Alpina Releases a Pair of Limited Edition Startimer Pilot Heritage Manfactures Housing their Equally Charming AL-709 Bumper Movement

Alpina introduced their in-house AL-709 movement last year with the Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture Limited Edition; a time only reference that captured the minimal and formal design of mid-century dress watches in a compact case offered in steel and a gold plated version. With the release, Alpina brought back a style of movement that the brand was known for using in the 1950’s along with the likes of Omega, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger LeCoultre, and Zenith. The movement we’re referring to is the “bumper” automatic movement – a design that led the way for watch brands to offer a self-winding movement to the masses, which was something that was totally brand new and unheard of at the time. The style of movement would gradually be phased out for the more conventional 360° rotor movement, but before the eventual transition, the bumper movement would see action in several Alpina references that included the Rensie, a small-seconds field watch channeling vintage military design (Cal. 582) and an Alpina reference sporting a 3-6-9-12 dial, as well as a Taubert Vacuum case (Cal.584). The bumper movement is very much a part of Alpina history, and has yet again returned to the catalog through a limited run of two new Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufactures.

I must admit, I’m still learning my way through the little bits of horology history, and the idea of a bumper movement is something that was unfamiliar to me. A quick search on the interwebs led me to an endless amount of forum posts about these highly sought after vintage movements and a whole community of collectors that went ga-ga for them. So what is a bumper movement anyways? Traditionally speaking, a bumper movement is a design that automatically winds a watch via a rotor that only travels a third of the distance (120°) of a conventional full-revolution rotor. The rotor travels the distance allotted until it’s met by a spring, and then bounces or “bumps” in the opposite direction until it’s met by another spring positioned on the other side of the rotor. Part of the charm of these movements is that the user can actually feel the “bump” of the rotor with the watch in hand, and in some instances, while on the wrist. The bumper movement would see several iterations from other watch brands, but would inevitably give way to the 360° rotor.


Fast forward to today, the two new limited edition Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture houses the unique movement with some modern updates. In geometry, architecture, and form, the AL-709 largely remains the same. The difference here is a rotor that travels 330° as opposed to the traditional 120°. The AL-709 movement also forgoes the set of springs for a pivoted “stop”, increasing the amount of rotor rotation. The movement is also very easy on the eyes, adorned in rose gold and fitted with blued screws. The Alpina wordmark is inscribed at the center of the anchor-shaped rotor with their signature italic typeface.

The dial remains minimally designed, keeping the exhibition caseback spotlight on the movement. But there are some notable changes here. The dial now presents a railroad minute track that houses a set of markers at every five minute interval with a healthy serving of faux patina. The next layer displays a set of Arabic numerals. Aesthetically, the watch comes across as more casual, and dare I say, sportier, when you compare this release with the one from last year.

The new Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture comes in two case and dial variations. The first model comes with a navy blue dial and a stainless steel case, which really highlights the patina markers and applied polished Arabic numerals, and is the more conservative of the two. The second model is encased in a steel gold-plated case and uses a gray dial as a background for black applied indices. We’re introduced to a familiar cushion case that balances between brushed and polished finishing. The Startimer Pilot Heritage should wear really, really well when you consider the 40.75mm lug to lug. The case measures 42mm in width and 13.25mm in thickness, and has  a straight flat shaped caseback, further complimenting that short lug to lug length.

Adding Arabic numerals to the dial and a railroad minute track with patina plots, especially on the navy blue dial reference, really makes the Startimer an attractive timepiece. It channels the vintage military design within the dial, but turns it into something slightly different and distinct when you combine the cushion case and of course, the AL-703 bumper movement.

Both models come attached with a brown leather strap with an off-white stitching. Each model is limited to 188 pieces and availability for these models is set for April 2023. The Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture stainless steel model with the navy blue dial retails for $3,195 and the gold-plated model with the gray dial retails for $3,395. Alpina

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Thomas is a budding writer and an avid photographer by way of San Diego, California. From his local surf break to mountain peaks and occasionally traveling to destinations off the beaten path, he is always searching for his next adventure, with a watch on wrist, and a camera in hand. Thomas is a watch enthusiast through and through; having a strong passion for their breadth of design, historical connection, and the stories that lie within each timepiece.