Alpina Brings Back the Hunter Case-Back with the Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic

Alpina is calling upon their heritage as a supplier to various air forces throughout the 20th century for their latest release, the Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic. On the surface, it’s a fairly ordinary pilot’s watch with the requisite Alpina details, but there’s a secret around back in the form of the rarely seen and incredibly charming hunter case-back functionality, which allows you to view the movement with the flip of the hinged caseback. That makes the Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic something of a traditional pilot’s watch, and a convincing throwback that should appeal to fans of aviation watches. Let’s take a closer look. 

The new Startimer checks in at 44mm, which is a big watch by any standard, but downsized compared to the 50mm Startimer Pilot Heritage which was released by the brand in 2015. That watch, limited to 1,883 pieces, was manually wound and also featured the hunter case-back seen on this new reference. This watch, with an automatic movement and more wearable diameter, is quite a bit more practical than the original, which was more of a curiosity for collectors than a watch meant to be worn on a regular basis. The Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic has a matte black dial, large hands filled with lume, and big easy to read Arabic numerals that make it a practical choice for pilot’s watch enthusiasts. 

Little Alpina details abound throughout the watch’s design. The Alpina logo, we’re told, uses the original font that the brand used in 1883, and it’s slightly more ornate than the logo we’ve come to expect on other contemporary Alpinas. The triangle at 12:00 is a pilot’s watch staple, here with a hole in the center that is in line with Alpina watches of the past. And the red counterweight on the seconds hand gives the watch just the slightest hint of color. Otherwise, it’s a fairly monochromatic affair, with the black dial punctuated by beige colored lume on the hands and hour markers, and a similarly colored minutes track. The faux-lume look here feels appropropriate considering the nature of the watch, but of course tastes vary widely on this topic. To my eye, it works, and immediately focuses the watch on the past, which was clearly Alpina’s intent with this piece. 

Underneath the hunter case-back ticks Alpina’s AL-525 movement, a rebranded Sellita SW200-1. This, of course, is a reliable and accurate movement, and while it’s not highly decorated, it does include a custom Alpina rotor. And there’s a real novelty to the hunter case-back that shouldn’t be dismissed. These give any watch an old-time, pocket watch-like feel, and while it adds some buld to the case, it seems to me to be a fair trade off for a collector who is after something that’s a bit unique. 

The Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic retails for $1,393.98 (after a currency conversion) and is available right now through Alpina. Alpina

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.