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Longines’ World War Two Pilot’s Wristwatch

by David Mycko (05/04/09).

This Longines World War Two Pilot's Wristwatch, with a Wheem's aircraft navigational calculation bezel, is an early and quite rare Longines Aircraft Navigation watch.

This Longines World War Two Pilot's Wristwatch, with a Wheem's aircraft navigational calculation bezel, is an early and quite rare Longines Aircraft Navigation watch.

This Longines’ World War Two Pilot’s Wristwatch, with a Wheem’s aircraft navigational calculation bezel, is an early and quite rare Longines Aircraft Navigation watch. This type of watch was pioneered and developed by Longines during the 1930′s, with consultation from Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator who was the first pilot to cross the Atlantic solo and non stop. It was discontinued for a more convenient and easier-to-read version, which is a lot more common.

This particular watch was worn by one of the pilots responsible for transporting military aircraft across the North Atlantic to Great Britain during the early years of World War II. Transporting aircraft across the North Atlantic by air was considered safer than transport by ship convoy because of the U-boat threat and the German’s stunning ability to sink cargo ships at sea.

Transporting aircraft on this route was a perilous undertaking, considering the extreme weather conditions and very difficult navigation problems. Dead-accurate time was of the utmost importance and the moveable outer bezel allowed for the “hour angle” to calculate speed and direction. These factors were critical to make pinpoint landings, especially since as a slight mistake over such a great distance could put the pilot hundreds of miles off course at the other end of the flight.

longines-wheems-raf4The pioneers of this difficult and perilous undertaking were the intrepid 45th Atlantic Transport Group R.A.F.. The first air-ferry service was set up in Canada, and plans were made for planes to fly from Saint-Hubert Airport, Montreal, to Gander in Newfoundland, where planes would refuel, ready for the trans-Atlantic crossing to Prestwick in Scotland. First to launch this new service was Capt. Don Bennett, later to known as “Pathfinder Bennett.”

Longines is a much underrated watch by collectors today, and I would classify it as a “sleeper collectible.” With few exceptions, a good Longines can be found for a small price when compared with Rolex or LeCoultre. This was a very innovative watch company that produced a high-quality product; easily as good as or better than the aforementioned companies. Longines began with a well-thought-out and highly engineered mechanism, and followed through with a finely manufactured product with a very reasonable price.

longines-wheems-raf1David Mycko is a Worthologist who specializes in watches.

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