A new collection from Chopard, entering the genre of the luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet: introducing the Alpine Eagle. Available in 41mm and 36mm versions with case and bracelet metal options. We had the watch for a good part almost a week and used it incognito as a daily driver while the watch is under embargo. Here our honest review.
The embargo just lifted, and we are pleased to share our experience with you.
Chopard Alpine Eagle Lucent Steel Blue Dial 41mm
The new Alpine Eagle is a reinterpretation of the St. Moritz, the first watch designed by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in 1980 at a tender age of only 22. Imagined and personally designed by him, the Alpine Eagle is driven by his passion for the Alps and by the lofty power of the eagle that reigns supreme there.
The historical roots – the St. Moritz
The St. Moritz was the first sports watch from the maison, and the first timepiece ever to be made in steel in their workshops. In 1980, it was a calculated risk. At that time the Swiss industry was just about to pull itself out of the doldrums of the quartz crisis, and the majors like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe was beginning to see success with their luxury sports steel watches – the now iconic Royal Oak and the Nautilus, both designed by the erstwhile Gerald Genta. It too followed in the path and was the maison’s best sellers for the next decade.
Since then, he has become co-president of Chopard and have gone on to establish the bond between passionate enthusiasts of the automobile world and of watchmaking mechanics with the legendary partnership in the Mille Miglia race. In 1996, he decided to restore haute horlogerie by launching the LUC project.
Karl-Friedrich tells the story that with Alpine Eagle, it seems like history is repeating itself. His son Karl-Fritz, secretly supported by his grandfather Karl, insisted that he update the St. Moritz design. He was at first reluctant, but was soon won over by his son’s strength of conviction, just as he himself had been able to win his father’s support 40 years ago.
The case, dial and hands
The case is an evolution of the case of the St. Moritz, as shown in the sketch by Karl-Friedrich above. The case itself is an angular design with two twin protrusions at 3 and 9 which break the visual acuity of the straight lines of the sides, and provides some aesthetic interest. At 3, the crown is located between the protrusions which also act as a crown guard. All Alpine Eagle’s flat surfaces are satin-brushed with edges which feature highly polished anglage.
The bezel is round and held in place by 8 screws which are grouped in pairs at 12, 3, 6 and 9. Their slots are set at a tangent to the circle of the bezel. The case is rated to a water resistance of 100m.
The hour and minute hands are stick shaped and in-filled with Superluminova. The indices are also stick except for the cardinal points which are marked by Roman numerals. The minutes are marked by dots and dashes at the edge of the dial which features a rising lip. The dial itself is a beautiful dark anodized blue with a radiating texture which is inspired by the eagle’s iris.
The integrated bracelet
In this genre of the luxury sports steel watch, the focus is in the integrated bracelet. The Alpine Eagle bracelet too takes its design inspiration from the St. Moritz, and comprise of a single ingot-shaped link, topped by a raised cap.
The design calls for a complex hand assembly with the pins which hold the links together are designed in as a figure of 8 and inserted to each of the bracelet links.
In the real world, as we wore the watch, it performed well, and felt pliable and comfortable. We understand the design is particularly comfortable for not trapping and pulling hairs off the wrist, but we have rather hairless arms, so will not be able to confirm that.
Lucent A233 Steel
The case is created in a material which Chopard calls Lucent Steel A223, a new material that is as rich, precious and complex as gold, transforming the dream of Renaissance alchemists into glowing reality. So the Press Release blurb testifies.
In handling the watch, it feels very similar to standard stainless steel, though technically the new Lucent Steel A223 is a steel resulting from a re-smelting process featuring three unique characteristics. It is hypoallergenic and have properties comparable to surgical steel, but with a hardness quotent of 223 Vickers, it is 50% more resistant to abration than conventional steel. The crystaline structure is also homogeneous, and this property enables it to reflect light in a unique way. Like diamond whose brilliance depends on the lowest degree of impurities, this innovative steel has far less impurities than conventional steel, guaranteeing it brilliance and brightness comparable to that of gold.
The industrialisation of this new alloy required no less than four years of research and development. The complexity is increased as the fit and finish for the watch is at a very high level with very low and precise tolerances so that it may look and operate properly. Chopard tells us that these factors and the added hardness of the material requires a significant increase in manufacturing time, as well as wear and tear on machining tools.
Alpine Eagle – 10 references at launch
The Alpine Eagle is issued from the time of its launch in ten references in steel, gold, bi-material or diamond-set gold, and available in unisex models in two different 41 mm and 36 mm diameters.
