This year is the 130th anniversary of Alpina and 3 new models were launched for this years Baselworld, they were inspired either by aviation, diving or sailing: the 130 Heritage Pilot Chronograph, the Extreme Diver 300 Chronograph and the Startimer Pilot Chronograph Big Date. All of them are very interesting but the Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph in particular caught my eye with its design recalling early pilot chronographs.
Firstly lets talk a little of the brand since it has a long and interesting history. Alpina has created and manufactured its own movements and chronometers in-house since 1883. However it wasnt until 1908 that the name Alpina was first applied to a line of high grade watches made by a large cooperative association of Swiss watchmakers known as the Union Horlogère. The “Alpina Union Horlogère,” whose members were called the “Alpinists,” can be said to be the predecessor of the present day modern Swiss watch groups , and the Alpina brand evolved out of this.
Despite its illustrious past and also managing to survive the quartz revolution by 2002 the brand was languishing when it was taken over by Frederique Constant. Since then Alpina is a brand that has been rebuilding itself, and as part of that rejuvenation process is the introduction of models drawing on their heritage. In 2003 they launched their first contemporary sports collection with huge success and also became the official watch for the Cessna Aircraft Corporation.
It ‘s Alpina’s practice to commemorate each decade of existence with a commemorative watch. Staying devoted to this practice, they commemorate their 130th anniversary with the Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph.
Alpina’s first iconic model was in 1938 with the development of the renowned “Alpina 4” model which they claim to be one of the first modern sports watches. The design of the Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph is inspired by Alpina’s 1938 “Alpina 4” pilot chronograph model and it’s quite a faithful tribute to the original.
Despite being inspired by the past the Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph is definitively modern in both its elegant design and technical conception.
The dial features a classic retro design, with outer Telemeter and central ‘snail’ Tachymeter scales and comes in white, black, or anthracite. According to Alpina they strived for a perfect balance between technicality, elegance and readability and I cant argue with that assessment. The dial despite being quite busy with scales is still very legible without extra clutter such as a date display.
For those interested in what these scales do, the Telemeter scale gives the distance between the source of a specific sound effect and the position of the listener and the Tachymeter scale provides the way to calculate average speed of movement. These functions are important for pilots and drivers who rely on time, speed and distance variables.
The crystal is AR coated to ensure good readability of the dial and its design and appearance is intended to recall the appearance of the original acrylic one. The overall design is nicely balanced while also delivering the functionality and legibility required for the gentleman in his cockpit!
At 41.5-millimeter the case is larger than the original one to suit modern tastes, its available in Stainless Steel or gold plated, I particularly like the chronograph “top-hat” style buttons that have cross hatch detailing giving them a greater tactile quality as well as adding extra visual character.
Inside is the case beats the calibre AL-860 automatic movement which powers functions including hours, minutes, seconds, telemeter and tachymeter with “bi-compax” 2 register chronograph showing elapsed time up to 30 minutes. The movement beats at a frequency of 28’800/h and has a power reserve of 46 hours. The calibre AL-860 is similar in design to the venerable Valjoux/ETA 7750 and based on the Sellita calibre SW500.
The highly esteemed 7750 is the widely used cam chronograph movement which while not as faithful is cheaper and more reliable than the original column wheel movement. The movement has been nicely finished with blue screws and geneva stripes on the top bridge as well as fish scale decoration and can be admired through the transparent case back.
The Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph has the “look” and aesthetic appeal reminiscent of the classic chronographs of the 1930s and 1940s but has all of the advantages of a modern mechanical chronograph. Its style conjures up images of a bygone era and manages to capture the charm of the original vintage model but has all the technological trappings of present day.
If these type of classically styled pilot chronographs are appealing to you other brands that make models in a similar style are Baume and Mercer with their Capeland Chronograph models, the Longines Telemeter and Tachymeter Chronograph’s or for slightly more contemporary designs with a nod to the past there are Bremont pilot chronographs.
The Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph retails for $3495.
Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot – Technical Specification
Model: AL-860B4H5, AL-860S4H5, AL-860G4H6,AL-860S4H6
- Alpina automatic chronograph caliber AL-860
- Fish scale decorated movement with blue screws
- Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Bi-compax chronograph
- 41.50 mm diameter case
- “Glass box” sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
- See-through case back
- 5 ATM Water-resistant
- Tachymeter/ Telemeter scale
- Genuine leather strap
- Delivered in prestige wooden gift box
More resources about the Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot on the Official Alpina Website.