Mens Dolce Vita date chrono

1956 Simca Aronde
" 'Open-top sports car', he said. I'll kill him when I see him!"
bogey&hepburn--cool sophistication

A review of a Ladies Longines Dolce Vita
by Les Zetlein

(Best viewed at 800 x 600 screen resolution)

THERE COMES A TIME in the life of every dedicated watch collector when, as he stares at his computer monitor ogling the latest high-priced offerings by Swiss companies with fancy names, he hears a sound which chills his blood. It is the sound of his wife in the other room, rustling her way through the sheaf of papers comprising the latest Visa card statement. He holds his breath, waiting for the inevitable axe to fall.
    Now, the axe may fall in different ways. It may come in the form of accusations followed by lies, excuses and recriminations, and tears before bedtime. A lonely bedtime, on the couch. Or it may fall so subtly that you never see it coming until it's too late.
    Take my wife for example. (I shall refrain from adding the old vaudeville gag of "Please!") She adopted the sneaky approach.
    "You know", she said casually one day, "I should take up this vintage watch hobby of yours. It would help maintain our 'togetherness'. Think what fun we could have wearing each other's watches!"
    I muttered a few choice words about what I thought of that idea. But she would not be deterred from her plan.
    "In fact, we could start right now" she said brightly. "I've always loved your Breitling Navitimer. Get it out and I'll strap it on."
    I quickly came up with four reasons why this would not be a good idea, including her unfortunate habit of dropping watches in car parks and service stations, with the inevitable disastrous results. If the drop onto concrete doesn't kill 'em, being run over by a ton and a half of motor car certainly does.
    "Tell you what", I said. "How about we buy you something really special on our next overseas trip. I've heard of this terrific brand called Invicta and they're ever such good value for money..."
     She looked at me with the sort of unblinking stare that cats use to transfix mice. "I was thinking more along the lines of a Lady Breitling", she said. "Or a Cartier. Or Longines."
    "R-i-g-h-t, Longines", I nodded. "Er, any particular model in mind?"
    "The Dolce Vita" she responded smartly. "Here, read this." She slapped a newspaper into my hand. On page 3 was a half-page ad very reminiscent of the '30s, complete with a beautiful Italian model (female), driving a vintage open-topped sports car with a very attractive-looking watch on her wrist. Even I had to admit it looked good. And so began our quest.

Trevi Fountain--ready for a splash?
There should be three coins in here somewhere...

Shake, rattle and roll!
Anita does her thing in the casbah while her, er, male companion is having a bad hair day

Mmmm, you smell good!
Marcello gets stuck in
LA DOLCE VITA. The Sweet Life. Say it slowly and with feeling, lingering lovingly over the syllables—La Dol-chay Vee-ta—and you'd swear it was a hot, dusty day in Rome and you could hear children shouting and laughing as they splash in the cool waters of the Trevi fountain just behind you, and isn't that Frederico Fellini over there with Marcello Mastroianni and yes, with that silhouette it has to be Anita Ekberg, filming a scene for that famous 1960 movie of the same name? Well actually no, it's not, it's a cold, rainy, windswept day in Regent Street, London, and Teresa and I are doing some visual environmental scanning analysis or, to put it in the vernacular, window shopping. This is not new to us. For some weeks now we've been staring glassy-eyed at a bewildering array of Dolce Vitas—stainless steel ones, gold ones, stainless or gold both with diamonds, with leather straps or bracelets, with silver dials, white dials, copper dials, mid-size with seconds at 6 o'clock or mini-size with no seconds...the variations seem endless. At last the decision is made—mid-size stainless steel with stainless bracelet, and copper dial. And we end up buying it from Watches of Switzerland, of all places. Their pricing was competitive (after a bit of 'negotiation'), and we received good service including removing a couple of links from the bracelet whilst at the same time replacing the battery with a new one (without having to be asked). Best of all, I spotted a 2000 Breitling catalogue (a sizable publication running to 167 full-colour glossy pages) which they pressed upon me after finding out my Navitimer had been bought new from a Watches of Switzerland store in 1967. So we both left the shop happy.

