Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph
The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph features a bi-compax dial layout, 1970s inspired case and a monopusher. Angus Davies appraises this handsome watch, the latest addition to the brand’s Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage collection, at close quarters.
Alpina, the Swiss luxury marque, was founded in 1883 and has a rich history of making sports watches. The new Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph perpetuates this reputation and incorporates some design codes first seen in the 1970s. For example, the watch brand released several versions of the Seastrong model, endowed with an unusually shaped case. This case design now appears on this new Alpina, referencing the past while wholeheartedly embracing the future.
Prospective purchasers are indulged with a choice of three dial options, blue, blue with red accents and silver with contrasting black detail. Each version has a distinct character and, despite spending an inordinate amount of time appraising each model, I cannot proclaim my love for one reference at the exclusion of another.
Image – AL-727LNN4H6 (blue dial)
Image – AL-727LNS4H6 (blue dial with red accents)
Image – AL-727SS4H6 (silver dial)
The pencil hour and minute hands are lined with luminescent treatment. They are comparatively slender but clearly convey the prevailing time. Each hour is denoted with a faceted baton incorporating a soupçon of luminescent treatment.
Even the most exuberant version, with its blue dial accentuated with red details, still confers a sense calm, courtesy of its bi-compax dial design. Everything is balanced and symmetrical, proffering a more harmonious appearance than the ubiquitous tri-compax dial. Both blue options feature snailed registers, while the silver toned dial is endowed with understated, smooth black counters.
A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned adjacent the crown, with a small seconds display located opposite. Alpina has not adopted a one-size-fits-all approach when designing the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph. The counter hands on both the blue and silver models match, whereas the aforementioned ‘exuberant version’ is equipped with a red hand for the small seconds display and a black hand for the chronograph register. These subtle idiosyncrasies have no-doubt heightened production costs, however, the brand’s approach means there is likely to be a suitable dial option for every prospective wearer.
The hue of the central chronograph seconds hand is model dependent. Nevertheless, irrespective of the version selected, all colours employed coalesce wonderfully with the dominant tone of the each dial option.
A tachymeter scale is positioned on the flange, allowing the wearer to determine the speed of an object over a given distance. As mentioned previously, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph is unabashedly a sports watch.
The case of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph replicates the aforementioned period design, dating back to the 1970s. The profile of the case is a fusion of two styles, a cushion shape and a ‘bullhead shape’. Ordinarily, on bullhead cases the push pieces and crown sit above noon, whereas in this instance the crown and push piece grace the right flank of the case.
Historically, watches were much smaller than their present-day counterparts. The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph is designed to sate the desires of today’s horophile, measuring a generous 42mm in diameter. Nevertheless, do not misconstrue, this watch is not an unwieldy leviathan and should suit the majority of men’s wrists.
Close examination of the case reveals an alluring contrast between satin-brushed and highly polished surfaces. In order to keep each finish discrete, great skill is needed. Wavy lines would mar the otherwise crisp, faceted surfaces. Thankfully, Alpina has executed this case wonderfully with each surface exhibiting superbly defined edges and a palpable smoothness. Quite simply, the housing of this model exudes quality and refinement.
The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph is a monopusher chronograph. The push piece at 2 o’clock, starts, stops and resets the chronograph functions, obviating the need for a second push piece at 4 o’clock. This detail, which featured on some Alpina models in the 1920s, is a specification highlight much prized by purists. A monopusher is more challenging to realise, but thankfully Alpina and its movement supplier have surmounted all technical obstacles and, in so doing, imbued the watch with a cleaner right flank.
The vertical flank of the chronograph push piece is embellished with a Clous de Paris pattern, while the side of the crown is adorned with the brand’s triangular logo. The watch is supplied on a co-ordinating leather strap, featuring prominent stitching, and paired with a steel pin buckle.
