The Extreme Diver is a watch I am about to gush about. Not totally and apologetically, but Alpina's very well-mannered timepiece is a product I am going to recommend without much hesitation. The sister brand of Geneva-based Frederique Constant, is doing a great job of offering a solid product at a reasonable price - which is for the most part a hallmark of the group. This isn't the first dive watch from the brand, and it won't be the last, but those hungry for a good looking "real watch" have a good option here.
I recall the moment I saw the Extreme Diver for the first time in person. It was while meeting the brand in Las Vegas last year. My eyes sort of immediately gravitated toward the watch's polished hour markers and matte black dial framed by a black bezel with the brand's signature "triangle" screws. It certainly wasn't the watch the brand was most interested in me seeing. Alpina and Frederique Constant had just come out with in-house movement-based world timer watches that they were trying to highlight. Those were nice and all, but I loved the simple lines with a hint of the right modern sporty style that I saw in the Extreme Diver. I knew I wanted one then and there.
The 44mm wide case isn't too large, nor is it too thick at 13mm. 300 meters of water resistance is just the right depth rating for these types of watches and the dial and bezel had just the right amount of luminant. What the Extreme Diver is not, is "extreme." It is rather quite appropriate actually. Everything is in the right spot and the brand positioned the piece well as a semi-conservative sport diver with some brand identity. Prudence (in a good way) seems to denote this watch much more than anything extreme. It is true that the "Extreme" name has been used a lot in Alpina dive watches, but perhaps that is a misnomer. It is one of the things I am willing to forgive, but in a sense I think the name sends the wrong message. In fact, the Extreme Diver is about as extreme as its ambassador, Billy Baldwin.
At the time I published this article, I realized that I had neglected to include a more detailed picture of the handsome crown. Slighter larger than necessary, the rubber-ribbed crown has a large red brand logo triangle on its side that ends up looking quite cool. The triangle shows up in a few other places, namely as the counterweight on the seconds hand and on the buckle's deployant clasp. In addition to the crown as a unique feature, you also have the shape of the case, as well the custom black rotor on the movement. These are all very "Alpina" things which give the Extreme Diver character as well a distinct place in the brand.
Little details abound that you don't expect to see on a watch at this price. The several layers of dial, the applied hour markers, the handsome amount of SuperLumiNova, the AR coated sapphire crystal, and the nicely made custom bracelet are among those things. You just don't find too many Swiss dive watches from major brands at these prices. There are some, but not many, and they don't all look this nice. The cushion-style case is also a good design point as it allows for the dial to be round, but creates a "substantial" and hefty look to the case without feeling chunky.
At first I felt the hands were a bit too thin for the design. They may be, but after living with the Extreme Diver for a while I've learned to really like the dial as the watch's best feature - even though it isn't perfect. It is however very well visually balanced, legible, and without harsh areas. Those who know me are aware that I am not a huge fan of "open" date windows that allow you to see yesterday's and tomorrow's date. Yes, this watch has that but to be honest after initially getting over it, the window doesn't bother me much. I more or less consider it as part of the specific theme Alpina is going for in the watch. I would have liked for the rotating bezel to feature a ceramic inlay but for the price, the aluminum one is fine. The brushed finish works well with the dial, a finish that isn't ready to go with ceramic anyways.
Inside the Extreme Diver is the Alpina caliber AL-525, which is essentially a base Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic. Alpina uses their own rotor and possibly decorates the movement. Though I suspect they are purchasing decorated movements. Good to see in a watch like this is an open case-back window to allow you to see the movement, as well as retaining that 300 meters of water resistance. Open case-backs are not wholly common on dive watches, and I suspect Alpina included one here because they knew the type of person buying this watch would like to see it there.
The Extreme Diver is available with this three-link style steel bracelet (with a butterfly style deployant), a mesh metal style bracelet, or a rubber strap. Each version also comes with a Velcro strap that while unattractive, is useful for having a secure fit on your wrist while diving or during other activities. Little style elements like the deployant on the bracelet tend to suggest that Alpina has a more "desk diver" life plan in mind for the watch, but that doesn't mean it isn't ready to get dirty when it is called for.
Alpina ships the Extreme Diver in a really cool presentation box which looks like a mini yellow diver's air tank. You twist the bottom and the watch comes out. It is really a neat box and a great way to meet your new dive watch for the first time. Makes you just want to jump in a pool ASAP. Little quirks aside, the Extreme Diver is a solid and well-mannered watch from Alpina. In my opinion, it is their best looking dive watch to-date, and hits enough sweet spots for me to easily suggest it to anyone looking for a timepiece such as this. Price on the steel bracelet (ref. AL-525LB4V26B) is $1,450. alpina-watches.com
>Model: Extreme Diver
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Someone looking for a solid Swiss diver with a timeless look and fair price tag.
>Best characteristic of watch: Great overall presentation for the money.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Open date window isn't universally a good design choice.