Good style never goes out of fashion
And this is an example of that elegant Longines style the designers of the Dolce Vita range had in mind and were trying to re-create. The range is based on a Longine original produced in 1925. As Longines themselves describe their collection: "It conjures up the romantic appeal of the Twenties while at the same time captures modern aspirations of the Nineties."
    This one dates from 1931 and is in 18k gold.
Three of the many varieties of Dolce Vita

left:       Men's

centre:  Ladies' mid-size

right:    Ladies' mini-size
three different dolces

SO WHAT'S it like, then? Well, in a couple of words, very nice. According to Longines the polished stainless steel tank case houses a 'high precision' quartz movement (cal. L176) which, whilst not in the same class as their temperature-compensated VHP (very high precision) calibre (which is guaranteed to be within 1 minute per 5 years), still doesn't seem to have lost or gained more than a second or two over 4 months. It also sports a curved sapphire crystal, and is water resistant to 30 metres, which should take care of life's little splashes.
    The highly (and I mean highly) polished all-solid link integrated bracelet with its bi-fold deployant clasp reeks of quality. There's plenty of adjustment available via removable links held in place with pushpins. The flat, rectangular caseback snaps on and is engraved with the usual Longines winged hourglass logo, plus 'Swiss Made' and 'All Stainless Steel', together with an 'S' for sapphire and '30' for 30m WR. Interestingly, there's also 'E.F.Co', which puzzled me until I deduced from the Longines catalogue (and their excellent website which is well worth a visit—see link above), that it stood for Ernest Francillon, who joined the business in 1862. He rose to become the proprietor of Longines, and when he died in 1897 they renamed the company 'Fabrique des Longines, Francillon & Co' as a mark of respect. (Ernest proved to be an outstanding businessman, but it probably helped in his early career that he was the nephew of the founder of Longines, Auguste Agassiz.) In 1937 the company name was changed yet again to the more familiar Longines Watch Co. Ltd. The company is now of course part of the huge SMH (Swatch) conglomerate.
    The case measures 30mm lug to lug by 20mm wide (excluding crown), with a thickness of 6.5mm. The whole watch including bracelet weighs in at a reasonable 50 grams—enough to provide a solid 'heft' without straining delicate female wrists. The octagonal crown is tiny at 3.8mm diameter, but as it's only needed occasionally to set the time, this is not a real drawback.
    The rectangular copper rose-coloured dial with its applied polished steel '12' and teardrop hour markers really makes the watch, in my opinion. The dial itself has a very light sunburst pattern, whilst the seconds sub-dial is fractionally sunken and sports engraved concentric rings. And yes, the seconds hand moves in one-second jumps, but as it's small anyway it's hardly noticeable. To my amazement I discovered (by using a loupe) that the seconds hand lines up exactly with the seconds markings on the sub-dial. Not that not doing so would bother its new owner.
    The sword-shaped hands are also made of polished steel (or rhodium plated?) and appear bright and shining in some lights and black in others. They are folded down slightly either side of a central axis running the length of each hand. There is no luminous material.
    Overall, the attention to detail and the level of finishing is most impressive.

TO SUM UP  What I want from a watch and what Teresa wants are two different things, and so it may be better for her to put it in her own words. This is her talking now:

    "I was originally looking for a vintage mechanical watch like one of Les's, because I like the designs from that era. I vaguely had in mind a Lady Breitling of some sort, but when I saw the Dolce Vita I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I just love its Art Deco looks, its classic elegance and the overall impression of quality. I don't mind it having a quartz movement—in fact, if the truth be known, I prefer it as I don't have to remember to wind it and it's always accurate. The copper rose dial sets it apart from other watches, yet it co-ordinates nicely with different outfits. To me, it's got the three C's: it's classy, it's got chic and it's comfortable. What more could a girl want? And it's easy to read the time, with the seconds sub-dial adding a distinctive touch. I've had lots of compliments on it. It's great!"

Model: Longines Dolce Vita Ladies mid-size with sub-seconds and copper dial
Model No: International - L5.156.4  UK catalogue - 11200-71
Movement: Quartz cal. L176
Features: Polished steel case and bracelet; deployant clasp; curved sapphire crystal; 30m water resist; battery end-of-life indicator; hacking sub-seconds; International 12 months guarantee (except the USA for some reason)
Recommended retail price: UK £595  US $850. Considerable discounts available on the net. Check pricescan for latest prices.
back & bracelet--as if you couldn't tell Hey, Big Boy! You just gonna stare at watches all day? the hands look black here

And you thought that fellow with Anita was having a bad hair day! You can wear a Dolce Vita in black and white.....
Or you can wear one in colour..... How can I ever repay you, Les?
It's the Vallée de Joux alright!Either way it's a sweet life!

© Copyright Les Zetlein September 2000. Pictures and text may be used for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes provided source is quoted. I use a Sony Mavica FD-83 digital camera.

Picture credits: Longines, Pinupzone, FreeFoto, Hulton Getty Picture Collection    FreeFoto.Com

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since 9 September 2000
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