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Longines founded by Ernest Ferancillon , erectied a factory in 1866 to conduct all of the operations of watch finishing in one plant as opposed to the traditional method of passing the movement from shop to shop for each craftsman to perform his specialty task. With the death of August Agassiz, Francillion also became the owner of the Agassiz Watch company starting an association that continues today. The company grew to export watches worldwide, becoming part of The Swatch Group S.A.

Longines: A Brief History

Auguste Agassiz started making watches in St Imier in Switzerland in 1832, shortly thereafter establishing the firm Agassiz & compagnie. Ernest Francillon, Agassiz's nephew (by marriage), entered the firm, becoming responsible for running the company in the mid-1850s. Ernest (whose descendent, Ward Francillon, became a president of the NAWCC) purchased land and built a factory near St Imier in an area known as "Les Longines" in 1866, thus establishing Longines. Within a decade, the concept of conducting all of the operations of finishing watches in one plant, using the machine methods developed in the United States, as opposed to the traditional method of passing the movement from shop to shop for each craftsman to perform his specialty task, was proven successful. In 1889, the winged hour glass trade mark, denoting high grade watches, was registered with the Swiss Patents Office. Over 1,100 people were employed at the Longines factory by 1911. Longines, now a member of The Swatch Group S.A., is still marketing watches worldwide today.

Longines Serial Numbers, Grade Determination and Dating

Although Longines may have records that relate a serial number to the grade of a watch and to the specific date it was built, published factory lists of containing such data are not believed to exist. However, an approximation of a watch's date of manufacture may be obtained from several websites noted in the References section, below.

In seeking information about a watch, it is the serial number on the movement (the "works"), not the case, that is important. In general, we think of serial number vs. date lists - created by using the average number of watches produced over a period of years - to only be accurate within a year or two at best, and recognize that there are numerous exceptions wherein which the dates may be off as much as 3 years or more. This is not just for Longines, but for other watch manufacturers as well.

North American Distribution

Longines watches were imported into the U.S. and Canada during the nineteenth century and at least as early as 1884, movements were made to Fit Standard American-Sized Cases. Up into the 1890s, all of the Longines watches were brought into the U.S. and Canada through J. Eugene Robert & Co., 30 Maiden Lane, New York City, NY. However, by 1895, their importation was handled by A. Wittnauer Co., just up the block at 19 Maiden Lane. In 1898, Wittnauer moved to 9-11-13 Maiden Lane, a location described in the trade press. On each of the Longines watches thus imported to North America, the name "Wittnauer" is stamped on the pillar plate under the dial.

Railroad Standard Watches

Longines watches having the watch adjustment and pocket watch regulator that made them suitable for railroad time service were imported into the U.S. and Canada during the 1890s. Approximately, up to serial number 900,000 (late 1890s), the Railway Leader and Railway Monarch markings were used on some movements, although there were also unmarked movements and a large number marked as a private label watch as well.

Its possible that the Railway Leader and Railway Monarch markings were private label watches, but they were most likely factory grades. However, no surviving examples of movements bearing these markings above serial number 1,000,000 (about 1900) have been reported. This may have been due to a decision in an interference suit in the United States Patent Office that the rights to the use of the word "Railway" on a watch belonged to Dueber-Hampden and Longines may have had to drop the name.

Just after that, Express Monarch and Express Leader grade names started being used in large numbers (the Express Monarch name had been used earlier). In discussing Longines Express Monarch and Express Leader grade watches, the following information is extracted from the "Railroaders' Corner - Longines Standard Watches" (see References, below)

The Express Monarch grade included 21 and 23 jewel watches in 18 and 16 size, while the Express Leader grade watches were fitted with 17 and 19 jewels, also in both 18 and 16 size. The 18-size watches seemed to be produced between 1893 and 1908, while the 16-size seem to have been made between 1902 and 1928. These were all high-grade watch movements, intended for railroad time service use. In the late 1920s, the Express Monarch name may have no longer been used, but Longines was still making watches suitable for railroad time service use. An example is serial number 4,517,495 Shown Here with a refinished dial.

All U.S. railroads may not have accepted Swiss watches, but there is ample evidence that a number of them did. Apparently, since there were no Canadian watch factories to protect, Swiss watches were widely accepted on Canadian railroads and sold by a number of dealers, such as R. Hemsley, a time inspector in Montreal, Quebec, who contracted with Longines for its Hemsley's Canadian Railway grade of watch. Another major dealer was D.E. Black, Calgary, Alberta, whose 1914 Catalog Page offers the Express Monarch and Express Leader grades in the upper right-hand corner.

Torpedo Boat Watches

In 1922, Longines ads claimed that, "... since 1916 the United States government has selected for use on torpedo boats more Longines watches than those furnished by all other competing firms combined." The competition included Elgin whose watches had been accepted for this service in 1914.

Private Label Watches

Longines provided private label watches to dealers in the U.S. and Canada.
See the Longines Private Label Watches Encyclopedia article for a list of a number of these.


History of Longines, André Francillon, Translated by Richard Watkins, Published by Richard Watkins, Kingston, Tasmania, Australia, 2005 (available online to NAWCC members who are logged in).

Official Longines Website
Longines - A Brief History
Brief Longines History
Brittons-Watches' Longines - Serial Number Table indicating Production Dates
The Watch Guy's Longines Serial Number vs. Date Table
The Longines Serial Number Decoder

Longines movements are pictured and described on Ranfft Watches' Pink Pages for Timepieces, organized by calibre number (once on the page, search for Longines).

Online - Longines Ads

Back issues of the NAWCC Bulletin are available to members on loan by mail from the NAWCC Lending Library, using the Lending Library Form. They are also available online to NAWCC members who are currently logged in.

"Railroaders' Corner - Longines Standard Watches," Ed Ueberall and Kent Singer, NAWCC Bulletin No. 316, October, 1998, pp. 619-26.

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