Late in the summer of 2017 Longines quietly announced the Avigation BigEye, and the watch took my breath away. Although I love vintage chronographs, I loathe vintage chronograph headaches, to say nothing of the sky-rocketing values of some of the most desirable and interesting vintage chronographs out there. The combination makes for quite the wet blanket, sufficient to dampen even the hottest vintage watch passions. Which is why I always get so excited when a manufacturer releases a well-executed reissue of a heritage design.
The BigEye was hardly noticed, however, until later in the fall when it won the 2017 Revival Prize at the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève, which is a fancy and prestigious award sufficient to tell even the likes of me that Longines really got the design of this watch just right. Still though, it’s proven to be a contentious and polarizing piece; just ask a good friend of mine who immediately took to calling it the “Lazy Eye” in his good-natured attempt to dissuade me from pursuing it.
Right out of the gate, there seemed to be confusion about exactly which historic Longines this reissued watch was supposedly recapitulating. Blogs and forum posts I read seemed to suggest that it was inspired by a famous piece either from the 1930’s or the 1970’s. I don’t know if Longines ever really definitively settled the debate, but for me this doesn’t even matter because the watch is simply beautiful, and is perfectly executed in all its dimensions and details. But others complain that the big eye design leaves them feeling unsettled, or that the bezel appears unfinished, or that the pushers are too big, or that it isn’t a Speedmaster, or blah blah blah. There is no in-between with this watch — you either just get it, or you just don’t.
This post is not a Rover Haven One Watch watch review. Nothing about the BigEye makes a strong One Watch argument. Rather, this watch is the accent mark on your life well-lived, a companion to enjoyable experiences shared with friends and family. A useful and stylish tool that makes a subtle statement about your individuality, while perfectly avoiding the trap of becoming the next darling of the hipster mechanical watch renaissance. It was with these thoughts in mind that I decided to make the BigEye my companion watch when we made semi-spontaneous plans to spend a weekend in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, pursuing theater, wine, and fun.
We threw our things together on Friday morning and drove to the other side of Michigan to pick up our companions for the weekend, Ron and Rosemary. From there we all drove together to Niagara-On-The-Lake, where we planned to take in two plays at the running Shaw Festival. The last thing I did before leaving was set the watch against my clock app, at 10:23:15, planning on rechecking it when we returned home on Sunday evening. Twenty minutes later we were gassed up and hitting the road.
The trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake is about 400 miles, so we’re tired when we arrive after dark in a light rain. Our spontaneity meant we didn’t get our first choice of B&B, but thankfully our accommodations are comfortable enough when we arrive at the King George III (which sounds more impressive than it is) and our in-room happy hour refreshes us before dinner. My trusty Victorinox Yeoman, a permanent fixture of my EDC bag, handily opens a bottle of red and we officially kick off our stay and unwind for a bit. Dinner finds us at the Prince of Wales, which you might think would be a step down from the King George III just judging by royal title, but you’d be wrong. A well-known Victorian inn, the Prince of Wales is just what we need to finish off the day.
The next morning dawns cool, sunny, and beautiful. After coffee on the patio enjoying the fresh weather and the overlooking view of the NOTL Sailing Club, we pursue a very civilized breakfast time of 10 AM. Our first play is at The Royal George theater at 11:30, Shaw’s brilliant and bite-sized O’Flaherty V.C.
The BigEye’s dimensions, case design, and readability make it effortless to wear and use. I actually brought another watch along with me, as is my habit, but it stayed in its case and never came out. The BigEye’s 20 mm lug width carries it perfectly, and its readability is second-to-none, especially for a chronograph. Perhaps my only quibbles with the watch would be its low water resistance rating of 30 m and less-than-stellar lume. However, it must be said that both are perfectly adequate for how the watch was intended to be used. And as my pictures will attest, the watch wears beautifully on leather straps.
With our next play not until 8 pm, we have the whole day to explore Niagara-On-The-Lake and the famous Niagara Falls, which are a short and very scenic drive away up the Niagara River. If you have never been to Niagara Falls, let me tell you that it is a breathtaking site. I have been many times in my life, but they never fail to leave me stunned. Every minute of every day, forty-five million gallons of water pours over the falls. To put this into perspective, an industrial city of 120,000 people will consume about this much water in 24 hours on a very hot, dry day in the middle of summer. This same population will use about one-fourth that amount in winter. Yet this volume spills over the falls every minute of every day all year long. Even armed with the naked green-skinned facts of the falls, beholding the spectacle itself is a deeply moving experience for many.
After a coffee break, we follow the Niagara River back downstream to Niagara-On-The-Lake and stop at The Riverbend Inn to make dinner reservations for later. Part mansion, part hotel, part vineyard, the Riverbend is a delight to your senses. It’s also only a couple minutes drive from NOTL, making it convenient as well.
Back in NOTL, we are tired from a day of walking and standing, so we seek out a local watering hole, the Angel Inn. Rebuilt on the original site in 1816, the Angel Inn is believed to be the oldest inn in upper Canada still in operation. This seems a little confusing, since I would’ve said we were in lower Ontario, but it doesn’t matter. The Angel Inn is warm and welcoming, and the pints were well-poured and just what we needed.
Just outside the Angel Inn, we discover a cheese shop and step in for some locally made artisan cheeses. Back at our rooms, the outdoor patio calls to us and we have just enough time for a quick snack before heading to dinner.
After an amazing dinner at the Riverbend Inn we head to the Festival Theater for an 8 pm show of Henry V. Although I was prepared for a heavy duty play, even the English majors and theater-types among us were grumbling at the length and complexity. But still, you won’t learn anything new if you never try anything new, and I’m no theater critic.
The play lets out late, and we are happy for our beds. The next morning we reverse our drive and have a smooth crossing back into the US. Back at home, I reflect on the value of family, the pleasure of the fine arts, and the luxury that is having the time to enjoy them both. How did I get this lucky?
Somewhat miraculously, I remember to check the Longines’ timekeeping and discover the icing on the cake. After about 2.5 days of being on the wrist 24/7, the watch has gained 3 seconds. Hard to argue with that.
Do you have a Longines BigEye? I’d love to hear from you and I always welcome comments on my blog. Thanks for reading!