Watches that break from conventional wisdom tend to provide the most memorable experiences on the wrist. We search out such examples around here and embrace new watches that aren’t afraid to cut against the grain in some way, shape, or form. Doing so presents a risk for brands, particularly large, well established brands. A by-the-numbers design meant to appeal to the largest possible swath of the population must, by definition, be as inoffensive as possible. Deviation from the template risks putting out a percentage of would-be buyers, but it also creates grounds for differentiation, a necessity in today’s crowded landscape of watch brands young and old. Achieving balance here means a design that’s unique and exciting, while being accessible enough to sell to enough people to make it work financially.*

Generally, the larger the brand the safer they play with this equation. But that’s not always the case, as many large brands still produce polarizing yet recognizable watches that have a focused appeal to a group of die hard fans. I’ll let you conjure up your own examples of watches that fall into this category. One such testament is the Longines HydroConquest, a watch with a big personality that’s been emblematic of the era it was originally designed in, the mid ‘00s. Longines was ahead of the game when it introduced the HydroConquest in 2007, presenting a fully modern, forward looking take on a serious dive watch at Baselworld, and even offered in both 39 and 41mm size options. The design has evolved in a few subtle but important ways in the intervening years, but this year the collection welcomed its first proper re-design in the form of a GMT.


[VIDEO] Review: The Delightfully Odd Longines HydroConquest GMT

Stainless Steel

Automatic GMT Caliber L844

Black, Blue, Brown, Green

Super LumiNova


Steel bracelet, Rubber, Fabric

Water Resistance



Lug Width

Screw Down



The new HydroConquest GMT is positioned alongside the existing time and date designs, which can still be had in sizes ranging from 32mm, to 39, 41, 43, and 44mm. The largest example remains true to the original design, while the scaled down versions enjoy a redesign that* has evened out some of the more aggressive elements of the original design (again, bringing that balance to a slightly different bearing). The HydroConquest GMT takes this theme a step further, doing away with the oversized blocky Arabic numerals at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock that have, in some ways, defined the watch since its inception. Those big numerals made the watch unique, but also relegated it to curiosity status for many buyers.

Longines is looking to capture a broader set of buyers with the new HydroConquest GMT, but at the same time preserve a bit of that unique process for old-school fans of the watch. There are certainly some odd personality traits to be found here, but they all require a closer look to fully appreciate. At a glance, this is a largely inoffensive watch, a true dive watch GMT that adheres to the pillars of the genre. Further, it utilizes a ‘true’ GMT, or ‘flyer’ style GMT with an independently adjustable hour hand. Throw all this into four distinctive colorways and you’ve got a release from Longines that’s caught plenty of attention from enthusiasts and, I imagine, the broader watch buying public as well.*
There is no shortage of great ‘flyer’ style GMTs on the market these days, however. Does Longines do enough here to create a compelling case for its $2,775 price point? The answer to that will probably depend on which of the above groups you fall into, and whether or not you need your GMT to be a dive watch first, and dual time watch second. I say that because Longines has an existing collection of GMT focused Zulu watches in their Spirit collection, offered in both 39 and 42m sizing, and utilizing the same movement (see our hands-on with the 39mm Zulu Time right here). But I like funky dive watches, and the HydroConquest is most certainly that, so this is a watch that I had firmly on my radar as one that I was hoping would turn out well.*

I’ll cut to the chase here and say that the HydroConquest GMT falls short in many small ways, but manages to overcome them in large part thanks to the funky personality on display. Truth be told, it’s the same story for many watches. The details that separate a watch that you love from a watch that you respect or merely find interesting rarely come down to some of the technical details, they come down to how it makes you feel when you put it on and look at it. Of course, that’s not universally true, but if you find a few shortcomings on a watch you just really enjoy, odds are strong you’ll find a way to deal with those shortcomings. The Longines HydroConquest GMT rides that line in many ways, and with so many great options out there with a similar feature set, this will come down to how well you connect with it aesthetically.

Longines has created a watch here that looks pretty normal at first blush, but becomes stranger the longer you look at it. The numbers are all about where you’d want to see them, with the 41mm steel case wearing broad and flat on the wrist thanks to the 12.9mm thickness. It’s kept just under 50mm from lug to lug so while it’s got plenty of presence on the wrist, it never feels uncomfortable or overbearing by any stretch. In practice, I’d say it compares well to watches like the Formex Reef or Monta Oceanking.*

