Alpina, a brand with a heritage of almost 140 years, specialises in rugged watches for outdoor use. A few weeks ago, the brand reintroduced a model from the early 2000s, the Alpiner Extreme (with the Alpiner Extreme Regulator Automatic and Alpiner Extreme Automatic). The European launch event of the collection in Chamonix allowed us to sit down with Alpina’s Brand Director Oliver Van Lanschot Hubrecht and find out more about this go-anywhere, do-anything watch.
Xavier Markl MONOCHROME – The Extreme collection is about 20 years old. Could you tell us about the history of the collection?
Oliver Van Lanschot Hubrecht – Brand Director Alpina – The collection was indeed launched in 2005, just a few years after the brand was taken over again (at Baselworld 2003). It was known as the Avalanche at the time. The brand positioning was a bit higher than it is today. The average price was about EUR 4,000 to 5,000, and it was a really successful collection in its day. At 48mm, it had a much bigger case. It was fitted with a hand-wound regulator movement, which was quite remarkable at the time, built on a Unitas base. Then the collection developed with an automatic regulator movement, a tourbillon and an automatic three-hand movement; it was a huge success.
What did you try to inject into the collection with this new take on the design?
Obviously, the style is inspired by the original design. This is why we have first launched a regulator, like the iconic model from 2005. We have completely redesigned the case with more wearable dimensions. It is a cushion case that is 41mm x 42mm. The case has a three-part construction, allowing for many future developments in terms of sizes or calibre, for example. From a price perspective, the idea was to make it more accessible. The regulator retails for CHF 2,150, and the automatic three-hander for CHF 1,595.
The collection is called Extreme. Are there any specific technical features?
The Extreme should be seen as a robust, do-anything, go-anywhere design that can resist a harsh environment while displaying great attention to detail. Regarding specifications, we have pushed the water resistance to 20 ATM/200m; our ‘Land’ environment watches are usually water-resistant to 10 ATM/100m. So, we are increasing resistance to make it even stronger.
What does this launch tell us about the brand’s strategy?
The collection brings together all the elements that correspond to what Alpina stands for. First of all, it returns to the heritage of the brand. We are a Swiss watch brand that was created to craft strong, robust watches capable of resisting the challenging environment of the Alps. Also, we have developed many traditional movements and want to return to this. There is also this very recognisable case. We have seen the collection’s success in the past and want to bring this icon back and capitalise on its powerful design.
You have launched a regulator and an automatic three-hand model. What can we expect in the future?
These are, of course, the first steps. What you can expect are different complications and functions. Naturally, there will be different sizes to suit different wrist sizes and adapt to the demand from various markets, not forgetting ladies’ watches. But we could also expand the Extreme across different universes. The Extreme could potentially work in a Seastrong or Pilot environment. The Extreme is going to be the leading design direction for Alpina.
Besides products, what are the key challenges for the brand?
Among the focus areas, we’d like to develop at the brand is our distribution. It is a challenge because we are not available everywhere we’d like to be. We still have markets to open, and that’s a huge opportunity. The objective is to work with retailers; we have done a lot online but also understand the limitations of online business.
The second element is the development of brand awareness. We have a remarkable history. This is the opportunity offered by the Extreme and its very strong, distinctive design. It is the opportunity to lift the brand with a strong identity and ultimately drive sales, of course, to create a virtuous circle, broadening the recognition and availability of the brand. Focus is key; we must be careful about shooting bullets in too many directions. We want to be focused and consistent.
Alpina is a sister company of Frederique Constant and part of the Citizen group. What does it bring to the brand?
It brings strength. In terms of product development, manufacturing and logistics, it helps deal with suppliers. It is a bit like the Union Horlogère at the origin of Alpina. We are stronger within a group. Citizen is also giving us a dimension that we did not have before. Without the group’s support, we would not do what we are doing today. There are a few limitations as well. When people are working on two brands, sometimes you have to shout a little bit louder to get heard. But it is definitely a strength to be part of a group!
For more information, please visit Alpinawatches.com.
© Photo Oliver Van Lanschot Hubrecht by Dom Daher