Because of their employment of electronics and quartz, and their utilization in and innovations regarding using chronometry in sports.
In 1954, the chronometry department, in collaboration with the engineers from the factory’s technical department, had developed a portable quartz clock which was connected to a camera. This device, known as the Chronocinégines, was frequently used by Longines in spite of the subsequent development of other systems for measuring intervals of time. For example, the Chronocinégines was used for measuring the time for the world land speed record set in 1964 by Donald Campbell from the UK. In the Bluebird, a racing car weighing four tonnes and measuring over 9 metres, Campbell attained a speed of 648.728 km/hour on the bottom of Lake Eyre, a dried up lake in Australia. Thanks to an engine capable of 4100 horse power, the British driver did indeed break the world land speed record. To time the course of Campbell’s Bluebird, Longines used four Chronocinégines devices. Thanks to the cameras, which were filming at a hundred frames per second, the system used made it possible to determine the exact position of the car at any given hundredth of a second. Longines also measured the time for the speed record on water as set by Campbell at the end of 1964. In Australia, the UK pilot attained a speed of 445 km/hour.
Hot on the heels of the first portable quartz clock designed in Saint-Imier, major research into electronics and quartz technologies was undertaken and showed the first signs of success towards the mid 1960s. Having succeeded in miniaturising the technical principles of the clock controlling the Chronocinégines devices, Longines developed a quartz electronic movement, Calibre 800, which was used for on-board chronometers.
Strengthened by its status as a “manufacture” (a watch industry French term referring to companies capable of making their own calibres), Longines continued to develop watch movements, following the broad outlines of the advances made since the 1950s. However, in 1967, Longines developed a 11 ½-line self-winding calibre which took the development ideas which had been pursued over the previous twenty years to their technical conclusion. The 430 movement, of which several variations were produced, had a regulating organ vibrating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, resulting in a very precise rate. While the frequency of oscillation of the balance and spring assembly increased from the 1950s onwards, it was generally limited to 19,800 or in some cases 21,600 vibrations per hour. At this level, Calibre 430 had the same characteristics as the movements designed specially by the company for the precision competitions at the observatories. Unlike these calibres, however, the 430 and its variants were developed for use in wristwatches that were generally available on the market. One special collection was in addition designed simultaneously with the development of this calibre; it was named “Ultra-Chron” in reference to the technical performance of the 430. This movement stemmed from a desire to create a mechanical countermeasure to the gradual (though at that time clearly perceptible) emergence of competition using electronic and quartz technologies.
The creation of the 430 movement did not constitute the “last stand” of the mechanical calibre, the centre of Longines’ industrial activity since the company was founded in 1867, but rather the conclusion of a technical trajectory that had been pursued for a good quarter century. Longines also continued to develop mechanical calibres up until the 1980s. At the end of the 60s, therefore, traditional watchmaking was the subject of intense and costly research. In addition, mechanical chronometers were also modified in accordance with the advances made in certain fields, such as 1966 Calibre 262, which provided sports counters with a sliding hand so that the time could be measured to 1/10 of a second. At the end of the 1960s, the sustainability of the directions in which Longines was moving was also demonstrated by the company’s activities in sports timing. The winged-hourglass brand continued to provide timekeeping equipment for various sports competitions all over the world, including the Tour de France, a cycling competition for which Longines has provided chronometers on 33 occasions.