An attitude of pure elegance
Being traditional does not mean being exorbitant or out of touch with modern designs
OFFERING A SENSE of luxury without the price tag to match, Longines has successfully positioned itself as a link between the affordable and the desirable. After all, as the brand's slogan says: 'Elegance is an attitude'.
'The brand represents a balance of tradition and contemporary design,' said Longines president Walter von Kanel.
Founded in 1832, Longines has been trading under the same name and trademark - the winged hourglass - since 1867, when it produced the first watch to be wound and adjusted via the crown instead of using a key mechanism.
'So you see that you are not in the company of a newcomer,' said Mr Von Kanel. 'Longines is one of the original traditional watch brands.'
But he was keen to stress that the brand had moved with the times and had found a very comfortable position in today's marketplace.
'We concentrate the bulk of our activity in a range of between 800 Swiss francs and 3,000 francs [$5,300 to $20,000], with the average at around 1,500 francs,' he said. 'In this price segment, we think that we are the leading brand.'
Much of that is due to sales in Asia, where Longines is very well received. Mr Von Kanel said that the Asian market counted 40 per cent of the brand's total business. 'If that part of the world does well, we do very well,' he said.
China has topped the list in terms of value and the number of units for the second year running. 'And that is not even including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan,' Mr Von Kanel said.
A strong marketing campaign with actress Carina Lau as the brand's ambassador has helped cement Longines' position in these markets in recent years.
Mr Von Kanel said the brand planned to build on that by signing a male star very soon. Although he admitted negotiations were nearly complete, he remained tight-lipped on who the brand's ambassador would be.
But he did not mind talking about the brand's latest watches.
'Added this year, we have a very large collection of mechanical watches,' he said, due to overwhelming customer demand, particularly from the mainland. 'We have to give them what they want.'
This year's new watches are divided into three lines, the Master Collection for men, Les Elegantes for women, and the unisex Evidenza.
'Last year, the tonneau became our No1 collection by volume, so we decided to explore that further with the Evidenza,' Mr von Kanel said.
Coming in a range of sizes, the basic Evidenza's slender shape and clean, timeless design make it a perfect, sophisticated yet understated watch for both men and women. But the flexibility of the tonneau shape means that smaller models set with diamonds instantly transform the piece into a much dressier and decidedly feminine accessory for evening wear.
In terms of glamour, however, it is Les Elegantes that wins the day. This is the brand's fourth edition in this collection of delicate replica ladies' watches from the '20s and '30s, and they are being produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces. With diamonds covering the entire surface of their tiny cases, the three watches are the epitome of elegant art deco femininity.
The Master Collection is a tribute to the classic lines of watches from Longines' long tradition. A stylishly sporty collection, the emphasis is on quality workmanship rather than ostentatious decoration.
Uncluttered, clearly legible dials sit in smooth round cases virtually free of adornment and attached to the wrist with a plain leather strap or simple metal bracelet, these watches have been designed for people who appreciate the beauty of the well-crafted movements inside.