Antique WW1 15ct Gold Trench

Longines trench Watch

Straps for vintage fixed wire lug trench or officer's wristwatches.

Longines was founded by Auguste Agassiz, one of four children born to Pastor Louis-Rodolphe Agassiz and his wife Rose (nee Mayor): Louis, Auguste, Cecile and Olympe.

Longines' watch making origins date from 1832 in Saint-Imier, Switzerland when Henri Raiguel offered Auguste Agassiz a job with an existing "comptoir" (watch making workshop and dealership) Raiguel Jeune & Company. Agassiz was made an associate of the company along with Raiguel and a third person, Florian Morel. In 1838 Raiguel left the company and Agassiz and Morel acquired the buildings of the old company. The firm was renamed Agassiz & Co. Morel left in January 1847 and Agassiz became the sole owner, renaming the company Auguste Agassiz. A nephew of Agassiz, the first son of his sister Olympe, Ernest Francillon joined the company 1n 1852. By this time Agassiz was suffering with his health and his involvement with the factory tailed off to the point at which he seldom went to Saint-Imier. Francillon took over the helm of the comptoir on 1 July 1862, although Agassiz remained a sleeping partner and provided capital to the business.

The company initially assembled watches according to the établissage method, with materials, blanks or rough parts delivered to people working in their homes, and finished parts collected. The parts were then assembled into complete watches in the watchmaker's workshop or établissement hence the name of the process. The man in charge was called the établisseur.

Longines Logo Longines Logo, the
Winged Hour Glass

In 1866 a new watch factory was built in St. Imier at a location called "Les Longines" (meaning "long meadows") and the Longines watch brand was born.

Longines trademark of a "winged hourglass" was registered in 1874 and is one of the oldest registered for a watchmaker still in existence. Two versions of this are shown here, an early form from 1886 at the top and a modern version at the bottom. The older version shows the wings more clearly, the modern version at the bottom has abstracted them the point where it is difficult to see them as wings unless you know that is what they are supposed to be. The modern version perhaps shows the hourglass more clearly, with two horizontal lines showing the levels of sand in the top and bottom parts.

In 1876 Jacques David, technical director of of Longines, attended the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and also visited the main watch factories, Waltham Watch and Elgin Watch, which were producing cheap watches using machinery to mass-produce interchangeable parts. David and was shocked by the high level of mechanisation and automation that had been achieved by the American manufacturers. On his return he wrote two reports that triggered a wide-ranging debate within the Swiss watch industry.

David's first report was a detailed description of the current state of American watchmaking, a summary of the state of Swiss watchmaking and recommendations of changes he thought necessary to counter the threat to Swiss watchmaking from America. This confidential report was presented to the Intercantonal Society in January 1877. The report was not well received by other Swiss makers who were, like British watch makers, comfortable with doing things the way they had always done them. Less than two months later David presented a second report vigorously complaining about a lack of action in response to his first report and predicting the end of watchmaking in Switzerland if action was not taken.

AB: Arthur Baume

Gold and silver watches imported by Baume & Co., Longines agent in London for many years, were marked with this registered sponsor's mark of AB for Arthur Baume and then sent to be hallmarked. Arthur Baume first registered his mark with the London Assay Office in 1876. It would have been used until 1887 when the British hallmarking of imported watches was effectively stopped until it recommenced in 1907. I doubt that there are any watches with Baume's mark dating from 1888 to 1906, but if you find one, please do surprise me with it.

The following letter was published in the Horological Journal of July 1885 and gives an interesting insight into the Longines factory at the time. Although the unknown author implies that the factory was designed for the production of watches by machinery on the gauged and interchangeable principle from the outset in 1866, I don't think this was the case. I think that the factory was initially founded to bring all the workers under one roof instead of dispersed in their various houses, and that machine production was introduced later.

The Longines Exhibit at the International Inventions Exhibition.

I FEAR the undue prominence given in your June number to the American machines may lead your readers to suppose that Switzerland is behindhand with machine productions, and I therefore trust you will allow me space to edeavour to remove such an impression; for certainly one of the most noteworthy and remarkable of the horological exhibits is that of the machine-made watches produced at the "Longines" factory, which shows that Switzerland is not only the birthplace, but also the home, of machine-made watches. It would scarcely be thought, from the neat appearance of these watches, that they were really the results of machine-made work, and I therefore think it will be of service to your readers to give a short account of the Longines factory, and the mode of working.

The works at Longines were founded in 1866, for the production of watches by machinery on the gauged and interchangeable principle. The factory consists of an oblong building of four and six storeys, and covers a superficial area of several acres, having been twice enlarged. The various machines are driven partly by steam and partly by water. At the commencement, the object the founders set before themselves was not so much the production of a cheap watch, as that of a sound and reliable timekeeper, giving the maximum of results at a minimum of cost and labour. So great is the accuracy now attained by this system, that it is impossible to detect any difference in the pieces even by gauging them. This has been demonstrated to the juries of various exhibitions, by placing twenty-four plates on the top of each other, and holding them rigidly together by means of three rods of straight steel wire passing through the plate screw-holes; the light can then be seen passing through the escapement jewel holes, which in some cases are not larger than 1/10th part of a millimetre in diameter. This remarkable proof of exactitude may now be seen in the Longines exhibit at Messrs. Baume's stand in the Swiss Department, and such a test has never been attempted by any other factory.

Share this Post

Related posts

Omega Marine Chronometer

Omega Marine Chronometer

OCTOBER 20, 2021

The late Eric Tabarly w/Marine Chronometer & Sextant determining a ships position “the old way” I have seen on…

Read More
Water clock Science Project

Water clock Science Project

OCTOBER 20, 2021

Bernard Gitton s Time-Flow clock Luna04 / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Purpose To build a feedback-controlled system…

Read More