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.