The Longines Spirit collection has a storied history, having had the first Longines dual-time zone wristwatch manufactured in 1925, which featured the Zulu flag on its dial. Thereafter the timepiece would name itself (Zulu Time) as such, where “Zulu” also means in reference to the letter “Z” in the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) alphabet.
Historic events would show that the adoption of “Zulu” is no mere coincidence — the 1964 film Zulu (hey, it’s young Michael Caine!) and its remakes tell the story of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom. After all, it was the UK army forces who were behind the creation of the NATO alphabet (in collaboration with the US forces) and thus its usage.
Besides the extensive military and historic references from its derivation of Zulu, “Zulu Time” is also a term used in navigation to mean Universal Time Coordinated (UTC), or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). (Here’s a Google hack: “Zulu Time” would pull up the time at Greenwich, London, the site of the “zero meridian” AKA GMT+0 or UTC±00:00.)
Technically, GMT is only observed during the winter months from November to March. Otherwise, it’s Daylight Savings Time — I know, who’s out here manipulating clocks?! (If you want to read more about the accursed DST, and who or why it’s used, head here.)
(Also, if you want to dive deeper into Zulu Time and how the NATO alphabet was created, this and that are helpful articles.)
Longines has been witness to some of the world’s greatest adventures having been on the wrist of notable aviation pioneers. From the likes of female British aviator Amy Johnson, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, conquering a distance of 11,000 miles, to Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon, Jr., two American aviators who completed the world’s first non-stop, transpacific flight from Japan to the United States — a 41-hour trip over a distance of 5,500 miles.
At the time, Pangborn’s and Herndon’s joint accomplishment was the longest flight ever made over water. Herndon wrote to Longines-Wittnauer some weeks later that during the Pacific crossing, “Clyde Pangborn and myself carried Longines timepieces, which performed faultlessly”.
In the final Pacific flight, “in which we encountered such frigid arctic weather as to even freeze the water in our canteens, our Longines watches continued to keep absolutely accurate time”, he explained. Herndon also mentioned: “As you know, correct time is essential to good navigation”.
The modern iteration of the Longines Spirit Zulu Time adopts a vastly different aesthetic, compared to the 1925 original. The timepiece with its square case and Art Deco-styled dial has been materialised into a sporty steel watch, sporting a round case with a 24-hour rotating bezel.
Applied Roman numerals stand out against the grey dial (in black and blue for the other versions with matching inserts) that’s framed with a green ceramic bezel insert, with the minute, hour and seconds hands in matching faux patina (both the black and blue versions feature the hands and dial accents in modern white).
The original Zulu Time had military-time markings — 13:00 to 00:00 hours — in the inner ring, a twin-sector display that’s common in military-issued watches. Here, the second time display is read via the 24-hour bezel insert gestured by the GMT broad arrow-hand.
For increased legibility, and for a pop of colour, the blue version adopts an orange GMT hand, while the black version’s is in light blue. The corresponding accent colour is also used in the “Zulu Time” script.
The watch runs on a new automatic-winding calibre L844.4 that allows you to affix the hour hand to display local time independently via the winding crown. The movement includes a date display (via the small aperture at 6 o’clock) and has a power reserve of up to 72 hours.
The stainless steel case measures 42mm and comes with an interchangeable matching steel bracelet or a brown, beige or blue leather strap.
Explore the new Longines Spirit Zulu Time here.