Review: Longines Conquest V.H.P. Watch

What the heck is this? A near-$800 watch on a backwater, budget-focused review site? That’s right – In a first for Journeywind Junk, I’ll be tiptoeing into the world of high-end timepieces. Here to tempt me with its fit and finish is the Longines Conquest V.H.P., a high-accuracy quartz watch from the fabled horologists of Switzerland. Let’s see if the quality of this rarefied Alpine air is all it’s cracked up to be.

Forward

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Shortly after this review is posted, this watch will be on its way back to the inimitable Nick Shabazz. However, it came very close to staying here with me. When Nick sent it over for loan, he floated a particularly generous price point. You know, just in case I decided I couldn’t live without a Longines in my life. And Nick – I came so very, very close. While I may not purchase this particular model, I now have my eyes set on a Chrono version of the Conquest, with a (hopefully) more adjustable strap.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. On to the review.

Form

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The Longines V.H.P. is, without question, the nicest timepiece I’ve handled. I know that’s not a terribly descriptive word, but it’s the best adjective I’ve come up with.  The material and construction quality is nice. The applied indices and phonograph-like finish on the dial are very nice. The hands, text, lume, and red accent on the second ticker are super nice. The crown, case back, and flat sapphire crystal are… Well, you get it.

Let’s dive into the specifics. This particular Conquest comes with a stainless steel case, measuring 8-milimeters thick and 41-milimeters across. Beneath its sapphire crystal beats a magnificent quartz heart, the ETA Caliber L288.2. This perpetual-calendar movement employs three sword-like hands – A claymore and short sword to mark minutes and hours, with a narrow rapier precisely ticking away the seconds.

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There are plenty of small details to appreciate, too. As mentioned above, the concentric circular finish of the dial is very, very appealing. It provides a visually interesting background for the logo, indices, and “5bar (50 meter)” water resistance text. I even love the large “12” and “6” o’clock markers, along with more subtle touches such as the white hashes on the inner bezel, just above the red second-markers on the actual dial. The entire aura of the Conquest speaks of elegance and precision, free of gaudy flourishes or decoration. The steel, silver, red and glowing green of its color palette mesh perfectly with one another, catching the light in new and interesting ways compared to the rest of my watches.

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One more thing to gush about before moving onto the bad news: The lume on this watch is perhaps the best I’ve encountered. Armed with Super-LumiNova on the hands and indices, this thing will emit a visible glow after just a few seconds in diffused sunlight. Given direct solar exposure, it positively radiates illumination. This was such a cool experience, a source of simple joy in the dreariness of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

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Sadly, there is one major aspect of Form that will keep this watch out of my collection: The bracelet. This is what it does to my wrist, despite having it professionally adjusted by a jeweler:

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I want to love you, Longines. Why do you do this to me? This is the worst band I’ve ever encountered. Worse than the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Eyed Peas, and even worse than that screamo cover band your sister’s boyfriend plays bass guitar in.

There are some good aspects to the bracelet, I guess. The 20-milimeter width is a nice fit for the case, and the links are brushed rather than polished. But, even with the inclusion of a half-link, it simply does not fit my rather average-sized wrist. It’s either too loose or, as shown in the photo, far, far too tight. And don’t tell me, “Oh, a switch to a NATO or aftermarket band will fix it.” This watch costs more than $700. I shouldn’t have to hit the secondary market to find something to make it fit. If they want to earn my business, Longines needs to ship the watch with a bracelet that adjusts more finely than half an inch at a time.

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The deployment clasp, too, is a literal pain. Its dual-button setup means that, no matter which way you move, one of these two will be poking into the meat of your wrist. It’s awkward to open, difficult to close, and determined to take a bite out of your arm by one means or another. It’s awful, folks. Even the pinched-metal band on the Invicta was better than this.

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Last bit of bad, this time on the case. You see that nicely branded inner ring on the back? Well, its edge isn’t very well chamfered. This, combined with the tightness of the bracelet, translates into a sharp-edged circle of steel gnawing at the top of my wrist while the clasp below goes to work on my veins. Seriously, Longines – Who decided this was a good idea? I realize that luxury watches are seen as status symbols, meant to help their owners leave a mark on their peers. But your watch leaves a literal mark on my body.

I’m so baffled by this that I’ve been forced to split my score into two parts – One for the watch itself, and another for the band. Take a look below, and let’s get back to the good stuff.

Watch: 4.5 stars out of 5

Band: 0.5 stars out of 5

Function

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Despite my frustrations with its form, the functional aspects of the V.H.P. are nigh-on flawless. Those three letters stand for something very significant in my personal assessment of watches – Very High Precision. Given a year of continuous operation, the Conquest is expected to gain or lose between zero and five seconds per year.  Per year. Hell, my Citizen ProMaster quartz will gain that much time in a single month.

