Exploring Alpina Watches
We have a new watch brand! Alpina Watches has now joined the S.T Hopper family!
For generations S.T.Hopper has been renowned for their knowledge and expertise in the world of watches. It’s perhaps no surprise then to discover that they are amongst only a handful of retail jewellers selected as a stockist of the long established luxury Swiss sports watch manufacturer Alpina.
A.T.Hopper, ‘Great Grandfather’
Established in 1883, to many in the world of watches Alpina has always been synonymous with quality and innovation, to others here in the UK it may be less so. It may surprise a number of you to know that it was in fact Alpina who developed the world’s first true sports watch, the Alpina 4 in the 1930s. The watch featured a patented screw down crown, waterproof case back, was anti-magnetic and shock resistant
The Alpina 4 of the 1940s
It was the Alpina movements that could be found inside the Rolex Prince of the 1920s and 1930s. Likewise Alpina would be found on the wrist of many of the pilots of this era. Their wristwatches were held in particularly high regard by military aviators, with Alpina designated as the supplier of watches to several air forces of the time. This was an age of exploration and the sporty Alpina watches were the perfect choice for the Alpine explorers of the day.
Today inspired by its rich history Alpina can still be found in the Swiss watch making capital of Geneva. Manufacturing true ‘in-house’ designed developed and produced calibres. All of which are exclusively manufactured by hand.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to the factory to see for myself the in-house manufacture on which Alpina prides itself.
On arriving at the factory, the first thing that became very obvious is the illustrious company Alpina is keeping in this area of Geneva. It sits comfortably next door to the likes of Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Harry Winston to name but a few. To be situated in this area of Geneva you must comply with Swiss government regulations. A company only has the right to be in this location if they manufacture in-house. No other brand can boast ‘in-house manufacture’ at the price point of Alpina watches.
On entering the factory it’s very clear that this is a company who takes its manufacturing very seriously and only 100% perfection is accepted.
The ground floor is where plates, bridges and parts are designed and cut by the most high precision equipment available in the industry, before each one is hand finished and jewelled. This is just the start of what is possibly the most efficient supply chain in the Swiss watch industry. After all it is all under the one roof.
On the first floor each highly skilled watchmaker must first pass through an airlock door whilst a dozen or more suction nozzles remove any particles of dust from the clothing. White coats are then donned and an almost medical cleanliness is observed. Unlike many other watch brands each watchmaker is responsible for assembling the entire movement rather than just being a small part of the process. In this way each watchmaker is fully accountable for the end product, this encourages pride in the job. Likewise, should there be an issue with that particular movement, this is logged! This philosophy is usually only found in the production of extremely high end luxury complications.
A hand jewelled plate now with rhodium.
Some ‘raw’ movement parts
Highly skilled watchmakers begin to assemble a ‘Grande Complication’
No dust will be entering this workshop!
Innovation is very much at the forefront of The Alpina vision and they are leading the world in many of their latest projects. They are have just realised the worlds very first Horological Smart Watch. A timepiece that not only looks great on the wrist, but actually keeps you in touch with how much you’ve exercised and your sleep patterns.
Pim Koeslag is the master watchmaker and is considered by many a genius in his field, capable of producing some of the very finest complications in the world; perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, world timers, all with his own in house movements. Much of Pim’s high end watch making finds its way into the cases of Alpina’s big brother company Ateliers deMonaco, a brand worn by the rich and famous, including H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco. But the beauty of having a big brother such as Ateliers deMonaco is that this technology and knowhow filters down to Alpina and helps create the like of its ground breaking new column wheel Alpina 4 flyback chronograph
All of this is quite remarkable, but to then realise that Alpina, despite the fact they share the prestige of an in-house manufacture with likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin are actually priced below the likes of Tudor and TAG Heuer is a quite remarkable achievement . Alpina prides itself on affordable luxury and providing value regardless of price and not the other way round where value is used as an excuse to drive prices of luxury items higher. The owner of an Alpina sports watch owns a respected and recognised item prized for its value, rather than its cost.