Every time I talk to someone in the market for a diver they're always on the hunt for some variation of a Rolex Submariner, a Tudor diver, or an Omega Seamaster. I have nothing at all against these watches, I actually once owned the original Black Bay 58, but there are plenty of great options out there besides the usual suspects. Luckily for me, I was able to spend a week with one of those great options, the Longines Ultra-Chron Dive watch.
For me, dive watches can do anything, go anywhere, and survive pretty much any outdoor activity. I'm not at all a diver, but I am a passable snowboarder (like C- or D+ grade passable) so I figured I'd give the Ultra-Chron a go in the snow. Long story short, the watch survived without any issue which I suspect any decent dive watch should, but long story less short, I think we should talk about why more people should take the Ultra-Chron more seriously.
The Ultra-Chron isn't an exact reissue, but it was heavily inspired by the original Ultra-Chron from the late 1960s. Longines has a deep catalog of references to cherry-pick for inspiration and the Ultra-Chron is a very handsome selection for a modern refresh. The cushion-shaped case is a fun design that you don't see all that often in the dive watch segment. The current model has a more modern case size of 43mm and it does away with the date window giving the dial a slightly cleaner look. What hasn't changed is the use of a high frequency movement which the original was also known for.
The modern Ultra-Chron comes equipped with the Caliber L836.6 which beats away at brisk 5Hz, or 10 beats per second, has a 52-hour power reserve, a silicon balance spring, and an antimagnetic escape wheel. What's even more interesting to me is the new Chronometer standard that Longines calls "Ultra Chronometer."
Longines partnered with Geneva's TIMELAB, the same folks that brought you the Geneva Seal which you can see on high-end movements from the likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, to help test the Ultra-Chron to achieve what they call "Ultra Chronometer" certification. Unlike COSC certification, the movement is tested fully cased for 15 consecutive days, compared to 10 days with COSC, at various temperatures and is only deemed an "Ultra Chronometer" if its daily variation falls within -4 to +6 seconds per day which is really accurate by today's standards. During my week, the movement only gained between +1 and +2 seconds per day which was far beyond my expectation.
The L836.6 was designed exclusively for Longines in a collaboration with ETA. While not technically in-house I'd still call this in-group since both Longines and ETA fall under the Swatch Group's umbrella. When considering a dive watch whether the movement is in-house, in-group, or "off the shelf" it doesn't matter. What matters is that it works as advertised, that it doesn't give you any issues, and that it's accurate, I mean it is a watch.
Now, does Rolex, Tudor, or even Longines's sister brand, Omega, have a dive watch in their catalog with a high-frequency movement? They do not, and both Rolex and Omega's watches are significantly more expensive than what Longines is offering at $3,600. The Rolex Submariner starts at $9,100 and the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M starts at $5,600 on a bracelet. The Ultra-Chron is a huge value proposition based on movement alone.
Not only does the Ultra-Chron come equipped with an awesome movement, but it's also a great-looking watch. Sure, some might think 43mm is too large, but not on my 7.25-inch wrist. Also, the diameter alone doesn't exactly calculate how well a watch wears on your wrist. You have to consider things such as the 48mm lug-to-lug length which is only approximately 0.3mm longer than a modern Rolex Submariner's, according to my calipers at least. I can't see a difference when looking at them head on.
Looks are generally subjective, so I highly encourage you to check one of these out in person or you could save yourself some time and watch my accompanying video where I show off my C+ level snowboarding skills out in the French Alps. There are great clips of the watch too.