Longines and the French Marine Nationale
As you might remember, Longines was one of the 12 brands in the Dirty Dozen line up. The Swiss brand’s reputation for making solid and reliable timepieces didn’t end there. The French Marine Nationale — a precursor to the development of underwater commandos — commissioned Longines to make a watch for its officers. This is similar to how the Hamilton Lexington was created for officers of the American Army, not its foot soldiers. The original LHMN was released in 1948 under the reference 5774. The Marine Nationale was attracted to this particular model's legible dial, water-resistant case, and luminous markers. In a way, this was a better version of the Dirty Dozen models that were manufactured en masse (and not necessarily with the best parts).
From what I've found, Longines was making a very similar model in 1947 — the 5413 — which looked almost identical to the 5774 commissioned by the French Marine Nationale. It would seem that the Marine Nationale ordered their own version of the 5413. There are a few distinguishing factors between these two watches: first, the 5774 boasts the words “Fab Suisse” under the logo (which means “Swiss Made” in French) and the letters “M.N.” on the case-back, which stands for Marine Nationale. The Longines 5774 measured a tiny 33mm in diameter (tiny by today’s standards, at least) and had a case made of stainless steel, something that was not necessarily common in the late 1940s. It was powered by the manual wind caliber 12.68N.
The Modern Longines Heritage Marine Nationale
In 2020, Longines recreated the 5774 from 1948, roughly seven decades later. The modern version, which bears the reference number L2.822.214.171.124, is near-identical to the old, at least visually: a full stack of Arabic numerals painted in black, pencil-style hour and minute hands, and a needle seconds hand (note that the modern version has blued hands for extra longevity). The dial has a cream color complete with a matte texture. Longines went as far as putting the words “Fab. Suisse” under their logo — just like it was on the original version. Furthermore, the minute track is identical, being fully graduated with five-minute increments highlighted with Arabic numerals.
The overall case shape is the same, with thin elongated lugs, a two-step fixed bezel, and a large crown (the crown on the modern version is objectively larger than the one found on the original model). The 5774 measured 33mm in diameter while the L2.8126.96.36.199 measures 38.5mm — perfect for modern wrists. It comes with a fully polished case and closed caseback displaying the typical spec sheet. The watch is powered by a Longines caliber L888.5 which beats at 25,200 BPH (almost 4Hz) and comes with 64 hours of power reserve. Note that the Arabic numerals and hands are endowed with black-colored lume that glows ice blue when charged. Source: www.monochrome-watches.com
Although the original and modern versions of the Longines Marine Nationale were meant to be used by Navy officers around wet areas, the LHMN only comes with 30 meters of water resistance. This reduction is a bit odd if you ask me, but not as odd as a 40mm Panerai Radiomir Quaranta’s 30 meters of water resistance, an argument for another day. With a price tag of $2,000, the Longines Heritage Marine Nationale falls in a category with steep competition, but one is guaranteed to acquire a well-made timepiece that is faithful recreation of a beautiful model from the late 1940s. What’s more is that the LHMN comes with a legitimate heritage which could partially explain the higher price tag.Featured image: www.monochrome-watches.com