What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name…ah, forget it. Sorry Shakespeare, but sometimes the name is everything. Take the new Spirit Zulu Time from Longines, for instance.
Now that’s a name.
Sure, it’s just another way to say Universal Coordinated Time, but which of those trips more easily off the tongue? It’s tactical, and cool, and worldly all at once. Just like the newest edition to Longines’ Spirit Collection of aviation-inspired watches—the Zulu Time GMT.
Launched in March, the Zulu Time adds a series of six watches to the recently created Spirit Collection. And before you ask…yes, it is a jumping-hour GMT or, what some would erroneously call, a “true” GMT.
The L844.4 movement which powers the watch, and all its functionality, is exclusive to Longines and based on the ETA A31.L01. It is chronometer certified and comes with a silicon balance spring, which is anti-magnetic. It also has a significant 72-hour power reserve. This comes, in part, by offering an uncommon beat rate of 3.5Hz, or 25200vph.
The watch measures in at 42mm in diameter and 49mm lug to lug. It is also 13.9 mm thick. The case is predominantly brushed but does have a chamfered line of polish running the length of the mid-case. The coin-edge, bi-directional bezel is also buffed to a high sheen, giving the watch a refined appearance, despite its “toolish” intentions.
The bezel insert is fashioned from ceramic and flows smoothly into the domed crystal almost uninterrupted. It employs a 24-hour graduation and has a lumed pip at twelve to match the faded lume dial elements. The crown, like the case back, is screw-down. It comes signed with both the brand logo and the Longines name. Together, they ensure 100m of water resistance.
The dial comes in a choice of three colours—matte black and a bead-blasted anthracite (both featured here), as well as a sunray blue reference. I am a particular fan of the anthracite, or grey, model. It is very subtly textured and juxtaposes nicely with the applied gilt numerals. It also has a way of absorbing light one moment, and then reflecting it the next. But the touch of blue text in the matte black dial, which is colour-matched to the tip of its GMT hand, is also very classy.
Another subtlety of the design is its layered chapter ring which circles the outer edge of the dial, and into which diamond-shaped markers have been cut, revealing the otherwise imperceptible slope of the minute index. According to Longines’ Xavier Ligero, these diamond indicators could be found on brand references and aviation instruments dating back to the 1920s.
Overall, this is the sort of vibe you get from the Zulu Time. It is not a part of the Heritage Collection, because it is not a reissue of anything Longines have ever made before. However, it falls solidly within the brand’s aesthetic codes and is thus immediately recognizable to enthusiasts. Albeit a new watch, its familiarity within the scope of brand patrimony belies this fact.
All three variations are available on a steel bracelet or a leather strap. The hardware which comes standard with the leather is a robust and practical mechanism, sporting a milled deployant clasp with four degrees of micro-adjust.
|Case||316L Stainless Steel|
49mm Lug to Lug
22mm Lug Width
Screw Down Crown Caseback
24-Hour Bidirectional Bezel
/w Ceramic Insert
100m Water Resistance
|Dial & Crystal||Curved Sapphire Crystal|
|Movement||Longines L844.4 GMT|
Date Complication @ 6
72-Hour Power Reserve
|Strap||Stainless Steel Bracelet with Milled Clasp|
Leather /w Deployant Strap
Longines Spirit Zulu Time GMT
Military buffs will already be aware that “Zulu” is a reference from NATOs phonetic alphabet, and also refers to “zero” hour, or midnight in Greenwhich Mean Time. However, the Zulu Time name also unearths an almost forgotten dual-time zone model from the Longines back catalogue. That watch was originally released in 1925 but looks nothing like the present iteration. Longines’ developed its first dual time in the form of a pocket watch in 1908. This was a rare complication for the era, but the evolution of flight in subsequent decades made it more popular and practical. During the 1930s, Longines built cockpit dashboard instruments with the same complication. Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon Jr. had one aboard their Bellanca Skyrocket when they completed the first ever intercontinental flight between Japan and the United States. But perhaps the most famous aviator watch ever designed by Longines was the Lindbergh Hour Angle, which the legendary pilot used to help him navigate by “dead reckoning” in his flight from New York to Paris.
As 2022 marks the 190th anniversary of Longines, the Spirit Zulu Time is a nod to that pioneering past, but also a dead reckoning of its own—toward the future.
A common criticism of the Spirit Collection in general involves the usage of the five-star appliqués above the six position on the dial. Although it was an element of the brand’s mid-century Admiral and Conquest Collections, some believe it looks more like a cheap rating system. I, on the other hand, have warmed up to it and think that it balances out the dial nicely as a counterweight to the brand logo at twelve. It is also a design element that pairs nicely with company’s military “wings.” However, as the Zulu Time is meant to represent the watchmaker’s high-end offerings, it also demonstrates a skill in finishing. Placing five independent stars, measured in microns, in a straight line is no easy task.
The Longines Zulu Time GMT is a case of where the watch is more than the sum of its parts. And its parts already add up to a hefty sum. While it certainly harkens back to the brand’s aviation past, it is not wholly reliant on vintage styling—nor is it a reissue of the watch from which it takes its name. The quality of its components, such as the ceramic bezel insert, and the upgrade in movement technology—COSC-certified with a silicon balance spring—make it a tech-forward offering in a very competitive price bracket. But like its name, there is something unquantifiable about the Zulu Time. Call it attention to detail, call it harmony of design. But in the Zulu Time GMT all elements appear exactly as—and where—they should be. As such, the on-wrist experience is so much more than its specs can reveal.
In the sub $5000 range of jumping-hour GMTs—where Tudor, Oris, Breitling, and Sinn each have skin in the game—the Zulu Time is a real contender for your money.
You can purchase the Longines Spirit Zulu Time GMT for $2950USD on leather and $3050USD on the bracelet. For more information, please visit the brand website.
About the author
Brent Robillard is a writer, educator, craftsman, and watch enthusiast. He is the author of four novels. You can follow him on Instagram.
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8 thoughts on “Off the Cuff: Longines Spirit Zulu Time GMT”
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I bought and have sold the Longines spirit, in hopes they will come out with the Zulu time 39mm, hopefully with 20mm lugs! Great article.
I think that would be an absolute hit for the brand.
Easily one of the most compelling offerings from Longines.
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Couldn’t agree more
Fast forward to today, it’s great to know Longines understands their customer base well enough to release the Zulu with smaller proportions!
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