Conquest V.H.P. Longines
The epitome of elegance and precision
The fifteenth Longines Global Champions Tour took place in Rome a few weeks ago. At the same time, the Conquest VHP GMT Flash Setting was presented. We talked to Vice-President and head of international marketing Juan-Carlos Capelli about elegance, tradition and the technical highlights of the world’s most precise watch.
Not by chance did Rome host the world’s 35 best show jumpers. Centuries before our era, the Circus Maximus was already the scene of spectacular chariot races. Rugged men in chariots drawn by four or eight horses contended for the highest honour, surrounded by over 100,000 spectators. It was a brutal and ruthless spectacle.
Show jumping is nothing like the chariot racing of those days: an atmosphere of elegance and intimacy pervades the Stadio dei Marmi. The horsemen and -women are immaculately dressed, while the onlookers stand out thanks to their elegant clothes and discipline. The horses with their graceful gait convey an image of timeless beauty. And Longines is present everywhere. That cannot be a coincidence, so we had a word with Juan-Carlos Capelli…
Elegance comes first
“The atmosphere at an event like this corresponds perfectly to the values we uphold: elegance, tradition and achievement. As far as the first of these is concerned, it is striking to note how people dress to visit the show-jumping arena, and hats have always been an important accessory – they are essential, as it were. The riders, men and women alike, wear jackets and ties. That sort of elegance has always appealed to Longines and all the watches we design follow the same line.
As regards tradition, I like to refer to the age-old link between horse and rider. What is more, Longines is the oldest registered trademark in the archives of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. We are admittedly number 14, but the thirteen brands ahead of us have either disappeared or totally changed their purpose.
Our attachment to achievement and precision led to the design of the Conquest VHP, the world’s most precise wristwatch. Just as in show jumping, where every millimetre counts as you go over the jumps, with the VHP every second counts.
What makes us unique is that we offer a watch for every wrist and our timepieces are worn by both men and women – in equal measure. But although we may be elegant, we are not snobs. Anyone can wear our timepieces, something that was clear recently at Royal Ascot. There I saw a newspaper seller with a Longines, while the queen was also wearing one of our products…
As well as show jumping, we also support alpine skiing and gymnastics, disciplines where both men and women are represented. But what makes show jumping unique is that men and women compete against one other.
The return of quartz.
With the Conquest VHP, quartz technology seems to be enjoying something of a renaissancE...
At Longines, we have never abandoned quartz, but it's true that we have now reassessed this technology. Besides, people soon forget. In my youth, every young person wanted a quartz watch. Mechanical watches fell out of favour. Thanks to chronometry, we invented the quartz technology for measuring time. As early as 1964, we brought out a machine based on this technology that was used in sporting competitions.
Later on, quartz always remained very popular at Longines and that has a great deal to do with the fact that we sell a lot of watches to ladies. Here too, we are a little out of step in the world of Swiss Made watches.
For the Conquest VHP, we set the bar very high: we asked our engineers to design the world’s most precise watch and we added to the challenge by stating that the model must be carefree for the wearer. So we included a battery with an exceptionally long life, which also notifies the wearer when it needs to be replaced. And we paid particular attention to neutralising the magnetic effects, which are the ultimate enemy of every watch.
To achieve this high level of precision, we could have devised a connected watch, but we didn’t want that. We are watchmakers, not manufacturers of electronic devices, and we don’t want to beset our customers’ bodies with even more waves. We presented the Conquest VHP last year and now we are bringing out a new variant, the GMT. Because people travel more and more, we thought this was a logical choice. And to make things even better, our customers can download an app in which they can enter the city of destination. Thanks to a light beam given out by their mobile phone, the local time in the destination is set while the home time is indicated by a fourth hand.
But there is more: when the time indicated is disrupted by contact with a magnetic field, the hands are ‘frozen’ and then reset later on. The same thing happens after a major shock.
True to our tradition, customers do not have to spend a fortune to acquire this specimen of first-class technology. A VHP is available for less than a thousand euros, justifying our description of Longines as affordable luxury.
Time does not stand still, and nor does change. What has struck you most during your long career?
“Everything has changed. When people travelled 28 years ago, they went without a telephone, without a connection and … without stress! People travelled in the Far East for two weeks and in cases of extreme necessity, a fax was sent. Two weeks later, they reappeared at work and took up the thread again.
These days, we live our lives 24/7, but making watches has remained virtually identical: we still live in an industrial manufacturing system, where every watch goes through the same process as it did thirty years ago. The quality has, admittedly, improved dramatically, the hunt for substance has reached unprecedented heights. The concern for quality and marketing has increased by leaps and bounds.
But the most important thing is perhaps that thirty years ago, people only bought two watches throughout their lives. Whereas these days, there is one for every occasion. People have a watch for sport, one for work, one for evenings or to mark a special event. In Asia even more than in Europe, a watch has become a utilitarian object. People often own five, ten, even fifteen watches, and that is the consequence of the phenomenon introduced by Swatch.
Swatch threw open the market and caused a revolution in the watchmaking sector. Nicolas Hayek made the watch an everyday consumer article. And thanks to Swatch, people started to collect watches. Which only goes to show that Nicolas Hayek was a visionary whose spirit still pervades the Swatch Group.”
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