Alpina has done a great job in recreating the aesthetics of retro pilot watches in its Startimer Heritage collection. Its range of Heritage watches are robust, resilient and accessible tool watches with a convincing retro flair. Last year, Alpina introduced a smaller-ish 44mm version of the enormous 50mm Startimer Pilot Heritage of 2015, complete with a hunter caseback. First presented with a matte black dial, Alpina now introduces a 288-piece edition with an attractive blue dial and the brand’s equally attractive prices.
At the turn of the 20th century, Alpina’s logo of a circle inside a red triangle (inspired by the silhouette of Mount Zermatt) was used to distinguish the exceptional quality and precision of the 12- and 19-line calibres produced by J. Straub & Co. By 1913, Alpina chronometers were being commissioned by the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) and by 1921, Alpina was manufacturing military pilot’s watches for continental Air Forces. Distinguished by large case dimensions with anti-magnetic and shock-resistant cases, the pilot’s watches were equipped with oversized luminous numerals and hands. An interesting snippet of Alpina’s production of pilot watches is that one of its models with a long strap was adapted to be worn around the leg of a pilot.
In 2011, Alpina launched its Startimer Pilot collection, expanding it with a sub-family of Heritage watches that evoke the spirit of its vintage pilot’s watches from different eras. There are models designed to capture the 1970s, like this Startimer Chronograph Monopusher or GMT, and other models with a more pronounced vintage leaning that fly back to Alpina’s 1920s pilot watches incarnated in the massive manual-winding 50mm Startimer Pilot Heritage of 2015.
Five years later, Alpina introduced a smaller (sort of) 44mm version of the Startimer Heritage fitted with an automatic movement. Like the 50mm model, the 44mm captures the look of Beobachtungs-Uhren (B-Uhren) or observation watches issued to German Luftwaffe navigators. To accommodate manual-winding pocket watch movements and assist legibility, the cases of B-Uhren watches were deliberately large. Black matte dials, large white luminous Arabic numerals and hands, and an orientation triangle assisted legibility in poor light conditions, while the oversized onion crown meant that adjustments could be made even when wearing gloves.
The Blue Startimer Heritage Pilot Automatic
Sharing the same specifications as the black 2020 model, the only difference here is the new blue dial. Although it is 6mm smaller than the Startimer model of 2015, at 44mm across and 11.5mm thick, it is still a large watch but in line with its pilot watch personality. The case is made of stainless steel with brushed and polished finishings, and the crown has an onion-style one for better grip. A throwback to the snap-off casebacks of B-Uhren watches, the hunter caseback can be opened with the small pusher on the caseband to reveal the movement. The interior part of the hunter caseback, which is also known as an officer’s caseback, is decorated with perlage and when opened reveals the AL-525 automatic (Sellita SW 200-1) movement with its blackened rotor and power reserve of 38 hours.
The display of a Type B observation watch is observed here with an internal chapter ring for the hours and a peripheral track set aside for the vital minutes/seconds. In the Startimer Heritage Automatic, the configuration is adapted slightly and uses the internal chapter ring with dots to represent the hours from 13:00 to 24:00 of the 24-hour clock, while the large, applied silver-coloured Arabic numerals represent the hours from 1 to 12. To be more accurate, the 12 o’clock marker is substituted by the Alpina triangle (orientation triangle) with a dot inside, and the 3 o’clock numeral is eliminated to accommodate the date window. In keeping with the fundamental factor of legibility, all the elements on the dial, except for the central seconds hand with its red Alpina triangular counterweight, are treated with a vintage style beige-coloured lume. Even the more contemporary Alpina logo inscribed on other watches has been replaced with the original design of 1883.
Availability and Price
The Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic is limited to 288 pieces and is now available, including from the brand’s website. It comes with a blue calfskin strap and retails for EUR 1,195. For more information, please consult Alpina Watches.