Alpina Watches is a Swiss watch brand. Alpina was founded in 1883 and since 2002 is owned by the watch company Frederique Constant. Alpina started its “4” sports watches collection in 1938, with (at that time) innovative features such as anti-magnetism, anti-shock, water resistance.
Gottleib Hauser was an independent watch maker in Switzerland who was finding it very hard to source parts and materials for his watches. After a few years of hard work he had an idea, to create a union of members all being fellow watchmakers in Switzerland who could then share parts, materials and ideas collectively. This was when he founded the “Alpina Swiss Watchmakers Corporation”. This united the foremost independent Swiss watchmakers who then became know as the “Alpinists”.
They were initially developed to optimise and develop the manufacturing of timepiece movements and the timepieces themselves through cooperation between the manufacturers and suppliers, but Alpina soon started developing calibres and chronometers and producing them completely in-house.
Jacob Straub decided that there was some extremely innovative technology within Alpina which was being used by many watch manufacturers. Rumours say that they even made watch movements for Rolex at one point in the rectangular baguette watches but asked for them to be stamped as Rolex and not Alpina. After he registered the 12 and 19 line calibers almost all of the high end watches then carried the Alpina triangle mark on their movements. It was used to distinguish exceptional quality and precision.
The Alpina union celebrated its 25th Anniversary and the trademark “Alpina” was registered and appeared for the first time on high-end calibres and watches produced by Gottlieb Hauser. When the Alpina brand and trademark was born they also needed a distinctive symbol that could encompass the brand and this is when the Alpina red triangle emblem was created.
The Russia Trip
To expand his market, Gottlieb Hauser, together with his son, visited Russia in 1903. Their 50-day trip aimed to establish a foothold in the empire of the Tsars. Fortunately, the trip was a success and they came home with ledgers filled with names of new customers.
On its 25th anniversary, the Union registered Alpina as a brand name for timepieces. It was also then when they launched its distinctive symbol: the Alpiner, the legendary Alpina red triangle emblem
The Union created a perpetual calendar pocket watch complication, which was a significant technical milestone back then.
First Alpina Chronometer was manufactured in its Glashutte factory with W.A. Dubois, a recognized master, performing the fine adjustment of the watches. These chronometers became expensive timepieces so they were sold together with a guarantee certificate.
Alpina watches became the supplier for Chronometers for the German Navy which was an incredible force with over 810,000 personnel at its peak in 1944.
The Alpina watches brand became a renowned manufacturer and supplier for time instruments for military pilots and started manufacturer of the legendary pilots legs watch which was used throughout the Air Force and still in many films today. It was worn on a pilots legs and had a huge strap so it could be worn over the top of the Air Force uniform so they could take precise time measurements accurately and with ease.
Alpina watches became the first watch brand to introduce the international watch guarantee which was a statement to the high grade and reliability of Alpina watches. It was a massive success with sales of Alpina growing and other watch manufacturers around the world also adopting this type of guarantee
Alpina watches released another innovation, the Alpina Watches ‘Block Uhr’ was the First Sports watch of its kind. It featured a rigid and reliable steel case and a patented new type of crown never before seen the (Brevet 1464) which screwed down to reduce the amount of dust that would get through the gap and damage the movement and inner workings.
The Alpina 4 was released. It was the introduction of the legendary sports watch. It was called the Alpina 4 as it had four key features, these were:
- Anti magnetic which helped the movement keep time and not magnetise to any electrical objects
- Waterproof which had a seal allowing it to be worn whilst doing snow sports
- Anti-shock which allowed it to be knocked in day to day life or when doing sports
- Stainless Steel which is a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass and quite hard wearing
Alpina celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the brand and released the ‘Alpina 70’ boasting the 4 Alpina sports features as well as the 592 and 598 calibers. This watch also had a golden logo on the dial and was extremely popular.
Alpina 4 Chronograph released which was the Alpina sports watch with a telemeter chronograph. The telemeter chronograph is a feature on the face of a wristwatch, which allows the owner to approximately measure the distance of a ski or a run for example using the speed of sound. It was the perfect addition to a sports watch and this was proven in their sales. By this time Alpina was in its prime, watch lovers all over the world were buying Alpina and it was recognised as a benchmark in quality and precision.
Divers watch named the ’10 Seastrong’ - it was the professional diving watch of its time! It had a self winding caliber and had 17 jewels. The 10 Seastrong had two crowns one determined the decompression time through a -60 min rotating bezel and the other was used to adjust the time. Both of with had waterproof seals however the Chronograph function did not function under water as this would allow water into the watches inner workings.
In 1969 Seiko released the worlds first commercial quartz wristwatch and the ‘Quartz Crisis’ began. This was a major blow to Alpina as well as many other Swiss brands that had to fold under the strong pressure from Japan. Alpina reduced its company right back into Switzerland and Germany. It sold to these two countries markets only and tried to work out what it was going to do. A Dutch entrepreneur by the name of Peter Stas learnt all about the Alpina brands history in sports watches, military and aviation.
In 2002, Frédérique Constant SA, also a Swiss manufacturer based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva acquired the Alpina Watches. In the same year, although struggling, Alpina finally made its comeback while remaining faithful to its horological legacy and remaining in the same factory. In 2003, Alpina presented four in-house developed and produced complications: the AL-980 Tourbillon (first Alpina tourbillon), the AL-718 World Timer (with 24 time zones on the dial), the AL-950 Automatic Regulator and the AL-710 Small Date.