The 2012 Pre-Basel Novelty: New Alpina Heritage Pilot Watch

Jan 21, 2012

We are storytellers. When you buy a watch, you are seduced by a story.

The Alpina Heritage Pilot is the story about Alpina’s history as a specialized manufacturer and official supplier of military and pilot watches. Inspired by original Alpina Pilot watch designs from the 1920’s and 30’s, we are proud to introduce this reedition. Design details of the Alpina Heritage Pilot closely match the original timepiece from the Alpina archives, the handwound pocket watch caliber, the hinged case, as well as the Alpina applied brand logo and indexes on the dial.

At the same time, certain technical specifications have been upgraded to today’s watchmaking standards. For example, the accuracy of the caliber is improved and the case is manufactured in stainless steel for improved durability. The caliber can be seen once the hinged cover is opened on the backside of the watch. The movement is protected by an additional curved glass to also ensure water resistancy, even when the hinged back is opened.

The Alpina Heritage Pilot is offered in a limited edition of 1883 pieces, a number that was choosen as it matches the foundation year of Union Hologere, the company that registered the Alpina brandname in 1901. The story of Alpina starts at the end of the 19th Century when Gottlieb Hauser founded the Swiss Watchmakers Corporation with other independent watchmakers of the region. Initially it was to purchase watch components and making own calibres. Very soon Alpina was being sold internationally and at the height Alpina had nearly 2000 outlets all over the world, an exceptional figure for those days. It is no exaggeration to say that Alpina was one of Europe’s leading watchmakers.

Part of the reason for this success, other than the rigorous dedication to design and quality, (values that still hold true today), was the introduction in 1938 of the Alpina 4. The number ‘4’ stood for the 4 core principles that each watch in the series had to have: anti-magnetism, water-resistance, anti-shock and in a stainless steel case.

These principles gave a theme to the watches and can be said to have pointed the way to the development of what was to be the continued success of the company up until the 1970s. It was the so-called ‘Quartz Crisis’ that either sounded the death knell for many companies or meant the creation of major groups. The emergence of cheap, mass-produced and, above-all, impersonal, watches also nearly meant the end for Alpina. However, despite everything, Alpina hang tough and was revitalized in 2002 and the comeback was on. Working round the clock, a new collection was made ready for the BaselWorld show in 2003. In 2006, Alpina made one more move in its journey towards the future when we moved to a new, purpose built manufacturing site in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the spiritual homes of watch making.

Interview with Peter Stas CEO of Alpina Watch International SA

Why is Alpina relaunching the Heritage Pilot watch?

Alpina has a very rich history since its foundation in 1883. We aim to revive Alpina back to its former glory by emphasizing Alpina’s historical pilot watches from the 1920’s. The relaunch of the Heritage Pilot is not just a watch, it is like telling a story.

It is the story how Alpina made these sturdy, accurate and very readable pilot watches that were used by military. We have found various models in the archive when we purchased Alpina in 2002. We also regularly find and acquire old Alpina Pilot watch via auction sites. The Heritage Pilot watch is based on these designs.

How does the Heritage Pilot compare with the rest of the Alpina Aviation Collection?

In 2011, Alpina introduced a comprehensive collection of modern Pilot watches in its Aviation Universe. These watches were developed and are being marketed in collaboration with Cessna Aircraft and Privatair. While we implemented design elements from prior Alpina Pilot watches, the today’s Startimer Pilot Collection incorporates latest manufacturing technologies. In addition, cases and straps have been optimized for to be ergonomically the best. Movements are latest 4Hz versions and Automatic. On the other hand, the Heritage Pilot follows the 1920’s desig much more closely. For example, we have kept the original indexes, the hinged case back cover and the large 55 mm case size. The Heritage Pilot also incorporates a handwound Unitas caliber, very similar to the pocket watch calibers that were used in the original Alpina Pilot watches.

What is your strategy for Alpina in the coming years?

Since we acquired Alpina in 2002, we have positioned Alpina as a sports and lifestyle brand. We have been able to grow production and sales to approximately 8000 watches per year. Most of these watches were in the Extreme Collection. We consider this as the first step in the revival of Alpina to a credible world watch brand. Our strategy for the coming years is to accelerate growth by creating more commercial designs and positioning those in the Accessible Luxury price range. Alpina watches are all produced in our manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates. Latest introductions in the Aviation Collection haven been received above expectation. In 2012, we will introduce a new Diver Collection and emphasize also more on our Sailing Collection.

King Jewelers is an authorized dealer for Alpina watches in Middle Tennessee and South Florida, as well as over forty luxury Swiss watch brands including Bell & Ross, Breguet, Breitling, Cartier, Chanel, Chopard, DeWitt, Harry Winston, Hublot, IWC, Jaquet Droz, Montblanc, Roger Dubuis and TAG Heuer. King Jewelers is a member of the American Watch Guild and has been named a Leading Watch Retailer in North America by International Wristwatch Magazine. King Jewelers also offers expert watch repair and watch restoration at their retail locations in Aventura, FL and Nashville, TN. For more information on for Alpina watches, please visit or take a look at our Alpina page.

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