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Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5

Today, a few rectangular watches seem to get all the attention. It’s fair enough, especially when the Cartier Tank and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso are legitimate icons. But before the circular shape gained a chokehold on the modern wristwatch thanks to soldiers during the World Wars, rectangles were popular ’round the world. Ask old dealers, and they’ll even tell you that way back in the ’80s, rectangular watches from Patek Philippe, Hamilton, Longines, and others were the hot thing for collectors to have. Enthusiasts would buy ’em buy the bushel, a different shape for every day of the week. Art Deco and elegant, they evoked glamour and old Hollywood. But soon enough came the Rolex Bubbleback trend, then sports Rolex, and the rising tyranny of the round case. Longines began making rectangular watches in the 1910s. By the 1920s, it had dozens of different case and dial designs. A favorite of mine is the Longines “Zulu Time,” a small rectangular Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5 watch with a second hour hand to track another time zone. Just a few have appeared recently, but Longines says it serves as inspiration for its modern (and round) Zulu Time collection. Since 1997, the Dolce Vita has been the singular collection carrying the mantle for rectangular watches at Longines. Longines has introduced various watches to the Dolce Vita collection, often with additional Art Deco design queues: sector dials, Roman numerals, or ornate hands.

This year, Longines has introduced the new Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5 collection. It’s a slightly different shape compared to the existing collection: Not only smaller but also with smoother brancards that do away with some of the stepped and decidedly more Art Deco design choices of the Dolce Vita. The stainless steel case measures 21.5mm x 29mm (6.75mm thick) and uses a quartz movement. Longines offers 11 variations of the new Dolce Vita, some with diamonds, and some without. The best of the new references features a white dial with contrasting surfaces, painted Roman numerals, and a sunken subseconds. Perhaps the best part of the release is a new five-link, brick-style bracelet with a butterfly clasp. Not only is it a well-made and comfortable bracelet for the price, but it’s also a bit of an Art Deco touch, fitting for the roots of the rectangular watch.

The updates to the Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5 do away with some of its distinctiveness to make it look more like a Tank. With Jennifer Lawerence leading the campaign for the Mini Dolce Vita, it’s obviously a watch aimed at women, and adding a bracelet will also make it competitive with other similar watches.

The Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5 is just the latest in a long line of rectangular releases over the last few years. We may have the Apple Watch to thank for this four-sided shift, by far the best-selling watch in the world. But the rising popularity of Cartier’s designs seems to have also emboldened brands to look past the curvilinear. At Watches & Wonders this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre focused on its Reverso, releasing a new small seconds, the Tribute Chronograph, and a Reverso Tourbillon. Among smaller brands, the aggressively stepped “Art Deco” from Impossible Watch Co. and English brand Fears’ Archival 1930 are favorites. Theses watches all look to the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s for inspiration. While I understand the commercial appeal of smoothing out the edges of some of these designs in the new Mini DolceVita, I do hope the continued popularity of non-round watches pushes brands to continue to try bolder shapes. In the archives of many of these brands are so many sculptural cases with stepped lugs, more architectural than many of the simple, stamped cases we see today. Meanwhile, if you want a vintage Art Deco Longines, the brand offers that option too. Look in its Collector’s Corner and you’ll see this amazing variety of square and rectangular watches on display. Vacheron, JLC, and other brands have also placed a recent emphasis on sourcing, restoring, and selling their own vintage watches, and it’s exciting to see brands embrace their history. While the Mini Dolce Vita might not be a particularly exciting release for hardcore enthusiasts, Longines Mini Dolcevita 21.5 was able to place it in the context of its historical rectangular designs.