Introduced in 2022, the Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic marked the Geneva brand’s entry into the integrated steel bracelet sports watch trend. At Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, we went hands-on with two versions, a black dial variant on a rubber strap, and a blue-and-black dial piece on a steel bracelet.
Alpina was acquired by Frederique Constant in 2002, but both have been owned by Citizen since 2016 when the Stas couple who founded Frederique Constant accepted the Japanese group’s offer. Despite that fundamental change in ownership, both brands have stayed on their respective tracks, both still aimed at the “affordable luxury” segment of the watch market. Frederique Constant is the dressier, and Alpina, generally speaking, is the sportier of the pair.
The Alpine Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic is “extreme” in the sense that it is a bulky, all-steel watch with 20 bar (200m/660ft equivalent) water resistance and a screw-down crown, which is not the way a regulator-style watch is normally presented. Regulator watches were, in fact, not watches but regulator clocks, and they were characterized by their separation of the hour, minute, and seconds displays so that regulators — watchmakers specialized in fine-tuning and monitoring the accuracy of movements — could easily read them countless times a day for a reference time.
Clocks are rarely sports instruments, and so the regulator clock style has, for the most part, remained within the confines of dressy and elegant watches. Albeit purely a matter of taste, it could be argued that the separated and, therefore, utilitarian time display of a regulator watch actually works rather well with a brawny exterior: You are served all the information you need without any useless frills. This holds true for the Alpiner Extreme, too, as nothing about it looks antiquated or vintage.
With the pronounced “cushions” on both the left and right side of the case, the Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic watch has a square stance at 41mm by 42.5mm and is just 12mm thick. Don’t let those official measurements fool you, though: It wears noticeably larger both sideways and lug-to-lug, the latter dimension further visually enhanced on the bracelet. The rubber strap appears very willing to curve more drastically down right after the lugs, making for a shorter overall footprint for the watch. As always, buying a watch based merely on the millimeters either provided by the brand or measured by anyone else is a needlessly daring exercise and that’s all the more true with the Alpine Alpiner. Trying this one on is a must before making one’s mind up about its dimensions and fit.
A major plus is the relative thinness of the case. With a thick sapphire crystal, a self-winding movement with a regulator module, and enough gaskets to support 200m water resistance, its 12.00mm thickness is a decent achievement. It is a hair less than a Submariner and, more importantly, it goes a long way to enhance regular wear. Speaking of regular wear, the AL-650 caliber inside offers a short 38-hour power reserve, and although it combines that with a modern 4Hz operating frequency, a barely 1.5-day-long autonomy is antiquated in this highly competitive $2,000-$2,500 segment. Movement finishing is also too industrial — a higher specified caliber from Sellita would have gone a long way, not to mention Alpina’s in-house AL-950 regulator movement, although that certainly would have added over $1,000 to the price.
The quality of decoration on the dial, and especially the case and bracelet, is a lot better than that of the movement. As brutal as the case might appear at first, it is refined and detailed upon closer inspection. Its design incorporates a number of variations in surface treatments and facets that are very rarely encountered in this segment and, again, in this quality. The lugs, the middle case, and the bezel all have beveled and polished edges combined with beautifully executed brushed surfaces.
There is a lot going on, and your money goes toward the engineering and production of the case — and is saved on movement decoration. You could, theoretically, have it all but at a higher price, and that wouldn’t be on-brand for Alpina. Other neat details include the Alpina-style screws in the bezel (inspired by the triangle logo of the brand) all pointing upwards not just on the official photos but on the actual watch, too, and a rubber-clad crown color-matched to the dial.
Overall, the Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic is a niche watch because it combines a sporty presentation with a time display that is primarily associated with traditional styling and isn’t at the center of attention these days. The end result is nevertheless a likeable one because the sports watch stayed true to its values — 200m water resistance, robust design, complex execution — and the regulator display remains uncompromised with large and lumed hands and indices for great legibility.
The Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic with a blue dial and steel bracelet (reference AL-650NDG4AE6B) is priced at $2,595, while the Alpina Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic with a black dial and rubber strap (reference AL-650B4AE6) is priced at $2,295. You can learn more at the brand’s website.