Since its launch in 2019, the Chopard Alpine Eagle has become an increasingly appreciated addition to the burgeoning luxury sports watch market. Now, the illustrious Swiss jewellery and watch manufacturer combines its flagship sports watch with one of its most advanced movements, with the goal of creating a timepiece that is not just sporty and stylish, but also precise.
Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF
Enter the Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF. As its name suggests, this new model has an escapement that ticks at an 8 Hz frequency, twice the speed of a typical modern escapement. This, of course, isn’t Chopard’s first rodeo with high frequency movements, having previously experimented with the Calibre L.U.C 01.06-L in the L.U.C 8HF model. The main difference this time is that this technical feat is presented in a sportier, more assertive package that is the Alpine Eagle.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
Not unlike the standard Alpine Eagle, the case of the new Cadence 8HF measures 41 mm x 9.75 mm. In fact, its case and bracelet design also remains unchanged compared to the previous models. You still get the beautifully satin-brushed bezel, case middle, and wide links that are contrasted stunningly by the polished central links, bevels, and tangential screws. What’s different this time is the material that the watch is made in. Previously crafted in either gold or Lucent Steel A223 alloy, the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF is all-titanium. Compared to the proprietary Lucent Steel A223 alloy which is shiny and hard, titanium is distinguished by its darker colour and lighter weight.
Just as striking as the case is the mesmerising dial of the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8 HF. Similar to preceding models, the dial is marked with what Chopard has dubbed the “eagle iris” pattern. According to the brand, it is a direct tribute to the piercing vision of the majestic bird of prey that inspired the collection. The “Vals Grey” colour of the dial is further inspired by the village of the same name in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, known for its houses with quartzite-tiled roofs.
One small but welcomed design change can be found in the hour track, where it has been pared down to baton-style appliques and a Roman numeral XII. The result is a cleaner dial compared to that of the regular Alpine Eagle models, which have Roman numeral appliques at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Also novel are the two inscriptions found only in the Cadence 8 HF model: “8 Hz Chronometer” beneath the Chopard marque, and an arrow-shaped logo reserved only for Chopard high-frequency watches. Last but not least, there’s the date window that appears between the 4 and 5 o’clock hour markers – something that you’ll either hate of love.
Shock and impact are part and parcel of the life of a wristwatch, but they nonetheless disturb the oscillations of the balance. One way to mitigate the effect of knocks on the escapement is to utilise one that beats at a high frequency. Due to a statistical effect, the faster it beats, the less effect each impact has on the average rate. In 2012, Chopard was a pioneer in marketing an entire series of watches with a chronometer-certified high-frequency movement: the Calibre L.U.C 01.06-L. Years of evolution later, the high-frequency Calibre 01.12-C is born to grace the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8 HF.
The Calibre 01.12-C has a pallet-lever, escape wheel and impulse pin – all components subjected to high friction – made of monocrystalline silicon. This is to reduce friction, thereby eliminating the need for traditional watchmaking lubricants and extending the longevity of the movement. It is the tribological properties of silicon plus its lightness that have made developing the high-frequency movement without increasing energy consumption a reality. Evidently, in spite of operating at 8 Hz, the COSC-certified Calibre 01.12-C has a praiseworthy power reserve of 60 hours, which is the same duration as in regular Alpine Eagle models.
While not as aesthetically pleasing as Chopard’s L.U.C movements, the Calibre 01.12-C is still neatly finished beyond engineering requirements. This is a calibre that focuses on function over form.
The Competitive Landscape
If you were to pick, at random, any mechanical wristwatch available in the market today, you will find that an overwhelming majority operate between 3 to 4 Hz. While more manufacturers now than ever are dabbling in them, high-frequency movements remain a relative rarity. Now with a calibre that beats at double the speed of a conventional modern movement, the Chopard Alpine Eagle further distinguishes itself from the pack. Only 250 pieces of the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8 HF in titanium with patinated ‘Vals Grey’ dial will ever be made, and the watch retails at SGD27,600.
One brand that has been doing high-frequency movements longer than Chopard is Grand Seiko, from as early as the late 1960s. The Grand Seiko Hi Beat GMT is one of the brand’s most popular watches, having also won the Petit Aguille prize at the Grand Prix Horlogerie de Genève in 2014. The SBGJ227 “Peacock” limited edition (image below) was introduced in 2017, driven by the Caliber 9S86. The Calibre 9S86 – essentially the Caliber 9S85 but with GMT functionality – operates at a higher-than-usual frequency of 5 Hz. To ensure the longevity and accuracy of the movement, Seiko relied heavily on precision manufacturing and materials technology. Priced at under EUR10,000, the Grand Seiko SBGJ227 Hi Beat 36000 GMT is a more budget-friendly alternative to the Alpine Eagle Cadence 8 HF.
Meanwhile, back in Switzerland, Zenith has had the lions share of the limelight in recent years for high frequency watches. This year, the Le Locle-based manufacturer introduced the Defy El Primero 21 Ultrablue in microblasted titanium. The most fascinating aspect about the watch is its movement, the El Primero 9004 calibre, which has two escapements – one for the chronograph, the other for timekeeping – both running at high frequencies. The 1/100th of a second chronograph is driven by a 50 Hz escapement while the running time is powered by a more “modest” 5 Hz escapement. A thoroughly modern mechanical wristwatch, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Ultrablue is priced at USD13,500.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8 HF pulls no punches. It now has a high-revving engine to match its assertive exterior. The only ‘drawback’ to the timepiece is the rather industrial finish of the movement, which serendipitously matches the steely grey looks of the case and bracelet. It will be interesting to see if the Cadence 8 HF is going to be taken further by Chopard with additional complications and innovations.