This 1950s Longines Automatic I just finished provides a number of interesting talking (or writing) points. I apologize in advance for the length of this post on a seemingly normal watch, but I can assure that you will not regret reading it to its end (or at least hope you don’t.)
Firstly it provides a great example of what perlage is. This is a process where a drill press with a special tip is lightly applied to create the overlapping circles seen on the main plate. This purely decorative touch is rarely if ever seen by a wearer, but for a watchmaker it sets a particular tone as to the prestige and craftsmanship that can be expected from the piece.
While working on this watch I was at first intrigued by the uniqueness of its build and mechanism. The automatic rotor takes up an unusually large amount of space relative to the movement. Its rotation is also unbelievably smooth and barely makes a whisper. Additionally, while most movements and their parts lie relatively flat, the movement on this Caliber 19AS is very thick and the wheels are set in rather than laid on. While it was somewhat of a challenge to work on, this watch represents a time when watches were differentiated on craftsmanship and design of the movement rather than just the dial and the name.
The dial is clearly aged, but not in a way that detracts from the vintage beauty. It is both multi-leveled and multi-textured making it additionally interesting visually. The only real damage on this watch has been inflicted by someone who was so adamant about removing the engraving on the back that they actually stripped the edges down to the base metal. Other than that the case is very well preserved. On the design of it only one word comes to mind: circle. While most movements and crystals are circular, cases provide a near infinite amount of variations on the shape of a watch. This watch is a circle with four lugs attached to it. Even the crown feels like it doesn’t belong (its also relatively hard to operate.) That said, the dial, hands, and shape all come together to produce that wonderfully anachronistic feel necessary to qualify a piece as aesthetically “vintage.”
In the 1950s Longines was a manufacturer. They designed and built some fantastic calibers. Some, like their chronographs, are highly sought after collector’s pieces. Other movements, like this 19AS were forgotten, but they also represent the legacy that was destroyed by shifting the company from manufacturer to just another assembler. Bringing this 57 year-old machine back to working condition sort of makes me feel like I am doing my part in keeping the watchmaking legacy alive.