Alpina Returns to the Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic

What sort of watches do you have in your mind’s eye when you think of Alpina?  Racing chronographs, maybe? Field watches, perhaps?  We’d take a guess a regulator wouldn’t be top of the list.  So a brave choice from Plan-les-Ouates.

The firm can afford to take a chance.  After weathering the quartz crisis by – admirably – completely ignoring it and continuing to make mechanical watches, Alpina slowly faded from view until in 2002, Peter and Aletta Stas, two Dutch entrepreneurs bought the firm.  They already had Frederique Constant under their wing, so updated the business and ran it until Citizen bought the whole Frederique Constant group, Alpina included, in 2016. 

It’s not a run-or-bust chance though.  Alpina has plenty of regulatory history. The firm launched the original Avalanche Extreme Regulator Automatic back in 2005.  ‘Extreme’ was pretty accurate too – the ‘05 watch was a bit of a beast at 48mm.  Not one for the slender of wrist. That’s because it housed a variant of the venerable Unitas 6498, one of our favorite movements.  We’re delighted that the new watch features the same engine, although Alpina have managed to downsize the dinnerplate case to a rather friendlier 41mm.


There’s a lot to be said for the 6498. For a start, Methuselah had one, so every watchmaker from Aden to Zachary, Louisiana knows how to fix it and will probably have a drawer full of spares ready and waiting.  It’s the Volvo Amazon of watch movements; solid, reliable, robust and infinitely customizable.  It started life as a pocket watch movement and Alpina’s 6498 variant, the ‘AL-650’, gets modified on the firm’s CNC machine and is assembled in-house.  It has a 38-hour power-reserve, 31 jeweled bearings and runs at a brisker-than-the original 28’800 bph.

In this case, the geartrain also gets a significant tweak to allow the watch to show separate subdials for its hours, minutes and seconds; a proper regulator.  Telling the time at a glance takes a bit of practice but it’s satisfying when you get the hang of it. 

‘What’s a regulator?’ you might ask.  The story goes that watchmakers needed an easy to see, highly accurate clock from which they could set the watches or clocks they were working on.  Everyone knew what the hour was, but a clear view of the minutes from your bench was handy. Hence a ‘regulator’. We’re not wholly convinced on this one. No matter who invented or first championed the regulator, this display was initially designed to give greater reading accuracy, with no possible risk of confusion, particularly when the hour and minute hands overlay each other, once an hour. 

If you have any ideas of a regulator watch as being a bit, well, fragile and dressy, best leave them at the door.  The Alpina has the sort of heavy-duty steel case that will take a proper kicking.  Alpina claims it’s ‘able to withstand the most extreme conditions’.  It certainly looks like it with a screwed bezel, a heavyweight crown and case shoulders that look as though they belong in a boxing match.There’s a heavyweight crown protector at 3 o’clock (balanced by a reinforcement

opposite at 9 o’clock).  The whole plot is waterproof to 200 meters, not that that’ll bother you half way up Mont Blanc. 

Those screws on the bezel have unusual triangular tool recesses.  In fact, the whole triangular thing is a bit of a theme on the Alpiner.  Take a look at that dial – Triangle Central. Yet despite the business, it’s still easy to check the time as the pointed minute hand manages to stand out clearly against the darker background. Alpina says the thinking behind the triangles and gray dialwork are a link to ‘the mountains from where Alpina comes from. 

It’s not all gray, though.  The rubber grip on the crown, the rehaut, the sub-dials and even the strap give the whole thing a lift and a unity of design.

As far as we’re concerned, regulators are cool.  Anything running a derivative of the Unitas 6498 is cool.  And a regulator that you can strap to your wrist and do pretty much anything with is a win.  It’s not cheap at $2,295 but you’re getting something distinctive and interesting for your cash. Alpina

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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