Not all watch complications are created equal; some are simply cooler and more useful than others. One example is the power reserve indicator. It is a simple complication, used to indicate how many hours of power are left in the mainspring of a watch. Is it truly useful? Absolutely. It really is nice to be able to see at a glance how much juice you’ve got left before having to wind your watch. Back in the day, people didn’t have cell phones to give you the exact time instantly, so it could be a bit of a pain if your watch stopped running at an inopportune moment. Today it’s certainly more of a neat feature than a must-have, but on vintage watches, the power reserve definitely adds cachet.
The power reserve complication was invented by Breguet in the 1800s and was used in some Breguet pocket watches. The first wristwatch to see this complication was designed as a prototype, again by Breguet, in the 1930s but never saw production. It wasn’t until much later, when in 1948 Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Powermatic wristwatch with the caliber 928/2. The Powermatic went on to become an iconic and highly collectible watch model, going through multiple iterations throughout the years. Other companies began to adopt the power reserve as a complication, including Longines. Longines created the caliber 290 family of movements in 1958, and around that time or shortly after they introduced the caliber 292 and 294 with the power reserve complication in their already famous Conquest line. The caliber 294 is a 24 jewel automatic with a power reserve of 45 hours. Today I’ll be showcasing a Conquest Power Reserve from 1965.
The original Conquest models of the 1950s were more of a robust sports watch, but the style became dressier as the 1960’s hit. The Conquest Power Reserve (CPR for short) is a beautifully styled dress watch with more than its share of style points. Most power reserve indicators were (and still are) usually a small subdial or speedometer type with a simple hand indicating how much power remains. For the CPR however, Longines went with a completely unique and downright stunningly beautiful design. The dial is brushed silver with applied faceted steel hour markers, and a recessed steel ring that runs through the markers, giving it a ‘bullseye’ look. There is a date window with a faceted steel frame at 12 o’clock, which is an unusual location for most brands but actually quite common for vintage Longines. Just below that is “Longines” printed in black and an applied steel Longines logo, and “Conquest Automatic” in the classic Longines black script along with three small stars above the 6 o’clock marker.
But wait! What’s that crazy dual disk contraption in the middle?? Yep, that’s the power reserve indicator. Instead of a simple subdial with a moving hand, the CPR has an indicator that is like no other. It is comprised of two discs, one on top of the other, that take up a majority of the middle of the dial. The lower disc is numbered counterclockwise around the edge from 0 to 45. The top disc sits upon the lower one and covers up all but the outer edge of the lower disc. The top one is plain, except for a thin line dissecting it with a thicker marker at one end.
When the watch is wound by hand (or the automatic rotor), the lower disc rotates clockwise while the top disc stays still. The lower numbered disc will move independently until the 45 reaches the marker on the top disc, then they will rotate in unison until you stop winding. This indicates that the mainspring is fully wound and the movement’s power reserve of 45 hours has been reached. As the mainspring winds down, the lower disc will start to rotate counterclockwise as the top disc stays put until the 0 reaches the marker, and you’re out of juice. A neat feature of this design is that since the watch is automatic, you will obviously continue to wind the mainspring as you wear the watch, and as it winds from motion, the lower disk will slowly rotate clockwise indicating that you are indeed winding the watch.
This all may sound like the makings of an overly busy dial, but in reality it is not. It truly is a beauty and executed to perfection. The hands are also unique, and are what I call the ‘skyscraper’ style. Long, narrow steel hands which are squared off near the end, with a sharp pointy tip extending from the middle of the ends, and a thin lume filled center channel. The crown on my example is a rounded button style with the Longines name and logo on it. My research indicates that the original and correct type is a thin-ish crown with a scalloped edge rather than ridges. This crown was slightly large in diameter for the thin case, and it’s my understanding that it frequently got caught on things and was easily broken off. As such, it is quite rare to find an example of the CPR with the original scalloped crown. It is possible that Longines stopped using the scalloped crown in later years (like my ’65 example), but I honestly don’t know for sure.
The case is stainless steel, and is classically shaped with long thin lugs and a clean bezel and measures 35 mm wide by 43 mm long. There are two case variants that I know of, reference 9032 and 9035. The 9032 has the nifty Conquest gold and enamel fish logo medallion on the back, and is more common. The 9035, like my example shown here, has a plain back with no medallion. I believe this was intended for those that wanted to have the back engraved, but that is speculation on my part. The 18 mm lugs, while on the thin side, do have nice bold beveled chamfers on the sides, adding to the overall design. The glass is an acrylic crystal, with no date magnifier. I’ve seen many examples of this watch that have a crystal with the date magnifier, but I believe that the original was plain.
The CPR was offered with both a strap and bracelet option. There are vintage magazine ads that show the watch on a leather (or croc/lizard) strap, and also with a stretch bracelet that has a deployant buckle with a raised Longines logo. The bracelet is quite rare, and I’ve only seen a couple of examples ever. I was lucky enough to acquire my example with the original box, tags and sales receipt. The sales tag and receipt show a retail price of $ 140 and a sales date of early 1965. I contacted the Longines heritage department and they confirmed my watch was invoiced in 1961 to the Longines-Wittnauer Company, Longines US distributor at the time. It’s interesting that it sat at the dealer for four years before being sold. It’s always nice to have the little extras like the box or papers, tags or receipts. Vintage watches tell a story, and the extras just add to that story. The Longines buckle shown in the pictures is not original to the watch, but it is period correct.
The Longines Conquest Power Reserve is a beautiful watch with loads of character and a unique presentation of a great complication. It is however fairly scarce and I hesitate to put it in the “affordable vintage” category as it can command pretty steep prices (upwards of several thousand dollars depending on condition). That said, with patience these can be found, and when compared to other vintage brands the value to price ratio is rather high I think. This one is worth the hunt if you’re up for the challenge!