Longines: 180 years of elegance, tradition and performance
Based in the Swiss town of St. Imier since 1832, Longines is celebrating its 180th anniversary in 2012. The famous Swiss watchmaker can boast a technical expertise born of tradition, elegance and performance. With many years of experience as a timekeeper for world championships in sport or as a partner of international sports federations, Longines – famous for the elegance of its timepieces – is a member of the Swatch Group Ltd, the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. The brand known by its winged hourglass logo now has outlets in over 130 countries.
In 1832 Auguste Agassiz entered the world of horology when he joined a trading office established in St. Imier. He soon rose to become the manager and the company took on the name Agassiz & Co. At the time, he was producing timepieces under the “établissage” system, whereby watchmakers worked at home and supplied their products to the trading offices. Agassiz built up a network of commercial contacts, which enabled him to sell his watches on other continents, in particular in North America. During the 1850s Agassiz’s nephew Ernest Francillon took over the running of the office. When Francillon took on this responsibility, he considered ways of perfecting the manufacturing methods used in watchmaking in the area. He concluded that it would be advantageous to try to bring together the different stages that go towards making a watch under one roof. Francillon’s intention was to set up a factory where he could assemble and finish each watch, introducing a degree of mechanisation. In order to achieve this, he bought two adjoining pieces of land in 1866 on the right bank of the River Suze, which runs through the St. Imier valley. The site was known locally as Les Longines and he adopted this name for the factory which he built there in 1867. Ernest Francillon took on Jacques David, a young engineer who was also related to him, to help develop the machines needed for perfecting the manufacture of timepieces. During the 1870s, Francillon’s choice of industrial options was proved sound and the factory continually expanded until the first third of the 20th century: in 1911 the Longines factory employed over 1,100 workers and sold its products all over the world.
The technical research carried out at Longines was rewarded by various prizes which gradually gave the company its reputation of winning the most awards in international and world exhibitions until the 1929 exhibition in Barcelona, by which time Longines had won no fewer than 10 Grand Prix. In 1889, Francillon patented a trademark comprising the name Longines and the now famous winged hourglass. Today, Longines is the oldest trademark or logo still in use in its original form registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). As early as 1867, Longines was using the winged hourglass symbol and the tradename “Longines” as a guarantee of quality in order to combat counterfeit products aimed at taking advantage of the reputation already established by the company.