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The Longines Master Collection Small Seconds

As a general rule, if you engrave Breguet numerals in a dial, it’s probably going to grab my attention. Longines introduced the Master Collection Small Seconds in 2023 after the beautiful and well-received Master Collection 190th Anniversary. The Small Seconds is smaller and thicker than the anniversary collection, measuring 38.5mm and 10.2mm thick (20mm lug width). It comes in three dial colors: salmon, anthracite, and silver, all with different textures that add a distinct character. Recently, I was able to get hands-on with the salmon and anthracite, and it quickly affirmed that the Master Collection Small Seconds is one of my favorite budget-minded Swiss dress watches.

This is filed under “Value Proposition,” so let’s get right to it: the Master Collection Small Seconds runs $250. I’m not saying this is some screaming deal, but more like – Longines makes a hell of a watch for the price. It’s a nice counterpoint to the equally vintage-inspired Heritage Classic Sector Dial.

While the design draws on dress watches of Longines’ past, it’s not a reissue of any specific reference. The engraved Breguet numerals (perhaps a callback to vintage Longines like this one), leaf hands, and small seconds subdial hit all the right notes. This is heritage inspiration done right. While I enjoy the more modern look of the anthracite and its grained texture, the salmon is the stand-out for me. The dial is vertically brushed, with the hands and engraved indices in a contrasting off-black.

The 38.5mm case is entirely polished. It sits a bit thicker than I’d prefer for a watch like this, but it’s still wearable. The thickness feels most noticeable in the steeply sloped rehaut, making the domed bezel sit higher a bit tall. At 45mm lug-to-lug, the proportions work well on my 6.25-inch wrist.

The Master Collection Small Seconds dial is beautiful and well-executed. The engraved Breguet numerals look sharp, and I’m not sure any other brand offers a similar aesthetic at this price point. Simply put, it’s hard to think of a better-looking dial in a dress watch at this price.

The small seconds dial is snailed, offering a nice contrast to the brushed salmon dial. While salmon has been a hot dial color the past few years, this particular execution feels considered and thoughtful. The “Automatic” text at the top of the dial is small enough that it’s not a huge distraction. The biggest potential design flaw, as I see it, is the way the subdial cuts off the “7.” I don’t have an issue with cut-off numerals generally, but it feels a little unfair to 7 that “5” doesn’t get the same treatment. At least, it leaves a slightly asymmetrical feeling.

The numerals and leaf hands are black and provide a nice contrast to the salmon dial. The different textures of the three dial colors illustrate Longines’ attention to detail with this collection. The anthracite dial has a granular finish that almost looks like a frosting in certain lights, providing a different texture to the dial. It gives this dial a more modern vibe, but the rose gold numerals and plated hands bring it back into the realm of dressy. I didn’t see the silver dial, but it’s the most traditional of the bunch, with a more finely-grained surface.

The Master Collection Small Seconds uses the automatic Longines caliber L893, essentially an upgraded ETA 2892. It beats at 3.5 Hz and upgrades the ETA movement with a silicon hairspring. Also notable is the increased 72-hour power reserve, higher than the ETA’s standard 42ish hours.

The Small Seconds is nearly 1mm thicker than the 190th Anniversary edition, and much of this comes down to the movement. Moving from center seconds to small seconds requires some re-gearing. While the dial does feel more balanced with the small seconds, this is the slight tradeoff in wearability.

The L893 is visible through a sapphire caseback, and looks predictably industrial. The typical refrain from enthusiasts at this price point is that a closed caseback would’ve been better, while granting that there’s a supposed broader commercial demand to see the mechanical marvel that we, the enlightened enthusiasts, too often take for granted. I wonder if it’s too much to ask for the option of either? Seeing a Longines caliber doesn’t offend my sensibilities (make yourself decent, Longines!), but these sapphire casebacks often come at the cost of a case that wears slightly thicker.

Each of the Master Collection Small Seconds comes on a comfortable, padded alligator strap with a deployant, which means it’s easy to get a perfect fit. That said, I’d like to normalize brands offering their dressier watches on more casual straps. I’d quickly throw this on a more casual calfskin or suede strap to dress it down more. But these are minor quibbles – the Master Collection Small Seconds is beautifully executed by Longines, and exactly the type of heritage inspiration infused in modern watchmaking that I love to see.

But if you want a new, dressy watch from a Swiss brand with some heritage inspiration – along with real ties to that heritage – it’s hard to think of anything much better than the Longines Master Collection Small Seconds.