2010 is the second year of Alpina being the official timekeeper for the storied 12 Hours of Sebring race in Florida. The manufacturer celebrated this partnership with the production of a limited edition, two-timezone chronograph creatively called the 12 Hours of Sebring Automatic Chrono GMT. The watch is strongly influenced by style elements of race cars. This concept, unless overdone like in several AP Offshores, works fantastically. The sporty, yet subtle style and quality specs of this watch appealed to me when I first received the press release but playing with the actual timepiece at Baselworld 2010 was when I really got to appreciate it.
Perhaps the most distinctive element of Alpina watches is the Extreme Avalanche cases. The big, rubber-clad crown and thick, flat bezel make are adept for a larger size case. This explains why most Alpinas today are between 45 and 48mm in diameter, and why the 42mm models are eyed mostly by women. The 12 Hours of Sebring Chronograph spans 47mm on the wrist. The shape of the case is a mix of tonneau, and pillow with a generous dose of modern, angular sculpting. The crown-protecting shoulders are indicative of an Alpina watch. On Alpina chronographs, streamlined pushers replace the shoulders. One detail of the Sebring Chrono's PVD coated, stainless steel case that I find particularly noteworthy are the black, luminescent markings on the bezel. Overall the lines of the Avalanche Extreme give the impression that the watch is as aerodynamic as a Lamborghini.
The 12 Hours of Sebring is an international race. American, European, and Asian automakers compete. This aspect is captured by the Alpina 12 Hours of Sebring GMT Chronograph by a second timezone that is displayed on a 24-hour inner bezel. Alpina takes advantage of a lucky coincidence to provide a more meaningful connection between the watch and the race. The ETA 7750 chronograph movement that powers the timepiece is configured by default to measure 12 hour intervals. This is represented on the dial by the chronograph's hour indicator at six o'clock, which sports a symbolic red twelve. The white, photo-luminescent numeral hour markers are reminiscent of a tachometer. While I am not too strong on themed watches, the 12HoSGC does a good job at keeping the references very subtle.
Continuing with the race car parallel, the strap of Alpina's GMT Chronograph captures the luscious and exotic interiors of luxury sports cars. The exterior shell is covered with synthetic fabric that is imprinted with a carbon-fiber-like pattern. It would be nice if some veritable fiber mesh fabric was used to achieve this effect, but if my experience with capricious coramid straps is any indication, this route may actually have been too fragile. The underside of the strap is made of naturally grained, red leather which matches the red stitching and the the numerous red details on the dial. A folding, "depolyante" clasp is fitted to the strap and decorated with black PVD and Alpina engravings.
The back of the watch exhibits the Alpina AL-750 calibre movement through a sapphire crystal. The AL-750 is a modified ETA 7750 ébauche, which offers automatic winding, a 42 hour power reserve, and unbeatable reliability. The black rotor is finished and engraved at the Alpina manufacturing facilities. Alpina is very strong on finishing movements, which does not surprise me since they are a manufacture, able to build movements from the ground up. On a side note, Alpina watches are big consumers of wonderful Sellita movements, so I would not be surprised that Sellita's new SW-500 chrono caliber replaces the 7750 in future versions of Alpina chronographs.
The Alpina 12 Hours of Sebring GMT Chrono extracts a lot of its personality from the world of sports cars, but it does so without becoming a kitschy, themed watch. Had it been released as a regular part of the Alpina line, many may not even have noticed its link to automotive racing. Like a black Audi R9 or a Lamborghini Murcielago, it captures the spirit of the racetrack in a street-ready package.