So, before we take a look at the watch you’ve brought, how did you first become interested in watches?
I was working with a good friend of mine, who happened to collect football boots, of all things. His passion for seeking out rare and unusual boots that people hadn’t heard of inspired me, he was incredibly passionate about it, so I wanted to have something like that in my life. I had always been fascinated with watches and would spend time looking at them in shops, so these two things naturally came together.
Had your family owned or been interested in watches at all?
Yes, actually, my mum owned a rolex which was a wedding gift from my dad. She kept it in the divorce. [laughs]
Matt Hanson of @vintagelongines
And the first watch you ever got was what?
It was a Longines, obviously. I don’t remember the model, but it was something I had found cheaply on eBay. It was a simple time-only piece from the 1960s cased in steel.
So that’s where the obsession with Longines came from?
Yes, definitely, they were the first brand I had any kind of exposure to. After buying another Longines, I began researching them and had managed to reach the archive department in St. Imier at the headquarters, they helped me check the serial number to verify that the piece was original. They also helped me with some general information about the piece, as I wanted to learn as much as I could. I remember thinking just how thorough and helpful the brand was, I couldn’t believe that they were doing this for free, and it left a big impact with me. They seemed to be as passionate about the brand as I was to learn about it.
Do you remember what piece this was?
It was an American cased, steel, time-only Longines on a brown leather strap. I ended up selling the watch and made a little profit on it. This was the moment I realised I could potentially turn this into a career.
Is that when you decided to start your Instagram @vintagelongines?
It would have been shortly after that, yes. I’ve been active on that for around two to three years or so.
Did you have a specific aim with it or?
There was no purpose or plan to be honest, it was just to be able to go and see other collectors’ pieces. I felt like the brand weren’t so prominently represented online back then, talking specifically about vintage. The spike in vintage Longines interest has been a fairly recent thing. I began posting the watches I was buying and the response was very positive overall.
What do you think has made the interest in vintage Longines spike?
The access to information through the archive has definitely helped collectors, but there has been an influx of collectors looking for watches that aren’t from the major brands. They’re seeking something which presents a bit more value, and potential value growth. Brands like Longines and Omega have been growing a lot in this way over the past couple of years. Collectors have also become quite taken with the idea of in-house movements, and this is something which a good vintage Longines can offer.
Do you have many in the collection that you would never sell?
Definitely, the first Flagship model I bought, I would never sell. The main reason is because I managed to get it from the original owner, the story was something I found very interesting.
What was the story?
He was working in the engine room of a British Navy ship, and had bought the piece through the official Navy store. He was on a trip to Singapore on a mission, and got the case-back engraved while in the port of Singapore. He wore it every day for the next 15 years until he ultimately retired, to buy himself the typical ‘retirement Rolex’.
What did you like so much about the design?
It’s just a simple and timeless design, in my opinion. Even though it was designed in the 1950s, I don’t think many people would bat an eyelid if you told them it was designed last week.
Vintage Longines 6B/159 military-issued watch
So tell us a bit about the piece you’ve brought today…
This is an RAF issued Longines 6B/159 (Ref. 4830) which I managed to buy from the niece of the original military serviceman it was issued to in the 1940s. It’s something I would absolutely never sell. The movement is a 12.68N, which was used by Longines in a lot of different variations. It was produced from 1938 until the 1960s.
And do you have information about the serviceman it came from?
Yes, I basically have his whole life story [laughs]. Through his niece, I managed to obtain quite a lot of information about his life, and the kind of missions he flew in WWII. There is one issue though, because he shared a name with a particularly famous RAF pilot, which makes online research problematic. His name was Stanley Turner.
What kind of missions did he fly?
Well, after joining the RAF in 1938, he joined the bomber command. When the war broke out, shortly after, he was a wireless operator and rear gunner in Halifax, Lancaster and Whitley aircraft. He flew mostly in the 35th squadron, who were a pathfinder force. The Pathfinders were tasked with flying into enemy territory first, to mark targets with flares, making it easier for the sea of bombers following to locate the target.
Wow, so the risks were presumably very high…
Absolutely, these planes were often shot down, so it took an extremely brave and proficient crew to successfully return from the mission. Stan actually bailed out of a crashing bomber on two known occasions, presumably with this watch on his wrist. So the fact that it survived is amazing to me.
35th Squadron Bombing German Battleships on 18th December, 1941
He was awarded the DFC and BAR for bravery in service.
Were these issued pieces particularly rare?
I’m not so sure about the exact production volumes of this reference, but I would estimate that around a few thousand were issued in the early 1940s. While they might not be incredibly rare, it’s very unusual to find one with such a complete provenance.
Are you actively searching for more of these with stories attached?
I’m always looking for watches with stories attached to them. Looking at many of the other pieces I wouldn’t sell, it’s often because of the story that I keep them, it’s often more captivating than the design of the piece. With military watches, if you manage to get the story, it’s great, but the imagination can run wild thinking about what the watch has seen and done, even in the absence of a complete story. This is what I find so fascinating about military watches, although, I wouldn’t call myself a military watch collector.
What kinds of other military pieces do you have at the moment?
I have had a few WWW ‘Greenlander’ 5707, I’ve bought and sold a few of those. I have one in the collection that I wouldn’t sell though.
It was a very lucky pick-up, in a small village from a very strange man. [laughs]
Why was he so strange?
Let’s just say he was very ‘local’. It took me a week to agree a deal with him, then another week before I could pick it up. I met him in a supermarket car-park, where he arrived in a rusty old pick-up truck. I asked him about how he had gotten the watch, and it turned out that he was in the house clearance business, and a family was getting rid of old belongings of their deceased father, and the watch happened to be sitting in a chest of drawers that were being removed. Sometimes watches like this show up in the most unsuspecting places, the hunt is a lot of fun.
To find out more, please visit Matt's Instagram page on vintage Longines..