The supplied H-Link bracelet features a female endlink, so the first link of the bracelet has a high angle of articulation, leading to a great fit on the top of the wrist. Because of that, there is a noticeable separation between that first link and the end link, which can be less than flattering at some angles, but won’t be something you’ll notice day in and day out unless you’re specifically looking for it. Most importantly, the bracelet is comfortable, and has a built-in quick adjust system in the clasp that’s easy to operate. Even the entry point option of the rubber strap gets a deployant clasp with a trick quick adjust system that will look familiar if you’re a fan of Formex. The posts inside the clasp itself slide within a rail like system, allowing for easy adjustments on the fly without even needing to remove the watch. Oh, and it’s worth noting that the lug width is 21mm.*
The case itself is rather straightforward, with a traditional tapered lug and set of crown guards, all uniformly brushed in their finish. There are no chamfers or other shaping efforts here, just a straight cut case that feels supremely tool-like in nature. They’ve also resisted any polishing on the bracelet, opting instead to focus on a couple of peculiar areas to focus the polishing: on the crown and at the edge of the bezel assembly. These are the two areas users will manipulate with their fingers, and in my experience with this watch, the polishing didn’t do any favors to making either component easier to handle. I found my fingers slipping off both the crown and the bezel in attempts to use them. This is compounded by the smooth ridges are the perimeter of the bezel, and the notch at the top of the crown. I’d call both a mild annoyance at best, and downright perplexing at worst, but they aren’t beyond usability altogether, so YMMV.

The bezel may actually come in handy here, as it puts dive duties over that of the GMT function. This is an elapsed time ceramic bezel with the first 15 minutes indexed in typical fashion. There’s a bit of play in the bezel itself, which could be a point of contention for some of you depending how picky you are about such things. The 24 hour scale, which is broken into day and night halves, is located at the perimeter of the dial under the crystal. It’s small and doesn’t really get in the way of everything else, but it makes the 24 hour hand a bit trickier to read. This is a compromise I’m fine with, as I’d use the regular hour hand for getting a read on local time. The HydroConquest GMT is slightly different than you might expect, but doesn’t take much of an adjustment to make proper use of.*
Sticking with the GMT functionality, which works as you’d expect, with the first crown position handling the winding, the second the local hour hand and date adjustment, and the third position which moves the hands in unison. Everything works as advertised, but there’s quite a bit of slop in the local hour hand adjustment. The 24 hour hand flicks about as the hour hand moves, and the whole thing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but again, it works so no harm no foul. However, these are the types of things that start to add up to a less than pleasant experience with the watch as a whole. The wrong bits being polished, the sloppy bezel and hour hand adjustment, the bracelet end link gap… it all adds up, but none necessarily rise to a game-breaking level of offensiveness. But these are the objectively questionable elements to the watch, and there are also some subjective elements that will likely leave a bigger impression.

The HydroConquest has always enjoyed a distinctive design anchored by oversized numerals placed at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions. Their design wasn’t for everyone, myself included, and that’s just fine as they made the watch unique in a sea of similarly styled dive watches. This is the first HydroConquest to ditch the Arabic numerals, and opt instead for shape based hour markers all around. The 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions are still treated to unique designs, however, and they help in retaining some of the asymmetric personality of the original design.

The result is, well, a lot of shapes competing for attention on the dial. A large triangle sets the stage at 12 o’clock, with a square date aperture at 3 o’clock taking up that space, with the 6 and the 9 o’clock positions receiving a circular marker each, the only two on the dial. The rest of the hour markers are rectangular bars. These pair with the triangular tip of the 24 hour hand, the diamond tip of the hour hand, and the lollipop tip of the seconds hand. It’s one of those dials that gets stranger, and makes less sense the longer you look at it. It may not be as overt as older generations of the watch, but it’s every bit as funky upon reflection.*

Somehow, it all comes together better than it has any right to, considering all the disparate elements. Does it go as far as its predecessor here? Probably not, but there’s enough to identify with and maybe even connect with, and at the same time the watch has become a bit more palatable to a broader subset of the market. The big question here is when will we see this design language make its way into the core HydroConquest collection in the time and date models. Given their willingness to preserve the original design as long as they have, I’d say it’s a safe bet they won’t be making any wholesale changes to the collection overnight.*
Whenever we get a ‘new’ version of something, details are inevitably lost, and fans will lament the changes. We love an original approach to an age old formula such as the dive watch around here, and the HydroConquest brought that. This is a largely homogeneous genre, which seems to be the safest route for many brands, and the new HydroConquest GMT take a step closer to ‘normalcy’ than the collection has ever been prior. I suspect that fans of the original design will indeed lament some of the changes here, but it does feel like it’s achieved a balance that will make the watch more approachable to a wider audience, while not entirely letting go of the personality that made it so unique in the first place.*

At the end of the day, this is far from a perfect watch, and there are indeed other great options for a ‘true’ gmt for lesser money, but there’s something undeniably compelling about the way this HydroConquest GMT comes together. It’s a watch you want to root for, because I want brands like Longines to take more risks with weird watches. My only wish is that the fit and finish was a bit more refined all around, but then again, that’s never stopped me from liking a watch that hits on enough of the intangibles. The HydroConquest GMT has that covered in spades. Longines.

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