The movement – Caliber 01.01-C
The Alpine Eagle 41mm is equipped with the 01.01-C caliber with a 60-hour power reserve, while the 36 mm models host the 09.01-C calibre with a 42-hour power reserve – with the latter 8-ligne movement being one of the smallest to receive COSC certification. Both are visible through a transparent sapphire crystal back.
The movement finishing looks very industrial as one glances at it through the sapphire glass case back. However, on closer examination (with and without a loupe), the finnisage level is very fine. The brushed and polished theme which began with the case and bracelet continues to the movement, and the bridges are brushed with each edge in a high polish anglage. Screw heads are nicely polished and sit within chamfered wells so that the top of the head is flush with the bridge.
Vertically integrated manufacture
Interestingly, Chopard is a manufacture with a very high level of vertical integration in their production facilities, and the Alpine Eagle is completely produced and assembled in-house. All the components of its movements to the making of its case and bracelet, whether in steel and/or gold are produced by Chopard.
This level of commitment to quality is admirable, and assures that the manufacture is not held ransom by contractors who may or may not always supply components in a quality and timeliness that is needed.
The competitive landscape
At a recommended retail of S$ 17,200, the Chopard Alpine Eagle 41mm is perhaps almost perfectly priced, no doubt a positioning which Chopard has chosen very carefully and intelligently. It retains the high luxury sports watch appeal and perhaps extends it with the use of innovative material (Lucent steel) and a nice in-house movement. But it lives within a treacherous landscape.
The landscape of luxury sports watches with an integrated bracelet began in 1972 with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak designed by Gerald Genta. Genta remained as the most important designer in this genre for many years after and is responsible for the now iconic Patek Philippe Nautilus. Both have retained their grail status since inception and today still command retail prices which are much higher than the Alipine Eagle. Also both are near impossible to buy at retail, and appear in the black market at considerable premiums.
But the genre is also encompass other designers – the works of Jorg Hysek in the Vacheron Constantin 222 and Overseas, and the work of an unknown Italian designer who created the Girard Perregaux Lauretto. The VC and GP offerings are also priced above the retail of the Chopard.
And recently, the genre expanded with the entry of the more budget friendly Bell & Ross BR 05. It will further swell with the upcoming, yet to be released, Moser which we alluded to in the mini-interview with Edouard Meylan. (see section in the middle of the article)
As a note, Genta also designed the original IWC Ingenieur, but it was not a n integrated bracelet design, so it acquits itself from this list.
As mentioned, we had the watch for a few days to wear as a daily beater. And in this role, it performed very well, as it is expected to. It kept excellent time, and the Lucent Steel proved its worth as it remained free from scratches, though it must be admitted that we did baby the watch when it was with us.
The level of detail and attention lavished on a watch like this by a seasoned manufacture who have full control of every single component almost guarantees that the final product is perfect. And indeed the Chopard Alpine Eagle is as perfect as they come.
Criticisms can be leveled at the aesthetics by some, though we feel it a rather beautiful timepiece. And we think no self respecting critical reviewer can fault the manufacturing process, or the fit and finish, or the quality of the movement supplied. So we consider this as yet another achievement on the cap of Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Bravo monsieur!
Chopard Alpine Eagle Technical Specifications
Lucent Steel A223
Total diameter 41 mm
Thickness 9.7 mm
Water resistance 100 metres
Steel crown with rose compass 7 mm
Vertical satin-brushed caseband with polished chamfers
Vertical satin-brushed bezel with eight tangent fastening screws
Glare-proofed sapphire crystal
Exhibition back with glare-proofed sapphire crystal
Mechanical with automatic winding Chopard 01.01-C
Number of parts 207
Diameter 28.80 mm
Thickness 4.95 mm
Number of jewels 31
Frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve 60 hours
Dial and hands:
Stamped brass dial with sunburst motif, galvanic blue or grey, inspired by an eagle’s iris
Applied numerals and hour-markers, rhodium-plated and coated with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1
Baton-type hours and minutes hands, rhodium-plated and coated with Super-LumiNova® Grade X1
Rhodium-plated arrow-tipped seconds hand with counterweight shaped like an eagle feather
Hours, minutes, seconds
Date between 4 and 5 o’clock
Bracelet and clasp:
Bracelet in Lucent Steel A223, tapering, with satin-brushed wide link and sides, polished central cap, steel triple folding clasp
Ref. 298600-3001 – in Lucent Steel A223 with blue dial
Ref. 298600-3002 – in Lucent Steel A223 with slate grey dial
Ref. 298600-6001 – in Lucent Steel A223 and 18-carat ethical rose gold with slate grey dial