Baselworld 2012: Alpina Heritage Pilot Watch (Ref. AL435B4SH6)

We aim to revive Alpina back to its former glory by emphasizing Alpina’s historical pilot watches from the 1920’s. The relaunch of the Heritage Pilot is not just a watch, it is like telling a story.

Peter Stas, Alpina CEO

Early indications are that 2012 is looking to be a good year for Alpina.  Not only will we see a new dive watch collection from the brand this year, there will also be coming to market this rocking new aviator watch.  Inspired by original Alpina Pilot watch designs from the 1920’s and 30’s, this is definitely one of the best watches in recent memory from Alpina.   You may not know it, but Alpina’s original parent company was founded in 1883 (the Alpina name was first registered in 1901) and so a heritage piece such as this is very fitting.  Alpina did a great job with this watch — let’s dig into the details, shall we?

 Alpina Heritage Pilot Watch

limited edition of 1883 pieces

50mm brushed & polished steel case (hinged/”hunter” caseback), manual-wind mechanical movement (Unitas base), calfskin leather strap; delivered in a wooden and aluminium vintage gift box

The piece features leaf-shaped hours and minutes hands, as well as 11 luminous Arabic numerals that are accompanied by white railway-styled minute track.  This watch has a substantial 50mm case, but for a watch such as I think this is the right approach.  It is not 50mm just for the sake of having a large watch — there is important historical context here.  Pilot’s watches were actually designed for use by pilots, and thus “at a glance” legibility was crucial — and a bigger watch dial was more able to meet this need.   Of course the 37mm manual-wind Unitas-base movement also necessitates a large case.

note the hinged-caseback which reveals a sapphire crystal exposing the nice manual-wind movement

Speaking of which, don’t overlook the half “hunter” caseback on this watch.  If you are not familiar with hunter-cases, think of a pocket watch where the case is hinged and must be opened in order to reveal the movement — same thing here for the Alpina Heritage Pilot.  I really appreciate hunter-style casebacks — they are not often seen today which makes them all the more appealing, and think this is an excellent feature that Alpina built into this watch.

theme shot

More on this watch in an inside-interview with Alpina CEO Peter Stas, posted on the Alpina Blog.  Stay tuned for more to come from Alpina this year, including the launching of a new dive watch collection from the brand.

Did You Know?

Alpina History

The story of Alpina starts at the end of the 19th Century when Gottlieb Hauser founded the Swiss Watchmakers Corporation with other independent watchmakers of the region. Initially it was to purchase watch components and making own calibers. Very soon Alpina was being sold internationally and at the height Alpina had nearly 2000 outlets all over the world, an exceptional figure for those days.  It is no exaggeration to say that Alpina was one of Europe’s leading watchmakers.

Part of the reason for this success, other than the rigorous dedication to design and quality, (values that still hold true today), was the introduction in 1938 of the Alpina 4. The number ‘4’ stood for the 4 core principles that each watch in the series had to have: anti-magnetism, water-resistance, anti-shock and in a stainless steel case.

These principles gave a theme to the watches and can be said to have pointed the way to the development of what was to be the continued success of the company up until the 1970s. It was the so-called ‘Quartz Crisis’ that either sounded the death knell for many companies or meant the creation of major groups. The emergence of cheap, mass-produced and, above-all, impersonal, watches also nearly meant the end for Alpina. However, despite everything, Alpina hang tough and was revitalized in 2002 and the comeback was on. Working round the clock, a new collection was made ready for the BaselWorld show in 2003. In 2006, Alpina made one more move in its journey towards the future when we moved to a new, purpose built manufacturing site in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the spiritual homes of watch making.