When Charles Lindbergh took his momentous flight from New York to Paris in 1927, there wasn’t any control towers to guide him. It was just a pilot, his flying machine and the clear blue sky. Autopilot wasn’t even a dream over the horizon. While Lindbergh didn’t have to worry about smashing into another aircraft, because there weren’t that many others up there, he had other concerns. Like making sure he was going in the right direction.
What does it take to point your plane over a mountain rather than into one without electronic equipment? You need to calculate longitude on an accurate watch that takes into account the variations in time around the globe. When you’re zooming 10,000 feet above the ground in a single-seat, single engine plane, you don’t want to be fiddling with pencil and paper. Lindbergh used the Hour Angle Watch, built by Longines in 1931 to Lindbergh’s specifications, to make his calculations and maneuver safely in his flying machine exploits.
The Longines Hour Angle Watch proved an indispensable instrument to other high-flying daredevils, including Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson. What made the watch so useful? It came in a gargantuan 47mm sized case to accommodate a large enamel dial that was easy on the eyes. The watch displayed Roman hour numerals along with an inner calibrated degree angle ring with blue Arabic numerals, inner rotating silvered matte disc calibrated for 60 seconds and 5 degrees, revolving bezel in green enamel calibrated for 15 degrees, subdivisions in black enamel and indirect seconds, tools necessary for intrepid pilots to find their way.
A large and chunky, onion crown popped out from the case, enabling a pilot to wind the handwind movement with gloves on. Remember, it was freezing at 10,000 feet in an open cockpit. A hunking leather strap fit over the flight suit to secure the watch.
Longines put inside the hearty Cal. 18.69N gilt-finished lever movement with 15 jewels and bi-metallic compensation balance. A hinged silver cuvette attaches to the case. THIS particular example you see here from 1935 in all original condition was estimated at $3,000-5,000 and sold for $18,750 at auction last year.
In honor of the 80th anniversary of Lindbergh’s New York to Paris flight, Longines released an updated version of the Lindbergh Hour Angle watch. It’s a pretty faithful representation of the original, including the case size, with a few cosmetic changes. Rather than a handwind, Longines put in an ETA with 42 hours of power reserve. THAT model sells for $4725. You can see a nice review over at Gear Patrol here. Which one do you want?