Steel wins when it comes to value and functionality, but there is a visceral sensation when wearing gold that non-precious metals cannot match. Swiss Chopard impressed the watch industry and larger collector community with the recent release of the Chopard Alpine Eagle timepiece collection (debuted on aBlogtoWatch here). We talked about the Alpine Eagle first in steel, and then later I went hands-on with the two-tone 18k rose gold and steel version of the Chopard Alpine Eagle here. Today, I examine the beautiful all-18k rose gold version of the “Alpine Eagle Large” watch: the Chopard reference 295363-5001.
“Beautiful” the 18k rose gold Alpine Eagle 41mm watch certainly is. Chopard — as a watch and jewelry maker — combines its accumulated talents in the Alpine Eagle, blending in-house mechanical watchmaking with (masculine) jewelry design and finishing. The sharp angles and lovingly polished or brushed 18k rose gold metal surfaces all giddily reflect light, making the entire composition seem brighter than it actually is.
The watch industry doesn’t really have a good name for watches in this category. Sometimes they are called “sports lifestyle watches,” and sometimes they are called “watches with an integrated bracelet.” Both of those terms might be true, but neither really encapsulates why aficionados around the world are drawn to other members of this product category, such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe Nautilus, Vacheron Constantin Overseas, and at least a dozen new models to enter the market in the last several months.
While much of the design language in many of these timepieces began life in the early 1970s by famed designers such as Gerald Genta, that isn’t really why these timepieces are so popular. Rather, they are popular because they offer men a modern, masculine jewelry-watch-wearing experience that was once dominated by a rather small number of players (including Rolex with its popular Datejust and Day-Date collections).
Men don’t really like the idea of wearing jewelry, and it is a tough sell if such items are even labeled jewelry in retail contexts. The way around this common prejudice is to give watches a utilitarian value (telling the time), as well as dressing them up as non-status items (such as pilot instruments, diving timers, and racing chronographs). These two elements are more than enough, it seems, to dispel the notion for most men that what they are wearing is jewelry, and to think of those items as something with a different meaning. As effective as the psychology is behind selling men precious metal tools, the reality is that they are wearing jewelry (and that is nothing to be ashamed of).
Ask most women why they wear jewelry, and surprisingly few of them will state that their purpose is to be seen (even if that is a coincidental benefit). Rather, most women will tell you that their jewelry makes them feel good. The same is true of men, and it so happens that wearing gold makes you feel very good.
I’m not entirely sure why, but there is something about the hefty weight of an all-gold watch combined with the color of the metal, that delights our brains. Wearing a timepiece with a gold case and matching bracelet is not at all the same as a steel bracelet, nor can the effect be replicated by watches with gold color-coated metal (for example, PVD coating can give steel a convincing 18k gold look). What is also true is that the price of wearing a real gold watch is probably more the inherent value of wearing gold, for most consumers — meaning no matter how many people agree that gold feels great, these days, not that many consumers are willing to spend money on it. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that simply looking as though you are wearing gold (with a colored, non-gold material) is so easy and common.
But we aren’t talking about most people or common things here. We are talking about exclusive luxury items and fine timepieces. In this context, appreciation for all gold-watches is authentic, and many members of the community implicitly know that real gold not only feels good but is not paralleled by less expensive alternatives. Chopard now does the gold watch very well.
Let’s be clear that Chopard is no stranger to gold watches, but rather the company has not had a men’s jewelry-style watch on an integrated bracelet until recently. One product is just a gold wristwatch. The other is a piece of men’s jewelry in gold, which also happens to indicate the time. There is an important distinction between the two.
I also have to say that the Alpine Eagle watch design has been increasingly growing on me since the watch originally debuted. I will say that I am looking forward to seeing more ways that Chopard can play with the bezel screws, and I am keen to see other styles of dial designs — but these are logical areas for Chopard to play with in order to build on the excellent Alpine Eagle platform.
With the advent of the Chopard Alpine Eagle Chronograph (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here), the 41mm-wide Alpine Eagle Large is no longer the biggest of the Alpine Eagle bunch, but I do think its size is extremely refined and versatile for a large number of wrists. The watch does not wear large despite the side flanks, and I’d say that even on small-to-medium wrists, the Alpine Eagle still has a great feel to it. At 41mm-wide, the case is just 9.75mm-thick and has a water-resistance rating of 100 meters with a screw-down crown. Over the bezel is a flat, AR-coated sapphire crystal.
On the rear of the case is a window to the movement, which is the in-house-made Chopard caliber 01.01-C. While this movement doesn’t represent the absolute finest finishing available from Chopard, it is nicely finished and by no means a slouch. The COSC Chronometer-certified automatic-winding movement operates at 4Hz with 60 hours of power reserve. It features the time with date window.
For these so-called “integrated bracelet” watches to be well-respected, the bracelet must have as much engineering effort behind it as the case. Timepiece fans will, no doubt, appreciate the “lined-up” screws on the Alpine Eagle case bezel, but they should also appreciate the extremely tight tolerances of the bracelet parts. This is impressive in steel, and also in 18k rose gold. The bracelet is actually rather easy to size using the screw on the back of the links, and the overall smooth articulation of the bracelet links feels excellent on the wrist.
I’m happy to report that despite the close-fitting links on the bracelet, the watch is not a hair-puller. This happens, at times, and can be absolutely disastrous for a timepiece’s marketability. One can tell that Chopard didn’t just spend a lot of time making the Alpine Eagle bracelet nice to look at, but they also engineered it to be comfortable and practical to operate. Closing the bracelet is done through a butterfly deployant clasp. It works very nicely and has never opened up on my wrist, but it does lack a formal locking mechanism, which means you might not want to wear this watch for actual sports activities. Where the bracelet wins the most is by offering that slick and trendy tapered and contrast-polished bracelet look, while not visually resembling products produced by competitors in the fine watchmaking space.
This particular 18k rose gold version of the Alpine Eagle is matched with an “Aletsch blue” dial with matching rose gold hour markers and hands. The Chopard Alpine Eagle dial is an interesting character given its deep brushed and spun texture. This texture is galvanically coated in a few colors, including this lovely deep blue option. It goes very well with the warmth of rose gold.
Relatively few people find themselves in the position of being able to afford an all-gold watch just for the hell of it. Gold watches are typically personal reward items, and a lot of times the people who get them wear them almost exclusively. That means many potential all-gold Alpine Eagle watch consumers are probably going to give those watches a handsome volume of wrist time. Accordingly, there are few ways to feel quite as good about yourself as wearing a flashy gold watch. If you do so, having something as tasteful and well-composed as the Chopard Alpine Eagle is probably a very fine idea.
Chopard has further made a commitment that moving forward all of its gold will be “ethical.” That’s a complex promise that is more than just a marketing term. The idea is that ethical gold comes from fair supply chains both when it comes to how companies treat their employees and the environmental impact made in the procurement and refining of the gold. I’m not sure consumers today are ready to pay much of a premium for ethical gold (or precious stones, for that matter), but the trend is certainly moving in that direction. More so, given the overt message about conspicuous consumption that wearing a gold watch already conveys, being able to claim that the gold itself has not caused harm is, indeed, a moral point in favor of the wearer. I’m sorry to say goodbye to the 18k rose gold version of the Alpine Eagle, but Chopard needs its back. At the time of writing, it was just one of three such pieces in the United States. That means that these pieces are actually exclusive as well as pretty. Price for the Chopard Alpine Eagle 18k rose gold reference 295363-5001 is $43,900 USD. Learn more at the Chopard website.