To those just discovering wristwatches, Longines may not appear to be the one of the most horologically advanced brands, and there is some truth to this. While almost all of their current offerings bear ETA movements, one mustn’t forget about the brand’s pre-Swatch Group glory days, back in the 1940’s. It was in this era they released what is now regarded by collectors as one of the top chronograph movements of all time, the Caliber 13ZN. This movement was truly a game-changer in the history of horology, and additionally, it’s just downright beautiful; hence, why today we introduce it into the Wound For Life Hall of Fame.
Back in 1936, when the 13ZN was first introduced by Longines, the chronograph was becoming a more popular and important complication. All the foremost manufacturers were making a strong effort to develop and innovate the pragmatic mechanism, and Longines certainly didn’t disappoint. Measuring in at almost 30mm, this column wheel chronograph was indeed quite large for it’s time, and with good reason, as it featured the very first flyback function (which I jokingly refer to as the ultimate BBQing tool). This variant of the chronograph that collectors revere, proved to be especially useful for its applications in pilot’s tool watches. Additionally, its minute hand featured an instant jump, increasing the overall level of timing precision.
While the 13ZN is already almost 80 years old, its influence on haute horology watchmaking is still quite evident. Today, some of the best movements are produced in Glashütte, by the one and only A. Lange & Söhne. Their instant classic, the Datograph, too features an instant jump in it’s caliber L951.1 movement. It’s the little details like these in modern watchmaking that excite us, and further drive this great passion of ours.
So, why do we, and collectors alike, adore these movements so very much? Firstly, they present a very good value proposition. Vintage chronographs from the likes of Patek Philippe can easily exceed $150,000, due to the brand’s sterling reputation. Seeing as Longines is not at all what it used to be, the value of their vintage pieces is mostly very pedestrian, despite the sheer sophistication of their earlier calibers. Now, bear in mind, while 13ZN chronographs are a relative bargain compared to vintage Patek, their value has increased in the last few years. Good condition examples with original dials will start close to $10,000, and go up depending on the rarity of the reference, like the monopusher-center minutes variants. Secondly, how could you not love something as beautiful as this? Just look at it!
I speak for all of us here at Wound For Life, when I say that this movement is absolutely incredible. It’s nice to think that something so highly regarded by collectors of haute horology had so many applications in great tool watches. Between the horological breakthroughs it made, the terrific value presented, and its continual influence on modern watchmaking, it’s clear why we’ve chosen to induct it into our Hall of Fame.
Feature image courtesty of Nakahiro Tokeikanby