The Alpina Diver Heritage, a homage to the vintage Alpina Seastrong 10, is another retro re-edition of an old vintage diver ‘Super Compressor’ model from the 1970’s. I think that in this case it’s fair to say Alpina has chosen wisely in responding to the vintage-inspired trend, a strategy successfully adopted by many other brands already. So, what is the Seastrong, and how does it stack up in this crowded segment of the market? Monochrome dives into the world of Alpina and the new Seastrong Diver Heritage to find out.
Alpina – The Company
Alpina Watches is one of those Swiss manufacturers that is perhaps not at the forefront of the industry in terms of exposure however, it has a story that deserves to be told. The company was founded in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland in 1883 by Gottlieb Hauser, a watchmaker in Winterthur who also founded the Swiss Watchmakers Corporation (“Union Horlogère Suisse”) with the sole purpose of uniting Swiss watchmaking industry forces in order to achieve the highest quality and technical innovation in manufacturing. In 1908, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the brand name ‘Alpina’ was registered and was agreed to be used only for watches that featured select high-quality calibers. Among them calibres with Breguet hairsprings and compensating balances. In parallel, the Alpina red triangle emblem, the ‘Alpiner’, was born.
A year later the company expanded its watch manufacturing to Germany and founded the Präcisions-Uhrenfabrik Alpina Glashütte i/S in Glashütte. The Union`s factories were by now located in Geneva, Biel, Besançon (France) and Glashütte. From that point onward the brand continued to rise and in 1913 the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) purchased Alpina chronometers and used them as standard equipment. Contrary to what was used more generally at the time, the Alpina chronometer used a Glashütte escapement, instead of the typical Swiss anchor escapement. In 1926 the company established an international watch guarantee. Alpina’s comprehensive international guarantee system, the first of its kind, confirmed the reputation and marketing adroitness of the brand, as well as the high quality and reliability of Alpina watches.
In 1938 Alpina introduced the legendary ‘Alpina 4’. The number ‘4’ alluded to the four essential qualities of a sports watch: Antimagnetic, water-resistant, anti-shock and stainless steel (case). The watch was equipped with the hand-wound Alpina 592 calibre. Seven years later the company manufactured its first automatic movement. The 12½-ligne, 5.5-mm-tall, self-winding caliber 582, also known as the ‘P82′, had a sub dial for the seconds at 6 o’clock and a power reserve of 40h. The company continued to innovate, offering excellent quality products over the ensuing years. This brings us up to 1969 when it introduced its landmark diver watch, the Alpina Diver ’10 Seastrong.’
This professional diving watch was equipped with a 17 jewel Automatic self-winding caliber. The ’10 Seastrong’ featured 2 crowns, one of which was used to control the internal rotating bezel that measured elapsed time through a 1-60 min scale. The ‘Seastrong’ was water resistant to 200m and anti-magnetic and had the characteristic super-compressor case like many other dive watches of the time. The case was constructed by the case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA). They designed a patented case sealing method that actually became more water tight the deeper the watch went. The deeper you went, the more pressure was applied to the case-back, pressing it against the O-ring gasket. Most of these case-backs had a spring on them, so that the back was tight without being completely compressed against the case. In parallel the O-ring did not have full pressure on it constantly which helped extend its life.
As is the case with many other Swiss watchmaking companies the 1970’s marked the start of a decline for Alpina. After the devastating effects of the Quartz Crisis, Alpina missed the renaissance of mechanical watches, which began in the mid 1980s. For years the brand drifted without a clear direction. Fortuitously, at the last minute, when Alpina seemed inexorably on its way toward the watchmaking oblivion, Dutch entrepreneurs Peter and Aletta Stas (owners of Frédérique Constant) came onto the scene and bought the company in 2002. A year later the brand presented its first sports collection under the new ownership at the Basel-World international watch fair. After many successful moves that strengthened its position in the market, Alpina, in 2016 and almost half a century after its first appearance, presented the Alpina ‘Seastrong 10’ diving watch, a wristwatch that as the company states is “more than a replica, [instead it is] a modern interpretation of a Swiss watchmaking classic”. So, does it live up to expectations?
