Watches destined for the military have always had a certain charm to them, fulfilling a number of things that watch enthusiasts adore. For many, it is the life of hardship, toil and adventure that attract us to these watches – and rightly so, as the attachment of a story to a watch adds to its provenance. The other part to this is to see the watchmaking that goes behind these watches, and the requirements outlined by government departments and militaries that influenced their designs. A curiosity from the 1930s, the Longines “Majetek” is one such military watch that has seen great collector fervour for its military service, and the watchmaking that went into it – and in 2023, a more contemporary version in the form of the Pilot Majetek has been created for the 21st century, whilst respecting its heritage.
The original “Majetek” watches were issued to the Czechoslovakian Air Force during the mid-1930s, with its original design being registered on the 1st of April 1935 by Longines. So-called the “Majetek”, because these watches would be found with the engraving “Majetek vojenske spravy” on the case back, which loosely translates to “Property of the Military”. These watches would also have a “starting time indicator”, that could be rotated by turning the bezel, and lining it up with the minute or hour hand.
The Pilot Majetek takes these original design codes from 1935, and brings them into the modern age. The watch retains its matte black dial from this era, and is highly legible with its Arabic numerals. Gone is the radioactive radium luminescent paint, and the much safer SuperLuminova is utilised on the dial, albeit with ‘old radium’ colouring to match the yellowing colour of Majetek watches from the 1930s. To the delight of many Longines fans, the dial also stays true to the original, and only shows the hours, minutes and the seconds in a subdial at 6 o’clock.
Its stainless steel case measures in at 43mm – curiously, this contemporary version has substantial crown guards, as opposed to its design inspiration that never featured these. It does give the watch its contemporary look, as does the bezel, which features larger, more distinct fluting than its predecessors. The bezel is also used to grip and turn the starting time indicator – the triangle set below the crystal to show elapsed time – in vintage models, the crystal and bezel would turn together, whereas this modern version has the crystal fixed to aid with water resistance.
Turning the watch on its side reveals a plaque with the year 1935 engraved into it, and the watch features a solid caseback, just like the original.
The watches are delivered on a two stitch leather strap, with options of green or brown leather, and a NATO-type strap made of polyester fibre is also available.
Powering the watch is the exclusive Longines Calibre L893.6 (produced by ETA for Longines, that is equipped with an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring, boasting a power reserve of 72 hours, and is COSC certified.
The Longines Pilot Majetek is a watch that Longines does best – showcasing its storied history whilst bringing it into the 21st century. It may not be totally faithful to the original watch, however, modern manufacturing, materials and design can prove to be great for heritage designs, giving them greater wearability and durability. Longines has succeeded in bringing back the interest in these Majetek watches, and this can only prove to be a benefit for those already own the original Majetek watches, as well as bringing new people into Longines through a historical curiosity.