Longines Master Collection Retrograde reviewed
As a child, I was a very fussy eater. My mom prepared the exact same lunch for virtually every day of my elementary school career. To this day, my mom still laughs about those sliced cheese sandwiches. She tried so hard to get to me try anything else, but I was set in my ways. I knew what I liked and I wasn’t going to try anything else. I have been much the same way about my watch collection. Only recently did I start to collect dressy elegant timepieces. Until then, all I wanted were divers and pilots. When Longines presented Adam I and with two Longines to test drive, I wanted the Heritage Diver because it is “my style,” while the Master Retrograde is far too old school and delicate for my tastes. But the strap on the Retrograde was too big for Adam’s wrist. So I took the Retrograde for review and Adam took the Heritage Diver. These circumstances forced me to try something outside my typical style and the result was fascinating.
As soon as I strapped on the Retrograde, I knew I was dealing with a different animal. It is so damn big! It immediately throws you off because it has this really vintage style and delicate little hands (my least favourite feature), but it has this immense wrist presence with large pushers and crowns all over the place. It looks like a piece of instrumentation off some Victorian-era ship – call it steampunk style. I really didn’t know what to make of it. I was intrigued, that’s for sure. If Arnie or Sly were going to wear a more formal, elegant timepiece, this would be the one.
There is a lot going on on this watch. On the left, you have a 24-hour time display that can serve as a sort of day/night indicator or it can be set to a different time zone. You have the day in the middle and the date on the right with running seconds at the bottom. And all of the additional functions are retrograde, meaning that the hand snaps back after it reaches the end. It’s fun to watch the seconds hand hit 60 and then reset to 0 in the blink of an eye. The retrograde function doesn’t really add anything to the usability of the watch, but it adds complexity and sophistication to the overall experience of wearing it. The slender blue hands are probably dainty to allow a proper display of all the functions- if they were thicker, it would clutter the dial, which has a gorgeous guilloche-type finish to it. I’m telling you, this is a LOT of watch for a piece that costs way less than 10 grand.
All of these functions require a pretty serious movement. With Longines and the legendary movement-maker, ETA, being part of the SWATCH Group, you would expect the engines in the Retrograde to be an ETA Caliber. In fact, ETA designed the movement exclusively for Longines and it was based on the iconic 7750 calibre. While wearing the Retrograde, it dawns on you pretty quickly that it is a complex timepiece. I warmed up to it immediately. Setting the time and displays is time-consuming but pretty straightforward. I freaked out the first time I tried to adjust the time, though. Pulling the crown to the last position temporarily sets the indicators (except the running seconds) back to zero. I thought I had broken something the first time! After you set the time and push the crown back in, the hands move back to their previous position. Pretty cool. My favourite feature is the 24-hour scale because you can advance the hours with a mere press of the pusher at 10 o’clock. To protect against accidental pressing while bending the wrist, the pusher screws down. I liked using the 24-hour indicator to track the home time and, therefore, distinguish between AM and PM. It would also be great for travelling and tracking different time zones. After playing around with the Retrograde functions a bit, I began to appreciate just how sophisticated the watch really is. I started to get a real satisfaction. I wasn’t sold on the hands or the dial design, but I really liked the feeling of wearing such an interesting movement.
The movement is visible through the case back. However, all you can really see is the rotor and the balance wheel. There is some gorgeous finishing on the movement, but I found that seeing this particular movement added very little to the wearing experience. It doesn’t hurt to show off the movement, but you cannot see too much of the mechanical wizardry going on. A solid case back could have been an interesting option on this particular watch.
The large, impressive case of the Retrograde is complemented by a superb dark brown alligator strap and folding deployant buckle. I am told that Longines uses Louisiana alligator leather. In any case, the strap sets off the cream-coloured dial beautifully. While Adam’s wrists are too small for this strap, my thick wrists suit it perfectly. I found the strap to be comfortable, gorgeous, well made and substantial. This colour combination works well with blue suits, light grey suits, brown suits as well as blue jeans. You can’t wear this with black or dark grey, but it will set off any outfit that requires a brown belt and brown shoes. Longines usually do great straps- my Saint-Imier has a similarly gorgeous black strap, for example. The Retrograde strap does not disappoint.
On the first day that I wore the Retrograde, I went to the West Island to meet a young client and his father. The young entrepreneur was wearing an Audemars-Piguet Royal Oak that he had just bought and his dad was wearing an Omega Planet Ocean. These guys spent at least 10 minutes examining the Retrograde. They were really into it. As the week went on, I had a few more similar encounters. More than one serious watch collector expressed great admiration for the Longines Master Retrograde. People notice its size and pushers and when they go in for a closer look, they see all the hands and functions. Guys are quite fascinated by all the functions. The Retrograde got as much attention as any watch I have ever worn. It sure is a conversation piece.
When I started collecting, impressing other people was one of my main goals. I have never denied this fact. Today, I am far less concerned with what others think of my wrist watches. But I think that, subconsciously, I am still looking for pieces that will earn me some sort of recognition among collectors and businessmen. Well, if you have this kind of watch goal, you need to go out and try a Longines Master Retrograde. This watch absolutely deserves the description of “impressive.” And people will notice it and be impressed by it. Watch novices admired the bold case size and colour combo. Serious WIS were intrigued by the various retrograde functions. After a full week on the wrist, the Retrograde was the star of the boardroom.
The Retrograde is pretty damn big. I was unable to fit it under a couple of my tighter shirt cuffs, although I managed to fit it under one of my French cuffs. Big watches can be awkward. I banged the Retrograde quite a few times and I am really used to wearing huge watches. So, if you’re used to slim timepieces, wearing a Retrograde will take some adjustment. Overall, I enjoy large timepieces and the size and beefiness of the Longines was really enjoyable for me. You could actually pull it off with short sleeves and jeans or shorts because its size offsets the dressy nature of the dial.
So let’s come back to that dressy “old school” dial. This is the one aspect of the watch that I wasn’t comfortable with. It’s just not my style, although it certainly wow-ed a lot of my watch-fanatic pals. The slender hands and the old-style font of the numerals are just too traditional for my tastes. You cannot deny the wonderful quality of the dial, though, and I really do appreciate its workmanship. The Retrograde belongs at more formal events and in business meetings. The “old school” style lends itself well to formal attire and the size commands attention.
The Longines Master Retrograde costs about the same an entry-level Rolex (the official MSRP is C$5,600). That Rolex would be a no-frills watch with no date. The Longines has a distinctive style and FOUR retrograde functions. Oh… wait for it… here it comes… boom — the value proposition! Hey, this a Longines, so you would expect a mid-range value statement. I’ve reviewed a lot of watches that offered good bang for the buck, but never one with such watchmaking mastery. This Longines gets you into the world of fine watchmaking for a fraction of the price of many other complex timepieces. I think the Retrograde is worthy of being a milestone piece — you know, the 40th birthday piece or the big promotion piece. It’s accessible to mere mortals while offering a significant step up for your collection.
I tried something new with the Longines Master Retrograde. I can’t say I love the style, but I really appreciated the overall package. The Retrograde is, in my opinion, a serious timepiece. It was a smash hit among my watch aficionado friends and it’s relatively affordable. The Retrograde is a watch that could play an important role in your watch collection. It could definitely be a statement piece. At the very least, it would be a conversation starter. There are other options within the Longines Master Collection as well. And if, like me, you prefer something sportier, then check out the Longines Heritage Diver watches. Have fun browsing. As always, the fun is in the search…