Alpina flies back in time to capture the looks of yesteryear pilot watches with its latest Startimer Pilot Heritage. Limited to 1,883 pieces, the watch replicates the large diameter of Alpina’s early pilot watches complete with a hunter caseback. Like all Alpina’s watches, the price/quality ratio is hard to beat. Let’s have a closer look at this cool value proposition watch.
In 1883, watchmaker Gottlieb Hauser decided to pool together resources and created a union of fellow watchmakers known as Alpinists. Alpina was the name chosen by the union members to denote the highest quality calibres in their production. By 1913, Alpina was supplying high-precision chronometers to the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) and in 1921 started manufacturing watches for continental Air Forces.
Alpina’s Startimer collection is dedicated to pilot watches and offers solid timepieces with legible dials and oversized crowns that capture the mood of different decades. There have been Startimer Pilot models with a retro 1970s vibe, like this monopusher chronograph or GMT, and models with a more pronounced vintage leaning like the massive 50mm Startimer Pilot Heritage of 2015.
B-Uhren navigation watches
The new Startimer Heritage Automatic is large but not as large as the 50mm Startimer model of 2015. Measuring 44mm across and 11.55mmm thick, the three-part stainless steel case displays a combination of polished and brushed surfaces, and the short lugs are gently cambered for a more comfortable fit. The oversized and grooved crown has also been revived by the brand to evoke vintage pilot’s watches.
Far more wearable than the 50mm model, the new Startimer Heritage is still large enough to capture the looks of historic pilot watches, especially those known as B-Uhr watches or observation watches issued to German Luftwaffe navigators. If you are interested in learning all about these classic watches designed for bomber navigators, don’t miss our coverage of the History of the Pilot Watch Part Five. B-Uhren watches were necessarily large to accommodate manual-winding pocket watch movements and to assist legibility. Black matte dials, white Arabic numerals and an orientation triangle ensured legibility in poor light conditions while the oversized onion crown meant that adjustments could be made without too much hassle even when wearing gloves.
Another feature of Type B observation watches was the incorporation of an internal chapter ring for the hours leaving the periphery for the all-important minutes/seconds. The Startimer Heritage Automatic picks up on this configuration but uses the internal chapter ring to display a 24-hour clock (running from 13:00-24:00, aka military time) and the periphery for the hours and minutes. The characteristic snap-off caseback of B-Uhren watches is also recreated here with its hunter caseback that opens to reveal the movement.
vintage design cues
Contrasting with the matte black dial of the Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic, all the elements on the dial, from the large Arabic numerals, the applied indices, the hour and minute hands and the orientation triangle to the minutes track and the 24-hour ring, are all treated with a vintage-colour beige lume. The only element on the dial without lume is the central seconds hand with its red triangular-shaped counterweight. Consolidating the vintage personality of this watch, the Alpina logo inside the inner ring is replicated using the original font of 1883. The date window at 3 o’clock is discreet thanks to its black background.
The hunter caseback is decorated with perlage and offers a view of the automatic AL-525 movement with a customised blackened rotor and a power reserve of 38 hours. Based on a Sellita SW200-1, this outsourced movement goes a long way in keeping the price down.
Availability and Price
The Startimer Pilot Heritage Automatic is limited to 1,883 pieces and comes with a dark brown calfskin leather strap with beige stitching to match the beige lume on the dial. The watch is available now and retails for EUR 1,195.
More information at alpinawatches.com.