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The Longines 13ZN has been heralded by collectors and enthusiasts for decades and it's safe to say that it has gained easy entry into the pantheon of definitive timepieces.
Launched in 1936, the 13ZN chronograph movement was at the leading edge of chronograph production, introducing the world's first flyback function - a feature that allowed the wearer to reset the chronograph without first having to stop it, whereby decreasing intervals between timing events - which became a favorite amongst aviators who relied on the feature to assist them with quick navigational readings. This added feature increased the case size of the early ZNs, making them quite big for the era (a time when a men's watch was often 30mm or less) and set the tone for pilot's watches tending toward larger case sizes.
The exceptional nature of the 13ZN sometimes surprises people who are more familiar with contemporary offerings from Longines and forget (or never knew) that the brand was a premier manufacture during the 1940s and 50s, creating in-house movements and complications that some have said rival offerings from Patek Philippe of the same vintage.
And, like most watches of the era, the beauty of the 13ZN was not compromised for its technical prowess. The symmetrical 34mm steel case with stepped bezel melts to gently curved, tapered lugs giving the piece perfect overall proportions. Beginning in the middle of the sliver dial we find a blue telemeter ring, printed Arabic hour markers, minute track and finally, a 'mileage' track, used for computing distances while aloft. While it would have been easy for these references to clutter the dial of the watch, here, the execution is done with care and results in a pleasingly technical look that looks neither busy nor overdone. The blue printing echoes the gorgeous blued-steel feuille hour and minute hand and matching sweep and minute-counting hands which top off the watch with a stunning and sophisticated touch.
Today, 13ZNs are incredibly hard to come by, making the watch soar to grail heights among many chronograph and military watch enthusiasts. And, as with many watches of this caliber, there is a glut of faked and put-together watches out there, making an unmolested example like this one extremely sought after.
Stainless Steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding the crown). Longines Manually-Winding Calibre 13ZN movement. Circa 1950s.
Overall Condition: The case is in extremely good condition throughout, with only the very slightest signs of wear and tool marks visible, with no signs of over-polishing. The silver tone dial is very good original condition with sharp and bright printing. Some superficial scratching is visible between 11:00 and 12:00. Blued-steel handset is in excellent condition with no signs of discoloration. Pushers are sound and operate the chronograph functions sharply. Unsigned crown and snap case back.
Includes one 16mm light brown handmade pigskin strap with steel buckle.