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Also, take a look at the date window. Despite displaying only one numeral, the L288.2 movement is apparently capable of tracking months, as well. I’ve been unable to figure this out on my loaner, though it’s something’s probably covered in the manual. I did managed to dig up some instructions on a forum post, but none of it seemed to work for this particular model. It’s definitely something to look into, if it’ll eliminate the need to adjust your high-precision movement on short months.

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One of my favorite aspects of the Conquest, however, is its method of setting. Rather than free-spinning across the dial, the minute hand leaps from one fraction of an index to another, eliminating the need to eyeball its alignment to the markers. This effectively removes one of my biggest watch-setting peeves, something I’ve encountered even on $200-plus pieces like the Victorinox INOX. It’s an easy, excellent interface that suits the Conquest’s high-precision ethos to a tee.

There are a few additional features here, as well. Longines has included a power-saving mode, activated by pulling out the crown and letting the watch sit for a minute or two. The hands will snap to the 12 o’clock position and remain, though the internals continue to keep time with the same accuracy as if the watch were running. Here, take a look:

 

There’s also something called Gear Position Detection. Basically, it’s an anti-shock system that keeps constant track of the position of the watch’s hands. If you happen to smack it against a hard surface, say, or have it drop from your wrist because of its terrible bracelet, this protective mode will freeze the hands in place. After the shock has passed, they’ll resume their normal course. This is also apparently effective against magnetic fields, though I didn’t test either of these particular features. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t my watch.

As far as negatives on the function front – Man, I’ve got nothing. This makes its other stumbles all the more frustrating. I’m a function-first kind of guy, and this is a perfect piece for me.

5 stars out of 5

Future

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So, say you’re lucky enough to try one of these in person, and say you’re one of those magical, mathematically proportionate people whose wrist jives with Longines’ bracelet calculus. How long can you expect this timepiece to last? If the shoe fits, you should be able to rely on the Conquest for a long, long time.

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The V.H.P.’s battery-powered movement is rated for five years of operation, with a built-in low power indication. The steel and sapphire are well finished and high grade, and the decision to brush rather than polish the metal surfaces will help keep the watch looking pristine. And, while 50-meters isn’t the highest of water ratings, it’s more than enough to withstand rain, hand washing, or perhaps a brief submersion. I’d avoid seaside and diving duty, but day to day moisture poses little threat to the Conquest.

Longines does offer a 24-month warranty, covering service and manufacturer defects. JomaShop echoes this range of coverage, which seems like a reasonable amount. I have no reason to doubt the longevity of this watch, despite my other qualms.

4.5 stars out of 5

Finance

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So, how much does all of this excellence cost? At the time of this review, the Longines V.H.P. is available for $745 on JomaShop. That’s a hell of a lot more than the $60 Fossil that initially got me into watches.

When I first took this out of the shipping case, I wasn’t sure how Longines could charge that much for what appeared to be a relatively simple, stainless steel timepiece. But, after a couple of cross-country flights, I’m starting to see the light.

Would I prefer to pay $500 for this watch? Absolutely, and I think that’s how much it would cost if not for the “SWISS MADE” text at the bottom of the dial. If the Japanese can crank out a solar, radio-controlled Casio Oceanus in sapphire and titanium for just over $500, where the heck does the extra money go for this Longines? Factor in the extra cash I’d have to pay for a different bracelet, and I just don’t see the value here.

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And yet, if the band was better, I probably would have bought this watch. Particularly with Nick’s offer, which knocked a decent chunk off of retail. I would be happy to pay $750 for this, for its looks as well as performance. This is one of those rare cases in which an item’s aesthetic siren song reaches directly into my brain. I love the design of this watch and, if the bracelet was better, I’d sell nearly all of my other timepieces just to put this on my wrist. So close, Longines. So close.

3 stars out of 5

Final Thoughts

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Sooner or later, I’m probably going to wind up with a watch like this. As mentioned above, the new Chronograph model with the blue face and alternate band is tempting me in the sort of way that probably calls for a priest.

I’ll admit, I have other hangups, too. There is a certain aspect of personal guilt here, probably due to the idea of blowing an entire month’s rent on something as silly as an expensive watch. There’s a part of me that was relieved to find that the bracelet was so terrible, as it removed the compulsion to accept Nick’s offer. Yes, I’ll probably own a premium timepiece at some point. But with student loans, a car payment, and other nagging expenses, I can’t justify this sort of purchase at this chapter of my life.

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But, if you have the funds, the means, and the proper wrist size for the V.H.P., then this is an excellent watch. I’d highly recommend giving it a look, especially before stepping up to the truly ludicrous $1,000-plus range. As for me, I’ll be shipping it back to its owner. Thanks again, Nick, for giving me the chance to taste the forbidden fruit. I’m grateful for now, though I may come to regret taking my first few steps down the premium path.

Oh, and Longines – If you’re willing to make a better bracelet, I’m willing to eat ramen noodles for a couple months. Let me know.

Where to Buy

Jomashop

Timepiece.com

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