During the mid 20th century, many movements developed by Longines were an answer to demand and needs from international markets with most of them made specially for the United States. During the 1930s, the US accounted for up to 50% of the factory’s production; as a result of high demand from Longines’ New York agent, the special calibres meant for region eventually influenced the technical choices within St. Imier. One of those influenced watches? The Longines Silver Arrow.
“New York asked us to create a 10 1/2 line movement that is thinner than the 10.68Z. The latter, which was modified from the 11.62, dates from 1925; with a height of 4.10 mm it is apparently too thick. A new calibre, the 23Z, was therefore created in 1947 with a height of 3.5mm and will be available in autumn 1948; it will no doubt be manufactured in large numbers. With its reduced height, it will probably replace the 23M, which with a height of 3mm, is relatively delicate and costly. This new calibre will also have centre seconds” – 1947 record of Head of Technical Department, Alfred Pfister
Birth of the Longines Silver Arrow
Development of new calibres are costly endeavours involving research and machine re-tooling and while it might seem that commercial concerns dominated technical decisions during the era. Longines took special care to make production considerations in view of technical efficiency – simpler to produce, easier to service and user-friendly.
It was a strategy of rationalisation and the convergence of technical innovations like self-winding that led to the birth of the Mad Man Draper-esque Longines Silver Arrow from 1955 to 1957 (in small seconds and central seconds editions). The 23Z and 23ZS (with which the vintage Longines Silver Arrow is equipped) had multiple variants but most commonly, it was slow-beat (18,000 vph) and manual winding. Curiously, production documents of calibre state in the miscellany notes that the calibre is non-magnetic but we cannot tell from the images of the calibre the components which bequeath non-magnetic qualities.
For the St. Imier manufacture, the Longines Silver Arrow was also one of the pioneering few wristwatches from the era which came equipped with a shock-absorbing system (incabloc not KIF) to cushion shocks resulting from being wrist-worn. From a production standpoint and according to Technical Head Pfister’s notes, the development of the 23Z is one of the only calibres created in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, part of the strategy of reducing height of movements and it would complicate the manufacturing process.
“This general reduction in height of the movement is regrettable from a technical point as it makes the piece more delicate while raising the price of the movements. Since we cannot reduce the quality of a Longines watch; this will make manufacturing more difficult.” – Alfred Pfister, Head of Technical Department
eBay Watch Find: Longines Silver Arrow 2009 re-issue
As a result, the original 1950s Longines Silver Arrow and the 2009 re-issue (which quickly sold out) have become highly sought after rarities. The original Silver Arrow was proportioned 33.5mm diameters (excluding winding crown), 43mm long from lug to lug and with 10.5mm thickness. The 2012 eBay Watch Find Silver Arrow comes in at a more contemporary (but still gentlemanly) width of 38mm with aesthetics which match the original (sole exception being the date complication).
Featuring a modified ETA 2892 movement, this 2009 Longines Silver Arrow comes with the same two tone minute ring and applied hour indices like the 1957 vintage edition. We managed to find the only sample in New Old Stock condition online today from eBay watch seller Uhrenworldcom, expect to pay EUR 1680 (but maybe wait till Brexit currency jitters have calmed down). Uhrenworld München has a physical store in Munich. Obviously, Deployant makes no claim to the authenticity or veracity of what Uhrenworld is offering but they claim that the unworn watch comes with box and papers stamped 2012.