|Year of production (circa)
Original steel buckle
Extract of archives
Longines Chronograph Ref. 5681 KLM heritage
Although this Longines Ref. 5681 navigator’s watch is extremely special in its own right, it is its provenance that makes it truly exceptional.
The story starts in World War II. A young man by the name of Willem Geerling is drafted and takes part in the aerial battles over Rotterdam, trying to defend the Dutch city. An effort for which he was later decorated.
After the war, Geerling went on to work for the ‘Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij’, KLM. He received a certification for radio-telephony and a pilot first class licence. He was, in short, right at the forefront of modern aviation.
Willem Geerling was stationed in Curacao, Dutch Antilles. Later on, he was promoted to a position in Bangkok. He would work on the development of new regular routes.
When he was granted his licences, his employer also supplied him with a watch. Navigation in those days still relied upon manual timing, which was typically done with specialist oversized chronographs. A proper watch then, was a prerequisite for pilots and navigators. And so in 1949, Willem Geerling received his Longines Ref. 5681 single button flyback chronograph with the legendary Longines 12.68Z movement.
This is the watch that we are offering here today.
Geerling, unfortunately, passed away at a young age. He left his watch to his daughter who, in turn, passed it on to her grandson. We acquired the watch from him.
Included with the watch are Geerling’s original radiotelephony and pilot’s licences, as well as a KLM leather cigarette sleeve and beautful enameled KLM wings brooch. Also included are two pictures of Willem Geerling, one of which in Bangkok with what seems like this watch on his wrist. Lastly, an extract of archives from Longines, confirming the 1949 dating is present.
This beautiful flyback chronograph by Longines, with its unique provenance, is now available at Amsterdam Watch Company.
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It was back in 1832 in St. Imier that we find the roots of Longines. The house was founded by Auguste Agassiz and is currently under ownership of the Swatch Group. The brand would get its recognizable winged hour glass logo in 1889. It is the world’s oldest registered trademark.
Longines is currently very active in equestrian sports, but its heritage is predominantly in aviation. In 1927, the brand manufactured the 47mm Weems avigation (aviation navigation) watch in cooperation with Philip Van Horn Weems. Four years later, an hour angle watch for aerial navigation was developed in cooperation with Charles Lindbergh. A smaller Weems watch, measuring 33mm’s was introduced in 1937.
Note that this is long before the days of GPS or other automated navigation tools. Navigating your way through the sky was an extremely complex affair that required specialist tools like a Weems or Hour angle watch.
Throughout both world wars, Longines supplied military watches. They were one of the Dirty Dozen suppliers during late WWII. You will also find examples of the caged WWI trench watches in Longines’ archives.
Over the decades, Longines committed to many different genres of watches. From dress watches to chronographs and from pilot’s watches to divers. Today, its 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s dress watches are a a great entry point into vintage watch collecting. All the heritage and quality you could desire, but still relatively attainable. Once you get sucked into the brand though, there are all sorts of exotic and rare collectibles to be found.
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