Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono
The Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is available in three options, two steel versions and a third model featuring a bi-metallic case and bracelet ensemble. Building on the success of the inaugural Alpine Eagle models of 2019, these latest creations feature a fully integrated chronograph movement with column wheel and vertical coupling. In addition, they also provide the added convenience of a flyback function. Angus Davies explores the specification of the bi-metallic model in close detail.
In 2019, Chopard unveiled the Alpine Eagle, a collection of watches featuring integrated bracelets. Shortly after the models were launched, I travelled to the Swiss firm’s workshops in Fleurier and Geneva.
Over the years, I have toured numerous watch factories in my professional capacity and have grown accustomed to seeing the same processes and techniques. Nevertheless, during my time with Chopard, I was repeatedly wowed by its in-house capability, stringent process controls and the firm’s close attention to specification details.
The Alpine Eagle, a three hand model with date, was launched in two variants, large and small. The latter model was also offered with a gem-set bezel, exuding a sense of glamour and femininity.
While the Alpine Eagle looks fresh and contemporary, it shares some of its DNA with a former model in the brand’s back catalogue, the St. Moritz. This particular watch was conceived by Chopard’s Co-President, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, back in 1980. Interestingly, it was Mr Scheufele and his son, Karl-Fritz, who were instrumental in the creation of the Alpine Eagle, the spiritual successor of the St. Moritz.
The name of the Alpine Eagle pays due reverence to the eagles riding the thermals above Switzerland’s hillsides and mountains. The dial of each model replicates an eagle’s iris, while the small seconds hand is inspired by an eagle’s feather.
Since launching the initial versions of the Alpine Eagle in 2019, the model has proved incredibly popular, so much so that the brand has released new variants of the Alpine Eagle Large and Alpine Eagle Small. In addition, Chopard has introduced a new chronograph version of the Alpine Eagle, the first time this complication has been paired with the raptor-themed model.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is available in Lucent Steel A223 and offered in two dial variants, Aletsch Blue or Pitch Black. In addition, the watch is also available in a bi-metallic option, pairing Lucent Steel A223 with 18-carat ethical rose gold. This latter watch is offered in just one dial option, Pitch Black and it is this variant that I concentrate upon herein.
The dial is formed of brass, stamped with a sunburst pattern and subject to galvanic treatment, imbuing its surface with the desired Pitch Black hue. As previously mentioned, the dial surface emulates the appearance of an eagle’s iris. The epidermis of the dial features pronounced lines that are slightly curved.
Baton-style hour and minute hands are lined with luminescent treatment, aiding legibility in dim light conditions. The bold hands have blunt tips and prove highly intelligible. The central chronograph seconds hand features a liberal application of red tone on its tip, while, as previously mentioned, the fletching-style counterweight replicates the appearance of an eagle’s feather.
Rectangular shaped batons denote the hours, save for those areas where the counters assume greater importance. At noon, Chopard has set aside batons, preferring to depict the midnight hour using Roman numerals. All numerals and batons are lined with luminescent fill.
Three snailed counters dominate the main dial area, courtesy of their generous proportions. The 30-minute and 12-hour registers, positioned at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, are snailed, framed with golden circlets and feature gilt hands with red tips. A small seconds display is located above 6 o’clock. Whereas the aforementioned chronograph registers are fully snailed, the small seconds display only features snailing at its centre and is framed by a smooth seconds track. The hand is gilded and embellished with a smattering of white luminescent treatment.
A date aperture is positioned between 4 and 5 o’clock. A detail which will inevitably appeal to purists is that the colour of the date disc and the dial match. The numerals on the date disc are generously proportioned, facilitating ease of read-off. A tachymeter scale is presented on the dial flange, providing the means to measure the speed of an object over a known distance.
Measuring 44mm in diameter, the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono exhibits notable wrist presence. However, the absence of elongated lugs means the watch wears smaller than its stated dimensions.
When Chopard unveiled the inaugural versions of the Alpine Eagle, it encased the watch in Lucent Steel A223. This steel alloy, exclusive to Chopard, was developed by Voestalpine, an Austrian based company. It employs up to 70% recycled steel and is melted twice, removing impurities and delivering similar characteristics to surgical stainless steel, including hypoallergenic properties. Lucent Steel A223 is harder than conventional stainless steel, enhancing scratch resistance. Finally, this steel alloy is highly reflective, bestowing an extraordinary brilliance.
With this version of the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono, Lucent Steel A223 is positioned in close proximity to 18-carat ethical rose gold. This pairing appears more effervescent than the stainless steel version and yet conversely it doesn’t feel as excessive as a fully gold case and bracelet ensemble. In short, the bi-metallic approach feels bold yet tasteful.
