Spirit levels: Longines

Longines’ new collection honours its associations with pioneers, such as Amelia Earhart, who left an indelible mark on history

Watches & Jewellery 4 Jan 2021

The pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart wore Longines watches on her flights.

If a watch brand is looking for an ambassador, there are plenty to choose from. But no matter how deep the pool of talent, or how generous the budget, there are some endorsements money can’t buy. And Longines can rely on the support of a star whose celebrity began a century ago and shows no sign of letting up.

Amelia Earhart was born in Kansas in 1897 to parents of US pioneering heritage. After dropping out of college, a young Earhart worked in various jobs before finding her true passion: flying. She first flew in the early 1920s, just as aviation was making the transition from flight of fancy to world-changing mode of transport.

Earhart began setting records right away, but the event that made her a celebrity left her dissatisfied. In 1928, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, in a plane piloted by aviator Wilmer Stultz. When Earhart was interviewed afterwards she said: ‘Stultz did all the flying – I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes… maybe some day I’ll try it alone.’

The determination paid off. In 1932, Earhart took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, and just under 15 hours later – after a journey dogged by ice, winds and mechanical failures – landed near Derry, Northern Ireland, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This propelled her to new levels of fame.

Longines Spirit 40mm watch

Earhart didn’t rest there. There were more endurance records and air races, before one final challenge in 1937. People had flown around the world before, but nobody had taken the long equatorial route that Earhart planned. During one leg, the heavily modified Lockheed Electra carrying Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan was lost somewhere near the Nukumanu Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

What exactly happened to Earhart is one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century. The official version is that she crashed and was lost at sea, but no verified wreckage or remains have ever been found, and to this day her fate is hotly debated.

What is beyond doubt is Earhart’s position as an icon not just of aviation, but of feminism. She wanted women to wear trousers, both literally and metaphorically. As someone who wore Longines watches on her flying exploits, it makes her an ideal choice to lead the Longines Spirit campaign.

The campaign celebrates conquerors of the air, land and sea with Longines on their wrist or dashboards. Pioneers who have, in Longines’ words, ‘left their mark on history – encouraging new generations to push the boundaries’. Longines has unveiled a new collection to launch the campaign, to include the Longines Book of Exploits, detailing the escapades of Earhart, along with other famous adventurers. These include another female flying ace, Elinor Smith, and the eccentric American tycoon Howard Hughes.

Watches in the Longines Spirit collection have automatic movements, but cutting-edge silicon hairsprings. Longines embraces the modern day with its ambassadors too, but if you’re on the lookout for someone to fly the company flag, there are not many around who could match Amelia Earhart.

Longines Spirit line, chronograph, £2,520, calendar, £1,750; longines.com