Arguably one of Alpina’s breakout hits of 2013, the Alpina 130 has been a thoroughly enjoyable watch to wear. It’s based on a vintage model from the early 20th century and in terms of design, it’s quite a faithful take on the original model. The watch comes in two variations – one is stainless steel, with a white or anthracite grey dial, and the other is in gold plated stainless steel with a black or white dial (the black dial version is the one we received for review.)
The gold plated case has a lovely warm glow to it, picked up nicely by the applied Arabic numerals and Alpina nameplate. It’s got a pleasant heft on the wrist, and at 41.50mm in diameter, wears a little big, but not in an unpleasant way. In fact, the retro styling makes its size somewhat reminiscent of the first generation of wristwatches which were frequently based on pocket watch movements.
Adding to the vintage appeal is the snail-style inner tachymeter, as well as an outer telemetric scale. The tachymeter is used to measure speed over a measured distance, and the telemeter reveals one’s distance from an observed distant event by measuring the time it takes for the sound of that event –thunder from lightning, boom of a distant artillery barrage – to reach the observer. Useful for artillery spotters and amateur meteorologists.
The Alpina calibre AL-860 is based on the Sellita calibre SW500 (which in turn appears to be derived in its basic design from the venerable Valjoux/ETA 7750.) Here the use of a tough, time-tested movement design is perfectly appropriate, and it has been around long enough in one form or another to practically qualify as a vintage in its own right.
The movement is cleanly finished, with Geneva stripes on the movement top bridge and blued screws, and there’s a rotor whose design evokes the long-discontinued “bumper” winding system common to early self-winding watches, in which the rotor swung through a partial circle with spring bumpers at the limit of its arc.
Operating the Alpina 130 is pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. Thanks to the large crown, winding is a pleasure and while chronograph start, stop, and reset don’t have the finesse of top-tier column wheel movements, they are still crisp, consistent, and give an appropriate feel of no-nonsense reliability. Cross hatching on the “top-hat” style chronograph buttons give extra purchase and tactility, while adding visual distinctiveness.
This is the kind of watch we could use more of – great looks, solid value, great all-round execution, and a wonderful way to reconnect with a company that, 130 years in, is once again making its mark in watchmaking.
Available in stainless steel, or gold-plated stainless steel (as shown) with a white, black, or anthracite dial. Applied Arabic numerals with “snail” style tachymeter and outer telemetric scale; “bi-compax” 2 register chronograph showing elapsed time up to 30 minutes. Case diameter, 41.5mm. Movement: self-winding Alpina calibre AL-860, based on the Sellita SW500. Price, $3495.
The Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Chronograph is available in stainless steel, or gold-plated stainless steel (as shown) with a white, black, or anthracite dial. Applied Arabic numerals with “snail” style tachymeter and outer telemetric scale; “bi-compax” 2 register chronograph showing elapsed time up to 30 minutes. Case diameter, 41.5mm. Movement: self-winding Alpina calibre AL-860, based on the Sellita SW500. Price, $3495.