There is, in my opinion, a real dearth of single-pusher chronographs available at an entry-level price point. While the style is not for everyone, it always seems to me to recall a bygone era of sports and aviation timers that were, in the past, the most accurate tool available for the job. The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronograph watches released recently are excellent examples of how to bring a throwback flavor into the modern day. Oozing vintage appeal and outfitted with all the benefits of modern manufacturing techniques, these three new timepieces amount to a serious value proposition.
This release boosts an already strong arm of the Alpina catalog. The Alpina Startimer range is one of the brand’s cornerstones, and frequently references Alpina’s long history as a supplier of military and aviation watches. These watches, however, take things in a slightly different direction. Three dials — pale anthracite, a rich sunray blue, and one that takes both colors and blends them for the sportiest livery of the bunch — completely change the look of the watch, giving customers three distinct styles to choose from.
The September 2018 debut of the Heritage style really brought the range to life. A far less run-of-the-mill case silhouette offered a completely different wearing experience, along with an appearance that ticks the throwback trend box that appears to be in full force. (We are only a few months removed from the release of the not too dissimilar Tissot Heritage 1973 Limited-Edition watch, which seems like too much of a coincidence to ignore.)
Alpina describes this case shape as a clever blend between a cushion and a Bullhead (a case style more commonly associated with motor racing). Non-round cases like this one can wear quite large and have the potential to come off rather blockish. Fortunately, the Pilot Heritage collection has been blessed with some very refined finishing, which reduces the overall visual impact. Radial brushing around the crystal gives way to nicely polished, generously wide shoulders. This gives the impression that the watch is collapsing into the wrist rather than leaping out from it. The crown and pusher are wisely scaled-down and do not detract from the overall package. For a non-round 42mm-wide case, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage watches wear surprisingly small.
Last year’s well-received GMT model was a great first step for this sub-family, but these handsome mono-pushers are a further reminder that Alpina is, 17 years after its re-foundation, trending in the right direction. One criticism of the GMT model was that its hands were perhaps a little slim, and the GMT arrow had the tendency to get lost given its notable distance from the 24-hour rehaut. Here, the proportions seem much better. The slim hands (which could maybe be the slightest bit longer) fit in with the dial, and the widely spaced sub-dials, showing the chronograph minutes at 3 o’clock and the going seconds at 9, give the whole ensemble an excellent balance.
Ticking away inside these new chronographs is the caliber AL-727, which has been designed by movement manufacturers La Joux-Perret. A 28,800vph chronograph with a 55-hour power reserve, the AL-727 makes for a nice change to the ubiquitous reliance on 7750 derivations commonly seen at this price point. At $2,795 USD, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Chronographs offer a lot of bang for your buck. Learn more about Alpina and its Startimer and Startimer Pilot Heritage collections at alpinawatches.com.