Alpina was founded in 1883 and revived as the rugged, sporty sister brand of Frederique Constant in 2002 by the latter’s founders. One of the models that put the contemporary Alpina brand on the map was the skiing-themed Avalanche Regulator, which debuted in 2005 and married an unusual, semi-cushion-shaped steel case with a rare-for-its-time regulator-style dial. In 2020, Alpina introduced the successor to that model, which had been largely dormant since 2006, with a more streamlined, round-cased timepiece, the Alpiner Regulator Automatic. I had an opportunity to wear the watch for several weeks, including during some “Alpine” weather conditions in Northern New York’s Adirondack region.
At 45 mm in diameter the watch’s steel case occupies some substantial real estate on the wrist. Its bezel is relatively thin, all the better to frame the expansive, eminently legible dial. The bezel’s subtly curved surface has a brushed sheen; a flat sapphire crystal rises almost imperceptibly above it, contributing to the case’s relatively slender profile. The similarly brushed lugs with polished facets taper sharply toward their ends that connect with the warm brown leather strap. The caseback is solid, with a relief engraved Alpina logo and a mountain motif occupying the center circle; fortunately these engraved forms barely register on the wrist when the watch is strapped on. Protruding from the right side of the case is a fluted crown that screws down securely into the case. The crown’s polished surface includes Alpina’s peak-inspired triangular emblem.
The largest area of the dark blue dial is enhanced with a textured côtes de Genève pattern — a motif found mostly on movements, rarely on dials — and highlighted by two snailed, sunburst-finished circles, one between 9 and 10 o’clock for the single-handed hour display, the other at 6 o’clock for the running seconds. Both subdials use a large, white-printed Arabic numeral font. On the hours subdial, the numerals at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions are slightly enlarged for emphasis. The hands on both subdials, as well as the much larger and prominent minutes hand, are thin triangles, visually referencing the mountain summits from which the brand derives its name and inspiration.
As on all regulators, the most prominent and important display is the one for the minutes. The aforementioned triangular minutes hand sweeps along a ring of thick five-sided indexes, rectangular on their sides but tapering to sharp points — a redesign also in the service of the Alpina triangle logo. Bordering them is a metallic-colored flange with a printed 60-minute scale. The scale’s numerals, marked at each 5-minute increment, correspond to the indexes. The only exception is the rather large stretch between 8 o’clock and 12 o’clock, where no indexes appear in order to give breathing room to the hours subdial. To be honest, for someone who prizes legibility even in regulator watches, these indices are often sorely missed, as without them it is difficult to read the time in the last quarter of any hour with to-the-minute precision — at least without squinting at the tiny numerals on the flange.
The AL-650 automatic caliber, which does its duty behind the protective shroud of the engraved caseback, is built upon a workhorse ETA base caliber. Significantly, and somewhat confusing at first, this movement replaces the previous one used in the Avalanche Regulator models circa 2005-06, also called Caliber AL-650, which was based on the Unitas 6498. (It also differs from the proprietary AL-950 caliber that superseded the original AL-650 in the “Manufacture” models, circa 2008.) The major difference between the older and newer mechanisms is that the former was manually wound, the latter self-winding, hence the justified use of “Automatic” in the modern watch’s name in place of “Avalanche.” The predecessor, essentially a repurposed pocketwatch caliber, was also larger in dimensions and slower in its frequency (18,800 vph), though it stored a longer power reserve of 53 hours as compared to the new model’s 38 hours.
The strap contributes a fair portion of this watch’s outdoorsy appeal, made of thick but caressingly soft calf leather with ecru-colored contrast stitching. It affixes to the wrist with a simple but sturdy steel pin buckle with brushed surfaces and an etched Alpina logo. The combination of brown leather, brushed steel, and textured blue makes the Alpiner Regulator Automatic both handsome and versatile as an everyday timekeeping accessory, and its unusual “triple display” is likely to spark conversation whether in the office or on the slopes. The model in the review retails for a very attractive $2,104, and is also available with a black dial and strap, or in a limited edition of 833 pieces with a blue dial and black strap with red dial details and topstitching. Each version is also available on a steel bracelet for $2,215. In keeping with its mountaineering theme, Alpina is pledging to donate $100 of each watch sold over its website to the National Parks Foundation, which the brand supports as an official partner.
|Manufacturer:||Alpina Watch International SA, Chemin de la Galaise 8, 1228 Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland|
|Functions:||Central minutes, hours and seconds on subdials|
|Movement:||Alpina Caliber AL-650, automatic, 28,800-vph frequency, 38-hour power reserve, 31 jewels|
|Case:||Stainless-steel three-part case with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, screw-in crown, solid engraved caseback, water-resistant to 100 meters|
|Bracelet and clasp:||Brown calfskin leather strap with off-white stitching, steel pin buckle|
|Dimensions:||Diameter = 44 mm|