“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart,” wrote Stephen King – seemingly the guiding principle behind the editing process that designed the new Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic – which replaces the Alpina Extreme Diver, and makes an extremely strong case for getting a second chance to make a first impression.
Earlier in the year, the new Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic was introduced with an admittedly over-dramatic video exhibiting an ice-climber making his way up a mountain to a snowy, high-alpine lake, cutting a hole in the ice and dropping in for a frigid, late-night swim. Now, as divorced from reality as the concept may seem, the fundamental spirit of the Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 and those adventurous aspirations feel somewhat warranted through its broad-shouldered case, tasteful applications of color, and clean, minimalist design language. It’s rare when a watch with a base-level automatic movement comes along that truly turns heads, especially in one of the most hotly contested segments in all of watchmaking. But it’s even rarer when such a watch goes on to become one of the year’s most under-the-radar surprises, all from what boils down to a simple dial and bezel swap that ultimately breathes new life into the Alpina Seastrong collection.
Rather than focus on what’s different about the new Alpina Seastrong Diver 300, what’s the same is almost as interesting – especially when you consider that its dramatic new identity is built atop the exact same 44mm case and oversized crown of its predecessor. This time around, however, the rounded, ellipse-shaped indices on the dial and bezel provide a more pronounced contrast to the unique, angular shape of the semi-square case, yielding a symmetry and purpose-built minimalism that seems to draw inspiration from aquatic icons like Panerai’s PAM 389, or even the Nautilus 5711 from Patek Philippe.
Intentional or not, even the 5711’s signature “ears” at 3 and 9 o’clock show up here, giving the Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic an air of Gerald Genta’s porthole-shaped masterpiece – easily one of the coolest silhouettes in watchmaking. What’s particularly nice, though, is that despite some subtle similarities between the aforementioned, none of the new elements feel derivative – almost as though homage is being paid in fleeting glimpses, re-drawn from memory.
At a fully modern 44mm wide by 13mm thick, the Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Automatic is by no means a small watch, but the lug-to-lug length is a merciful 49mm, meaning the watch remains proportionate, and sits flush on even my flat 6.75” wrist. The sides of the case and bezel exhibit some nice satin and high-polished finishes which provide a sharp contrast to the colorful anodized bezel insert – in this case, red. Now, contrary to the deep oxblood bezel on the Tudor Black Bay, for instance, this Alpina Seastrong Diver 300’s bezel is a brighter, more cheerful shade of red that plays nicely with the rest of the polished elements on the watch. Alpina was wise to keep things classic with an aluminum insert instead of following the ceramic trend – which would have felt considerably out of place here.
The bezel itself has a crisp, satisfying rotating action with zero play. Its edges aren’t super grippy, but with a set of serrations every ten minutes, there’s more than enough to grab, even with wet fingers. There are 12 raised, luminous hour markers applied on the bezel insert, with the first 20 minutes also being luminous – an unexpected touch. However, it would have been a nicer surprise if the lume on the dial and hands were as good as the lume on the bezel, but that’s a minor nitpick – this ain’t a Panerai, after all.
Where the Alpina Extreme Diver felt as though it were designed by a committee intent on rehashing as many popular elements as possible at once, the new Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 seems to have had a good editor, because it finally feels less “wordy,” so to speak. Its new streamlined, minimized aesthetic complements the old case with a more natural consistency and overall ease, as though the watch is finally comfortable in its own steely skin. Gone is the derived mashup of tool and dress diver elements found on the outgoing Alpina Extreme Diver (reviewed here) model, in favor of a clean, classic, and confident aesthetic that quietly lends priority to form over function – but hardly 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’d even argue that the most striking design element is actually the lack thereof. Take, for example, how the Alpina Extreme Diver’s sword hands have been replaced by a skeletonized handset, whose minimized surface area results in a cleaner, more unobtrusive view of the dial. Yes, these hands tear a relatively familiar page out of the Panerai Luminor Submersible book, but the signature isn’t exclusive to Panerai, and it works nicely in complementing the minimalist aesthetic.