History of Timepieces Longines and the Kentucky Derby

Win a VIP experience at the Kentucky Derby by visiting Govberg Jewelers Suburban Square and discover the elegance of Longines.

Visit our store before April 23rd and take a picture trying on a Longines watch to enter the Kentucky Derby Photo Contest hosted by Longines. Use #myElegance #Longines to participate. Be sure to tag #govbergwatches, too!


Try on your favorite Longines watches in our Suburban Square location:

65 St. James Place
Ardmore, PA 19003

Vote for your favorite photo at

For contest rules visit

The winner will receive a trip for two (2) to attend the 2017 Longines Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby 🐎 in Louisville, KY on May 5th and 6th. Includes: 2 VIP tickets, 4-night stay in a nearby hotel, and round trip airfare for you and one guest

Stop by today for your chance to join hundreds of racing fans and fashion enthusiasts at the Kentucky Derby, and witness the most exciting two minutes in sports!

History of the Kentucky Derby

This year, Churchill Downs celebrate the 143rd Kentucky Derby, making it the oldest continuously contested sporting event in history. The Derby is also the only horse race to still be held at the site of the original event. Longines is a sponsor of Friday’s Longines Kentucky Oaks Day as well as being the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the Derby. The Kentucky Derby takes place May 5th and 6th, 2017.

American Pharoh winning Kentucky Derby 2015

The Founding

In 1872, 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark traveled around England and France visiting prominent racing leaders. He devised the idea of a Louisville Jockey Club for conducting race meets; racing in Louisville dates back to 1783. His track design became known as Churchill Downs and would serve to showcase the Kentucky breeding industry.

The track formally opened May 17th, 1875 with four races scheduled. Every year since 1875, there has been a Derby, even through financial problems which plagued the racetrack during construction.

Churchill Downs Over The Years


In the 1950’s and 60’s, the famed Kentucky Derby continued to grow. In these years, the first national telecast of the event aired, more seating was added and a film patrol was installed to provided replays to the officials. Since these additions, Churchill Downs have continued to undergo additional renovations of the clubhouse, Skye Terrace, barn area and other core renovations.

During the 100th anniversary of the Derby, the 1974 event set a new record of over 163,000 guests in attendance. The race has been known to attract people from all over, including celebrities and even England’s Princess Margaret.

Style & Traditions

The race is as much a horse race as it is a fashion show. Both women and men in attendance dress their best and take fashion risks. Women typically wear spring dresses paired with a bold Derby hat and accessories. There are no rules or limits when it comes to choosing the right hat to wear. Hats are believed to bring good luck and is a long established fashion tradition and helps make the Derby one of the greatest people-watching events.

Mint Julep at the Kentucky Derby

The Derby is not just a time for the ladies to get dressed up; the men also take part in the bold fashion choices. The modern Derby man wears endless colors, bold stripes or busy plaid and bright pastels. However, more polished looks can also be found with men wearing a classic navy or seersucker blazer. In recent years, some men have taken to styling eccentric hats to wear to the event.

Not only does style play a role in traditions of the race, drinks are also a part of the atmosphere. The mint julep is the traditional beverage of the race and can be found being served over an ice frosted silver julep cup or from souvenir glasses. The souvenir glasses were first offered in 1939 and are printed with all previous Derby winners.


A lush blanked of 554 red roses is awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner each year. This tradition began in 1883 when E. Berry Wall presented roses to ladies at a post Derby party, influencing founder and president Clark to make the rose the official flower of the race.

Weekend Events

The Kentucky Derby is held annually in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. The main event caps the two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds running 2km (1.25 miles). The Kentucky Derby is known as the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports. This nickname comes from the approximate duration of the race.

Only two horses have won the race below the two-minute mark. In 1973, Secretariat won at 1:59:40 and is a triple crown winner. In 2001, Monarchos won, clocking a time of 1:59:97, just squeezing under 2 minutes.

Every year on the Friday before the Derby, the Longines Kentucky Oaks is held. Not only is there a true fashion show, but there is a high stakes race for 3-year old fillies (female horses). This race was established on May 19th, 1875 and was modeled after the British Epsom Oaks. In 2013, Longines became a sponsor of the day. It is the fourth highest attended race outside of the Triple Crown races.

Longines and Horse Racing

Longines has boasted a passion for equestrian sport dating back to 1878 when the brand produced a chronograph engraved with a jockey and his mount. Timepieces created by the brand have been used in racing events since the late 1800s. In 1912, the company partnered for the first time with an international show jumping competition. Today Longines is involved with show-jumping, flat racing and endurance competitions in equestrian sports, including the Kentucky Derby, where they have been the official timer for years.


As both the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the Kentucky Derby, Longines is an integral part of the race.

No only do they help time the race, Longines also presents the winning jockey, trainer and owner with watches from the Conquest Classic collection. All around Churchill Downs guests can see different models prominently on display. Spotted around the facilities are additional Longines free standing clocks for guests to keep an eye on the time.

The Conquest Classic line is a tribute to the chronographs produced by Longines in the late 1870s and spotted on racetracks in New York in 1881. The models are outfitted with self-winding calibers and are both contemporary and timeless.

In 2015, Longines introduced the Longines Positioning System, taking timekeeping and track technology to the next level.  This system provides instant data on the exact position of horses during a race, the rankings, the distance between horses and speed.  It was designed to read the accuracy down to five centimeters and features up to 1,000 measurements per second. While the system was used for the first time at the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes Day at Randwick, it is a game-changing development for racing.


For Longines, investing in technological advancements is the latest step in our long term relationship with horse racing. The Longines Positioning System delivers a number of benefits to the sport [and] the industry.

– Juan-Carlos Capelli, Longines Vice President and International Marketing Boss

Every year, the watches given to the winner changes. Previous models have come from the Saint-Imer collection with rose gold version for owners and steel for Jockeys. Longines typically gives chronographs to the winner, representing the timing of the event itself.

Longines Kentucky Oaks Day

Official Watch of the Kentucky OaksFashion is a key element of the Derby and especially of the Kentucky Oaks Day, in addition to the race that takes place. The Friday before the Derby, the Longines Kentucky Oaks Fashion Contest takes place. In this event, 150 elegant ladies walk a pink carpet to win a Longines timepiece. The event is judged by a Longines Ambassador of Elegance assisted by two additional celebrity judges. A hat is the most traditional, and important accessory with bonus points for wearing the color pink. Guests celebrate fashion and fundraising for women’s health issues. The racetrack is decorated in pink and guests are asked to incorporate as much pink as possible to raise fund and drive attention.

Tune in May 5th and 6th to watch the various events and spot the different Longines watches on display and given to the winners of the different events. Be sure to have a mint julep, big hat and fancy suit ready for watching! Learn more about the Kentucky Derby. See new Longines models in our Suburban Square store and get your own version of the winners watch.

About Emily Smith
Newbie to watches but a quick learner. She loves the history of watches and loves learning how they work. She prefers Rolex and Omega watches but is learning the history behind other brands. Her watches of choice right now are her vintage Omega Ladymatic that is a mere 19mm and her newest addition, a 1973 Rolex Oyster with a navy dial. While she enjoys the look of vintage watches, she is excited to learn about new models and build her collection.

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