The Alpina Diver Heritage, Tribute to Seastrong 10
First and foremost the Alpina Diver Heritage, tribute to Seastrong 10, is yet another retro re-edition of an old vintage model. However, the case of the new Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage is not a super compressor case, rather it just looks like one in order to re-enforce that vintage look and also to throw out the challenge to the competition, (Longines Legend Diver and Oris Divers Sixty-Five). The case is made out of 316L stainless steel and measures 42mm in diameter and 12,3mm in height; as a result the watch is overall very balanced on the wrist. The crown at 2 o’clock controls the internal rotating bezel, and the crown at 3:30 o’clock controls the time setting, date setting, and allows for hand winding. These crowns are fitted with a screw down system, to prevent water flushing into the case. The downside of this internal turning ring is obvious; you can only adjust it above the water. The screw-down caseback features an engraving of Alpine origins. Also water resistance (300 meters) and model name and number are mentioned.
This model is offered in two variants: one with a white and black dial (Ref. AL-525S4H6), and the other with a grey and dark blue dial (Ref. AL-525G4H6). The former has a more sporty appearance, and similar color scheme to the original, while the latter has a darker, more elegant aesthetic. The one we had for review is the white version which in my opinion has more of a heritage look to it than the black one. The contrast of the white dial with the dark internal rotating bezel looks superb. Keeping the indexes simple and only mentioning the 15, 30 and 45 min marks keeps it spartan, clean and simple. We find the date window at nearly 4 o’clock and the hands are shaped just like the original ones. They are straight flat and at the end of the minute hand the triangle/arrow shaped tip is there to provide better visibility even in poor light conditions. The hands have a generous spread of luminova on them, which is also placed in the triangle of the internal rotating ring. Of course the crystal is sapphire.
The original movement used in the Alpina 10 was the 572C calibre. This had a power reserve of 42 hours and a frequency of 18.800 A/h. In the new model the movement is designated: AL-525. This is a modified SW 200 from Sellita. The company introduced their calibre SW 200 as a direct replacement for the ETA 2824. It uses most of the same components while in 2008 there were some changes that improved reliability. The calibre is self-winding, with a ball-bearing rotor, hacking seconds and a power reserve of approximately 38 hours. It measures 11.5 ligne and beats at 4Hz. Alpina’s version has changes that are found in the detailing of the parts and changed rotor. Overall I find the choice of calibre as a solid one. Nothing fancy but it is reliable, fairly accurate and gets the job done. Last but not least the watch comes with a leather strap which is water resistant leather in order to be used near or under the water. The strap is closed with a simple tang buckle, engraved with the Alpiner logo.
So, who is this watch for? Before I answer that I must point out that the Alpina Heritage Seastrong is a wonderful watch for the price. It is nothing fancy in terms of technology but gets the work done while in parallel its strongest point is its vintage look; after all you do not see many 2-crown divers these days. So this watch is for someone who appreciates vintage character and looks more than usability, and it might well be a great conversation piece. After all it is a beautiful and balanced watch which is aesthetically pleasing. Does it lack in any particular areas? Of course because nothing is perfect. The inner rotating ring usage (unlock the crown for setting) is restrictive if someone wants to use it actively below the surface. However, I don’t think that anyone will try this, despite the fact that the Alpina Heritage does not lack in specifications.
The designers at Alpina managed to keep the original watch alive with this new model. It has the same looks but with a modern twist to it. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a big seller for Alpina as the watch has pedigree, a sub $2K price, and an attractive wrist presence. Furthermore, this is quite a departure from the larger dive models within the brand and is something consumers have been asking for. The competition, comes mainly from the Longines Legend Diver and the Oris 65, both best sellers and well established propositions in the hearts and minds of vintage inspired aficionados. I think that the Alpina Heritage Diver has all that it takes to successfully compete with the above. After all it is quite attractive, well made, and priced very competitively. Overall I think that this wristwatch is an excellent alternative for someone who wants a dressy vintage inspired diver with a lots of character.
Technical specifications Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage
- Case: stainless steel – 42mm x 12.3mm – “boxed” sapphire crystal – 2 screw-down crowns – water resistant to 300 meters
- Dial: silver color dial with applied silvered indexes and black 60 minutes rotating ring, indication of hours, minutes, seconds and date
- Movement: Alpina calibre AL-525 – 28,800vph (4Hz) – 26 jewels – 38 hours power reserve
- Strap/buckle: water resistant black leather, white stitching, tang buckle
- Price: CHF 1,550 and it can be bought directly through the Alpina website here