s more legible. There’s extra space between your hour markers, and much more utilization of applied baton hour markers in comparison to the stylized Arabic numbers.
The situation has some minor variations when it comes to styling. Although the variations aren’t anything too major, upon alongside comparison you can observe these truly are different pieces. The greatest change for that situation may be the water proofing. That old three-hand model was water-resistant against 1,500 meters as the brand new one goes lower to two, 000 meters. The chronograph and GMT are water-resistant against 500 meters each.
The bezel style is slightly different too. Still no lume however the rubberized bezel place presently has minute markers from o – 15. Like this past year, both chronograph and fundamental automatic versions will be a slew of color options. I actually do love all of the color options that Breitling provides. They think sporty and fun, adding an optimistic feeling of character towards the collection. Both watches may have Swiss automatic actions which are COSC Chronometer licensed.
Using the Superocean 44, the Superocean Heritage, along with other Superocean models you will find lots of Superocean watches to select from. The customer has more options than ever before for Breitling’s venerable dive watch range and they’re all on the truly amazing rubber strap (by having an awesome deployment), or perhaps a steel metal bracelet. They are some good searching watches and, for me, is a noticable difference within the model offered this past year. Search for these watches soon.