The bezel, crown and the central links of the bracelet are presented in noble metal. The bezel features eight steel screws, granting eye-catching contrast with the adjacent gold. Every slot of each screw-head is aligned to follow the trajectory of the adjacent dial flange. Everything feels beautifully considered.
Chopard has equipped the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono with ‘ear-like’ case elements. Those on the right side of the case afford some protection to the crown, while those opposite introduce a degree of balance and symmetry to the overall composition. The chronograph pushers are discreet, but encompass an ergonomic design, granting ease of use.
Appraising the vertical flank of the case, the aforementioned ears are polished to a gleaming conclusion, whereas the pushers, leading edges of the caseband and bracelet sides are satin-brushed. Chopard has a rich history of juxtaposing polished and satin-brushed surfaces. It costs the brand more to combine the two forms of surface treatment but,in my opinion, the resultant aesthetic justifies the extra expense.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is endowed with an exhibition caseback affording views of the self-winding movement, the Chopard 03.05-C. This movement is made in the brand’s own Manufacture in Fleurier (the brand has two movement facilities in Fleurier).
The Genevan marque has equipped this model with a flyback chronograph. Like a conventional chronograph, the stopwatch function is started and stopped with the pusher at 2 o’clock and is reset using the pusher at 4 o’clock. However, the flyback function allows the wearer to press the pushpiece at 4 o’clock while the chronograph is in use and in one simple step, stop, reset and restart the chronograph. This is a particularly useful function when timing consecutive events.
Again, purists will inevitably nod with appreciation when they learn that this is a fully integrated chronograph with column-wheel and vertical coupling. The benefit of this configuration is that when actuating the chronograph there is no discernible pause unlike some modular chronographs. In addition, the pusher feel is smoother, there is less wear and there is a welcome absence of drag.
Unlike some Chopard movements which are adorned with traditional Côtes de Genève motif, the bridges on the Chopard 03.05-C are decorated with colimaçon. This infuses the movement with a note of modernity. Other examples of finishing include anglage and polished screw sinks. The tungsten alloy rotor is partially openworked, affording views of movement components below while the mainplate is embellished with perlage, consistent with traditional watchmaking etiquette.
The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement is fitted with 45 jewels. Assuming the mainspring is fully wound, the movement will run autonomously for 60 hours. The watch has a hacking seconds facility, allowing the wearer to precisely synchronise their watch with a reference clock. The Chopard 03.05-C has also been subjected to the independent scrutiny of COSC, leading to the award of chronometer certification.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono does not sacrifice practicality on the alter of style. In fact, throughout this composition this watch exhibits both functionality and beauty in equal measure.
Often a dial rich in detail proves interesting to behold but at the same time can appear cluttered and confusing. No such afflictions affect this chronograph. The Pitch Black, iris-inspired dial possesses a fascinating texture while the various snailed counters exhibit a sumptuous mien. The central chronograph seconds hand encompasses colour and a fletching-style counterweight, yet nothing inhibits understanding.
The additional episodes of 18-carat ethical rose gold enliven the overall appearance but without overburdening the composition with too much richness. The balance between the steel and golden hues proves attractive, yet elegantly understated. Moreover, the notable gleam of the Lucent Steel A223 makes the case and bracelet appear as if they are hewn solely from noble materials.
Beyond the pulchritudinous appearance of the watch, the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is endowed with a sublime movement. Where some chronographs feature a base with a module affixed on top, the Chopard 03.05-C is fully-integrated and from the outset was always intended to be a chronograph. While some chronograph movements are cam actuated, the Chopard 03.05-C features the optimal pairing of a column-wheel and vertical coupling.
This latter combination means there is no hesitation when the chronograph is started and the pushers feel buttery smooth when pressed. With many chronographs, when the stopwatch is actuated the amplitude of the balance drops, adversely affecting the precision of the timekeeping functions. This situation is termed ‘drag’, but thankfully with the Chopard 03.05-C this does not present such a problem. Furthermore, by combining a column-wheel with a vertical coupling, the movement is less prone to wear and tear.
Chopard has created a watch that successfully combines functionality and beauty to a glorious conclusion. The model is infused with technical merit and the high quality of its construction is discernible. However, ultimately, I return to the interesting marriage of Lucent Steel A223 with 18-carat ethical rose gold, two metals with their own characters that harmoniously co-exist and share a propensity to gleam tastefully. The Alpine Eagle has now ascended to new heights. Where will it go next?
- Model: Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono
- Reference: 298609-6001
- Case: Lucent Steel A223 & 18-carat ethical rose gold; diameter 44 mm; height 13.15 mm; sapphire crystal to front and exhibition case back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; flyback chronograph
- Movement: Chopard 03.05-C; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 45 jewels; power reserve 60 hours
- Bracelet: Lucent Steel A223 & 18-carat ethical rose gold bracelet with triple folding clasp
- Price: £23,400 (RRP as at 12.10.2020)