130 year old Swiss brand Alpina seems to be in the process of reinventing itself, going back to what made the company great. Alpina’s original Alpine 4 from the 1930s was a watch conforming to company founder Gottlieb Hauser’s four criteria for a sports watch: anti-magnetic, anti-shock, water resistant, and made of stainless steel. Such watches were intended to take on everything from mountain climbing to diving in alpine lakes.
Now at Baselworld, Alpina has come out with a new version of the venerable watch – the Alpiner 4. The new collection actually contains two models, both in 44mm steel cases. One is a GMT watch with Alpina’s new AL-550 GMT movement, featuring an in-house GMT/24H module. The other is a bi-compax Alpina AL-860 (Sellita SW500 based) chronograph.
The new Alpiner 4 goes a few better than the original criteria all for, adding a nice GMT complication. Nice because the hour hand is quick-set while the GMT hand remains stationary. Typically a GMT movement functions the other way around, with the GMT hand being quickset (Rolex is the notable exception). It’s a difference in philosophy not lost on those who frequently change time zones while needing to keep in touch with home base.
Also incorporated on both the GMT and the chronograph is a bezel insert marked to 360 degrees. This aids in using the watch as a makeshift compass. N-E-S-W compass point markings on the insert would have eased this function further. We like the fine coin-edge to the bi-directional rotating bezel. While a saw-tooth edge might be useful if one is wearing gloves, the coin-edge gives the watch a certain sophistication.
A third feature found in both watches is a 24 hour chapter ring on the inner bezel. This of course, makes sense for the GMT version – it’s integral to the function. But we confess to being a bit baffled by its inclusion on the chrono, which does not have GMT capability.
There are a couple of other curiosities on the chronograph. The rectangular pushers would seem to decrease the ability of the watch to resist water intrusion. The watch is rated to 100M of water resistance, both are. But such a feature, while lending style an a unique flair to the chrono, we tend to use our jaundiced eye when viewing a tool watch in the cold light of day.
Our only other quibble with the chrono is the wide-tipped hands on the subdials. We suppose this could make for less accurate reading of elapsed times, but our real quibble – and it’s just that – is a stylistic one. A fine tip on those hands would make the watch look that much, er… sharper.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Alpina supporting polar explorers Borge Ousland & Vincent Colliard in their IceLegacy mission to cross the 20 largest glaciers in the world. The IceLegacy mission is to bring attention to the plight of the world’s glaciers, which are rapidly disappearing, an environmental and climate issue of vital importance.
From our standpoint, the watches in the Alpiner 4 collection fit right in with such a mission – both as part of the explorers’ kit and to highlight the cause.
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by Ed Estlow
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