Alpina is a subsidiary of Japanese watchmaking giant, Citizen Watch Company Limited. One benefit of belonging to a horological conglomerate is that it provides access to immense resources. When developing the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph, the Swiss firm turned to its sister company, Manufacture La Joux-Perret. This latter company, based in the Swiss watchmaking capital of La Chaux-de-Fonds, is a movement specialist with an impressive track record of producing calibres for a multitude of brands.
Manufacture La Joux-Perret created an integrated cam-actuated monopusher chronograph movement for Alpina. It is this movement, the AL-727 Calibre which is at the heart of the Startimer Pilot Heritage. While the movement lacks the venerated column-wheel and vertical coupling usually found on much costlier models, it still delivers a surprisingly smooth push piece feel while contributing to the watch’s excellent quality-price ratio.
In years gone by, balance frequencies were often 2.5Hz or 3Hz. The balance of this movement brims with modernity, oscillating at a frequency of 28,800 Vph (4Hz). By avoiding the slower cadences of the past, Manufacture La Joux-Perret has enhanced precision and shock resistance, two admirable traits which form part of Alpina’s DNA.
Prior to the arrival of the AL-727 Calibre, Alpina already had a chronograph movement in its armoury, however, with the advent of this newer movement, the power reserve has been enhanced. Indeed, the new AL-727 Calibre is said to offer 40% more autonomy than its predecessor, now totalling 55 hours.
Alpina offers three dial options, each evincing a unique persona. This has been achieved by shrewdly using different colours to imbue each reference with its own distinct character. Moreover, the appearance of the registers can be plain or snailed, again dependent on the dial configuration chosen. Often the so-called ‘bean-counters’ in a firm will relentlessly talk of ‘economies of scale’, but thankfully, the creative types at Alpina have got their way, introducing delightful doses of individuality to each reference and indulging the buyer with choice.
The dial of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph is incredibly attractive, primarily due to its bi-compax dial layout and the symmetry this confers. Despite its prepossessing looks, this watch does not sacrifice legibility on the altar of style. Indeed, the dial is a paragon of readability.
Although this watch is keenly priced there are no indications that Alpina has skimped on its specification. In fact, quite the opposite. The 1970s inspired case juxtaposes satin brushed and highly polished surfaces without any hint of one type of finish straying off piste. To keep both finishes discreet takes much skill and more time, however, the resultant aesthetic justifies the Maison’s efforts.
Alpina could have made life much simpler for itself and equipped this watch with a standard chronograph movement, however, it chose to make a watch featuring a monopusher. It has worked closely with its sister company, Manufacture La Joux-Perret and the results are very impressive. There are many watch fanatics who have long craved a monopusher but found the cost to be prohibitively expensive, however, the Swiss brand may now have brought the single, multi-purpose pusher within their financial grasp.
Alpina has a rich and vibrant history. For example, in the past it made watches both in Germany and Switzerland, working with several illustrious brands. Moreover, it has always been innovative, for instance, it created a patented crown system in 1933 for robust sports watches. Looking at the company’s annals, it has always had a penchant for marketing, creating eye-catching adverts in the early part of the 20th century. However, most of all, throughout its prodigious history, Alpina has been synonymous with making sports watches and, in particular, chronographs.
While Alpina clearly has an impressive past, it is very much a brand of today. In 2015, the company unveiled the ‘Horological Smartwatch’, a Swiss made connected watch that paired traditional hour and minute hands with smart watch functionality. The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph may not be quite as cutting-edge or neoteric in terms of design, but it is certainly contemporary and very relevant for modern-day living. Indeed, this is a watch that resolutely embraces the future.
- Model: Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph
- Reference: AL-727LNN4H6 (blue dial); AL-727LNS4H6 (blue dial with red accents); AL-727SS4H6 (silver dial)
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter = 42mm; water resistance 10ATM (100 metres) sapphire crystal to front and solid case back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph
- Movement: Caliber AL-727; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 55 hours.
- Strap: Colour coordinated leather strap with prominent stitching paired with a stainless steel pin buckle
- Price: £2,750 (RRP as at 7.12.2019)