About a year ago, Swiss manufacturer Alpina, a sister brand of Frédérique Constant, owned by the Citizen Group, unveiled a truly unexpected watch, the Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture. The brand is well-known for its Alpiner 4 collection, robust models that have been the source of several patents and innovative calibres over the years. But the Startimer Pilot Heritage had something far more original on offer, and that was a movement with a bumper winding system, like in the old days. And it’s back in two new limited editions with new dials… And they look even cooler than the previous models.
First and foremost, we need to talk mechanics. It’s not how you usually expect an article about Alpina to begin, since the brand often relies on classic automatic movements from Sellita – a decision calibrated to offer robustness and contain prices. This is not the case with the Startimer Pilot Heritage, which has a manufacture calibre and is mostly wound by a very unusual type of automatic system. This system is known as a bumper rotor and it is a rarity in modern watchmaking. While most watches now have 360-degree, often bidirectional rotors, it wasn’t true “back in the day”. Watches could have a bumper rotor, oscillating (in the case of Alpina) at 120 degrees with a small spring, sending the mass back in the opposite direction and facilitating the winding of the movement.
Thoroughly modernised, the concept returned in last year’s versions of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture, with the calibre AL-709 and its oscillating weight rotating 330 degrees. Secondly, the rather sensitive, rudimentary springs of the original were replaced by a blade for greater rotation. Finally, this 4Hz movement with a 38-hour power reserve was also nicely decorated with gold-coloured parts (reminiscent of non-coated brass).
This calibre returns this year inside two new editions of the Startimer Pilot Heritage. The case retains the same cushion shape as before, with identical dimensions – 42mm in diameter and 13.25mm in height. Not small, but the lug-to-lug seems to be quite short. The case has a combination of radially brushed surfaces and polished accents, a box-shaped sapphire crystal and a comfy 100m water-resistance. The crown is positioned at 4 o’clock.
The dials are all new, and in my opinion, much better than the 2021 editions with their applied markers. Most notably, the vertically brushed dials now have a classic railroad minute track with typical pilot-style painted markers and applied Arabic numerals. The lume-filled baton hands are retained and so is the no-date display. The watch is available in two editions, one in uncoated steel with a blue dial and silver-coloured dial elements. The other has a yellow gold-plated case with a champagne (warm silver) dial and black-coloured hands and markers.
Both 2022 editions of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Heritage Manufacture are worn on a brown calfskin leather strap with off-white stitching and will be limited to 188 pieces each. Prices are EUR 2,850 for the blue edition and EUR 2,950 for the gold-plated model. For more details and online orders, please visit alpinawatches.com.