Longines has long been associated with pioneers. The great French Canadian explorer Captain Bernier set out for the North Pole in 1904 wearing a Longines; the company made a special timepiece to accompany the Graf Zeppelin's round-the-worldflight in 1929, as well as the chronograph Charles Lindbergh wore on the 30,000-mile flight around the North Atlantic he took with his wife in 1933.
And in 1947, the Swiss watchmaker supplied ship's chronometers and wristwatches for the French polar expeditions led by ethnologist and explorer Paul-Emile Victor. In the next 30 years, the Expéditions Polaires Françaises organised 150 trips to Greenland and Adélie Land, as French Antarctica is known.
The expeditions required huge amounts of equipment - one that left Europe in May 1948 took seven amphibious vehicles, two DC3 Dakota aircraft, tractors, laboratory trailers, a mobile weather station, tents, sledges and 30 lorry-loads of supplies to accompany the geologists, meteorologists, geodesists, physicists, biologists, geographers, glaciologists and film-makers.
Fifteen members of the team also wore stainless-steel Longines watches to help determine the astronomical position of the expedition. They were unusual at this time for having a centrally mounted second hand, which was easier to read, and the hour symbols, numerals and hands all boasted a luminescent coating.This year, Longines has reissued this historic timepiece as a tribute to these explorers. Fitted with a self-winding mechanical movement and silvered dial, the watch is small by today's standards (the case measures just 38.5mm), but extremely legible, giving it a timeless retro charm that will look as good in another 60 years as it did back in 1947, and a fitting homage to the French explorers. Victor himself has another, rather larger, monument as well - in 1957, a Belgian Antarctic expedition named a previously unknown 8,500ft mountain Mount Victor in his honour.
Life in the freezer...
1. As well as being the coldest, Antarctica is also the driest, windiest and, on average, tallest of all the continents.
2. Around 98 per cent of Antarctica is covered in ice, which is on average more than a mile thick.
3. The first confirmed sighting of the continent's mainland was in 1820 by a Russian expedition, led by explorer Mikhail Lazarev.
4. The Antarctic treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries, including the UK. now ratified by 47 countries, this established the continent as a scientific reserve and bans all military activity.
4. There is, as yet, no permanent human habitation in Antarctica, although up to 5,000 scientists work there during the summer months.
5. The nearest capital city to the South Pole is Wellington, more than 3,300 miles away. The New Zealand city is itself the most remote capital in the world.
6. The Oscar-winning documentary March Of The Penguins was filmed in 2004 in Adélie Land.
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of British GQ.
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