Perhaps best known for their Seastrong diver’s collection and their Startimer pilot’s watches, Alpina have, in the last few decades, branched out by producing their own manufacture calibers in addition to their very first smartwatch. But, Alpina’s core strength remains their ability to generate high quality casual and sports watches at a lot more accessible prices than many of their bigger Swiss relatives. We’ve covered Alpina’s outgoing Startimer pilot’s watch collection before right here, and earlier this year Alpina introduced an updated Startimer collection, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Automatic Al-525 watch, a 44mm tool watch that people go hands-on with here.Taking even a brief look at the Startimer Automatic, it’s clear to see that Alpina are tipping their hats into some of the excellent military and pilot’s watches previously. On the dial, oversize applied luminous numbers for hour markers alternate with large rectangular luminous indices at twelve, three, six, and eight which all sit inside of a printed ring graduated at one-minute intervals and labeled at five-minute increments. Taken together, the dial elements very purposefully provide the aviation device texture. The dial itself, and really the opinion, are available in four different variations; white, black, white with gold accents, and also a kind of dark grey. A red triangle, an Alpina signature, sits prominently at the top indicating the sixty/zero moments position.
Big news today for the watch industry: as announced a few hours ago, Citizen Watch Co., Ltd has wholly acquired the Frédérique Constant Group, including its namesake brand as well as its subsidiary watch brands, the sporty and affordable Alpina, and the high-end and very limited-production Ateliers DeMonaco.
Citizen already owns Bulova as well as Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret SA that includes the Angelus and Arnold & Son high-end watch brands under La Joux-Perret. With Frédérique Constant and Alpina, Citizen says it “will be able to augment its portfolio of brands and occupy the space in the markets where some of our competitors operate and further expand the presence of the Citizen brand in the market.” To put that corporate speech into context: by acquiring Frédérique Constant and Alpina, Citizen clearly aims to go into battle against other competitively priced Swiss watch brands, which should include the likes of Longines, Hamilton, Baume & Mercier, and perhaps even Montblanc, Tudor, or TAG Heuer.
From Citizen’s side, it is easy to understand why this acquisition makes sense: it helps them strengthen their position in the Swiss watch industry and get a slice of the highly competitive two- to eight-thousand-dollar segment largely dominated by the aforementioned (and a fair number of other) brands. You see, for the last decade or so, Frédérique Constant has been heavily investing into developing and manufacturing its own in-house movements; and the resulting know-how and manufacturing capacity of this caliber (see what I did there?) remains very rare and a huge asset to its owners.
Where the Alpina Extreme Diver felt like it were designed by a committee intent on rehashing as numerous popular elements as you can at once, the new Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 seems to have had a good editor, since it eventually feels less “wordy,” so to speak. Its new streamlined, minimized aesthetic complements the old case with a more natural consistency and general ease, although the opinion is finally comfortable in its own steely skin. Gone is that the derived mashup of tool and dress diver elements found on the outgoing Alpina Extreme Diver (reviewed here) model, in favour of a clean, classic, and confident aesthetic that quietly brings priority to form more function — but barely at the expense of the latter, because the Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic is still a 300-meter dive watch, after all.In fact, I would even argue that the most striking design element is truly the lack thereof. Take, as an instance, how the Alpina Extreme Diver’s sword hands are replaced with a skeletonized handset, whose reduced surface area leads to a cleaner, more discreet view of the dial. Yes, these hands tear a comparatively familiar page out of this Panerai Luminor Submersible book, but the signature is not exclusive to Panerai, and it works nicely in complementing the minimalist aesthetic.
With Baselworld 2016 just around the corner, we see the launch of this Alpina “Full Black” Alpiner 4 Manufacture Flyback Chronograph. While its predecessor donned a classic brushed and polished steel match, this brand new version presents a more virile apparel courtesy of the black PVD coating which covers the 44mm-diameter case. Additionally, the PVD coating is great protection against daily wear and tear and provides the chrono a sportier and more contemporary edge.The chronograph is the one of the most popular complications from the eye arena, as well as the proliferation of inexpensive quartz chronos available on the current market, the function is frequently taken for granted. This is hardly the case here, as developing and manufacturing a chronograph complication is, well, fairly complicated. For a company of its size to develop a flyback chronograph movement from scratch and do battle in this fiercely competitive part of the marketplace was in itself remarkable. A fresh new look for your watch is certainly a welcome addition to the collection and also for buyers who prefer a trendy PVD look.The refreshed, dark look of the Alpina “Total Black” Alpiner 4 Manufacture Flyback Chronograph provides a nice variation on the line and, really, we expect to see even more come out. Cost for the PVD coated watch is really around the same as the first version at $4,750.
Both Frédérique Constant and Alpina are established brands at this point, but when you add to the mix Citizen’s arguably much larger distribution network, as well as all the possibilities of exchanging technologies between the two groups, you end up with a very powerful recipe. Although Citizen does have its own high-end, Swiss-made range of watches with Citizen Campanola (hands-on here), these two freshly acquired brands have an incomparably stronger international presence as well as a much more established product range.
Additionally, the Alpina Watches Online Store Replica Startimer Automatic’s width of 44mm at a relatively thin 10.7mm might be a challenge for those who have smaller or rounder wrists although I know why the opinion is a little large as size is another important facet of a pilot’s eye. Think about the favorite IWC Big Pilot in a whopping 46.2mm or a real classic military pilot watch such as the Laco B-Uhr at a currently unwearable 55mm (designed to be worn over a flight-suit) along with the Alpina begins to look like a more reasonably sized choice with only enough heft to let you know it had been equipped with aviation legacy in mind.When you’re talking about a fully featured Swiss made watch at a price point such as that of this Startimer Automatic, you expect to wind up with a somewhat less impressive movement to provide some economies but in this circumstance, the Alpina AL-525 quality gets the job done. Even though it’s essentially a base grade ETA 2824-2 with an Alpina rotor, the 38-hour power reserve AL-525 is exactly the correct kind of motion for the spirit of the watch and empowers the extremely approachable price of entrance. When you return to it, a pilot’s watch takes little more than an accurate and robust movement and also the ETA 2824-2 has had that exact reputation for decades. Servicing is also easy with such a ubiquitous quality and any capable watchmaker should have the ability to keep it in shape. One thing I want to mention that I really like is the large crown, which will be a wonderful tapered design.
From Frédérique Constant’s end, we have to look at the claimed motivations of the company’s founders. The brand was established in 1988 by Aletta and Peter Stas, and through over 25 years of constant growth, the group has reached its current state where it manufactures around 150,000 watches a year and employs 170 people in six countries. While Frédérique Constant had been one of the last wholly family-owned Swiss watch manufactures, apparently there was no one in the family with the interest to take the baton and carry on managing the brand. While the present management personnel and staff are said to continue to hold their positions following this acquisition, we also know that Peter and Aletta will remain in their executive roles for the next five years.
If you want to learn more about the differences and similarities between how these two groups make watches and movements, be sure to check out our detailed Citizen manufacture visit here, and our report on making a Frédérique Constant watch from scratch here. frederiqueconstant.com