Longines introduced the Spirit collection earlier this year, a family of timepieces described as drawing “traditional features from pilot’s watches and combining them with contemporary lines and codes.” Inspired by the vintage models worn by adventurous, early 20th-century aviators like Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, the collection have some common traits like an oversized fluted crown, a pronounced, stepped bezel and minute-scale flange, large Arabic hour numerals with diamond-shaped indices, and big, luminous baton hands. We take a closer look at the three-hand-date model, the Ref. L3.810.4.53.0. in a 40-mm case.

The watch follows the design code of vintage aviation watches

As Longines intended, the Spirit’s case design calls to mind the rugged aviator watches of old, albeit boasting a distinctly contemporary finish — or, more accurately, combination of finishes. The sloped bezel on my black-dialed review watch is brushed on its top surface and polished on its side; a similar arrangement elegantly defines the rest of the case, with brushed non-reflective surfaces on the top and sides of the curving lugs, accentuated by gleaming, polished, faceted lines.

The fluted crown is onion-shaped, in classic pilots’ style — not nearly as large as it would have been in one of the 1930’s pilot’s watches that inspired it, though Longines still describes it as “oversized.” The crown screws down securely for a 100-meter water resistance. A minuscule rendering of the Longines logo, with the famed winged hourglass, appears in relief on the crown’s brushed surface.

The case has a mix of polished and brushed surfaces

Drawing attention immediately on the matte black dial are the large, luminous-coated Arabic hour numerals. Executed in a vintage-look font, they are outlined by silvery borders and paired with little diamond icons, also luminous. The diamonds visually connect the hour numerals to the smaller 5-minute numerals, in white print, at each of the 12 cardinal points on the surrounding scale.

At 3 o’clock, this harmonious circular arrangement is only briefly interrupted by a date window, in place of a numeral “3”, paired with the diamond and the 15-minute mark. (The date, of course, is a nod to contemporary tastes; a vintage pilot-watch purist would likely prefer a simpler arrangement, sans date, with a 3 o’clock numeral.) The hands are baton-shaped with pointed ends; the hour hand is substantially shorter and notably thicker than the minute hand.

The closed caseback features the historic Vintage logo

The sweep seconds hand fans out to a thick, diamond-shaped counterweight on one end and extends into a red pointer, with a tiny luminous diamond accent, at the other. The red-tipped hand skips jauntily over the white-printed minutes/seconds scale. A more modern version of the Longines logo typography and winged hourglass logo appear at 12 o’clock, and a row of five stars — a traditional symbol of Longines representing, the brand says, the highest achievements of quality and reliability by its movement — appears above the designation “CHRONOMETER” at 6 o’clock.

The solid steel caseback that covers and protects the movement is also true to the “Spirit” of its ancestors, held in place by six industrial-looking screws and sporting a sleek, brushed finish. The engraving here adds a globe motif to the Longines winged hourglass logo, speaking to this watch’s ancestral heritage of exploring and circumnavigating the world.

This is an understated modern with historic character

Beating behind the caseback is the self-winding L888.4 caliber, based on the ETA A31.L11. Both Longines and movement-maker ETA are owned by the Swatch Group, so the movement is made “in the family” if not entirely “in-house.” It offers a substantial 64-hour power reserve, a COSC chronometer certification and an antimagnetic silicon balance spring. The L888.4, which is made exclusively for Longines, is notable as the caliber first used in the watches of the Record collection, the brand’s first family consisting entirely of COSC-certified chronometers.

The strap is made of brown calfskin with a subtle pebbled finished and a slight oily sheen, accentuated by light beige contrast stitching in the style of those pilots’ watches of old. The tan-colored underside is soft and caresses the wrist. The tongue of the steel pin buckle tucks tightly into the rectangular perforations for a secure hold. Boiled down to its essence, the Longines Spirit is a valiant attempt to translate the aesthetics of a vintage aviators’ tool watch to a modern, understated dress watch with a historical character, and in most aspects it succeeds — and, at just $2,150, the cost of this aviation-inspired timekeeper is anything but sky high.