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Collectors of vintage chronographs should know Longines well. Their chronographs of the 1930s and 1940s represent the pinnacle of chronograph production. This excellence in timekeeping is typified in the minds of collectors by the 13ZN. Released in 1936, the 13ZN was the first chronograph wristwatch to feature a flyback function, which allows the wearer to reset the chronograph without having to stop it first. Upon its release, the 13ZN became a favorite among aviators, who used the feature for navigation, and has gained something of a cult status among modern collectors.
But while the 13ZN has certainly gained a respectable following, there are other early chronographs by Longines that deserve consideration--not just because of their rarity. They, like the 13ZN, represent an era when achievements in horology reached their zenith, marrying traditional designs with the cutting-edge technology of the day. The Longines monopusher or chronostop combines two elements that Longines did well, yet rarely put together: a central-minutes counter and a single pusher.
The single or monopusher chronograph is a holdover from the days when watches were carried in the pocket, not worn on the wrist. The origin of the chronograph in pocket watches is disputed, but it's known that master French watchmaker, Louis Moinet, produced a stopwatch-like timepiece in 1816. These early pocket-bound chronographs all bore a single pusher that starts, stops, and resets the chronograph function.
Longines bears the distinction of producing the first chronograph wristwatch in 1913. This watch carried within its modest 29mm case the caliber 13.33Z, precursor to the celebrated 13ZN. Longines capitalized on this innovation two decades later with the development of the flyback chronograph in 1936. Without the addition of another pusher to reset the chronograph, the chronograph simply could not be reset without stopping it first--until the flyback chronograph made that a reality. Prices on these early 13ZN chronographs have climbed into the stratosphere, and furor to find and own one has reached such a fever pitch that a collector in search of a vintage chronograph from Longines may throw up their hands and look no further... and yet.
While the 13ZN was gaining a following among aviators, Longines also had another chronograph movement in its arsenal. The caliber 12.86Z, based on the caliber 12L, debuted around the same time as the 13ZN, if not shortly after, and can be found in Longines watches from the 1940s on. A monopusher chronograph movement, the 12.86Z--like the 13ZN--also features a flyback mechanism, but also has a central minutes counter in blued steel addition to the central seconds hand and sub-register at 6 o'clock.
This design, similar to the Omega Chronostop, is perfect for timing multiple events at once. While more primitive and perhaps not as utilitarian as the more popular double pusher system (which Breitling developed in 1934), the Longines monopusher chronograph--or chronostop--is certainly attractive, and rare to find in such excellent condition as the one we have here. Even rarer are those 12.86Z chronostop wristwatches that were fitted into oversized--48mm, large even for today--cases and given to the armed forces in World War II.
Ours dates from the post-war period, circa 1948. While not meant for military service, it's still handsome, with sharp lugs on its yellow-gold filled case. The printing on the silver dial is crisp, the Breguet hands exuding elegance, along with that handsome blued-steel central minutes counter. As innovative as it is elegant, this watch represents Longines' mastery of the chronograph.
Gold-filled case is approximately 31mm (excluding crown). Longines caliber 12.68z manual-wind flyback chronograph movement. Circa 1948.
Overall Condition: The gold-filled case is in very good condition over all, showing signs of light use consistent with age, including some tool marks on the case back and lugs, which are sharp and show no signs of over-polishing. Silver dial shows some slight scratches at 12 o'clock and 1 o'clock but is in otherwise excellent condition, with crisp printing on the Breguet numerals. Hands are in excellent condition and show no signs of oxidation. Unsigned crown; unsigned case back.
Includes one 18mm brown embossed leather strap and two 18mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.