HANDS-ON: Chopard’s svelte Alpine Eagle 41mm with Bernina Grey dialJames Robinson
This has unquestionably been the year of the contentious steel sports watch, with just about every watchmaker and their Bernese entering the fray in what has to be the most hotly contested genre of timepieces in the current watch market.
Chief among these new steely provocateurs is Chopard’s Alpine Eagle.
We’ve been fortunate enough to spend a fair amount of time with the spiritual birth child of the Chopard St. Moritz and Time+Tide founder, Andrew McUtchen, even got the opportunity to spend a week with the dazzling timepiece on his wrist.
That weeklong experience was with the 41mm steel Aletsch Blue dial example, which we suspected would have been the most popular iteration of the integrated upstart, what with blue dials and luxury steel sports watches going together like 5711s and waiting lists.
Although now that we’ve had a chance to spend a bit of time with the other dial option of the 41mm steel Alpine Eagle, the “Bernina Grey” number, we’re not so sure. There’s an iridescent quality to this dial and its heavily textured galvanic finish. And the way it complements the rest of the watch with aplomb shouldn’t be discounted – it makes for a very cohesive package. We’re not saying that the blue dial is jarring by comparison, but there’s a real pragmatism in the way the grey dial goes about its business, and interacts with the rest of the watch.
Speaking of the rest of the Alpine Eagle, the other big talking about the timepiece is the material that it’s hewn from. Lucent Steel A223 is its name, and until scribing this review, this writer hadn’t had the chance to experience what it was like on the wrist.
Now that I have, I must say you’ve got to hand it to Chopard – this new breed of stainless steel is impressive. It feels reassuringly weighty and strong, like you’d expect from a quality steel construction. But the way Chopard has been able to imbue such a lustrous persona into the steel means that you could easily mistake it for precious metal, which was exactly the watchmaker’s intention – invent a new material that had the inherent benefits of stainless steel, with the aesthetic charm of gold or, dare we say it, platinum.
At 41mm, the case is really well judged as far as size goes for a modern gent’s daily wearer, and it’s certified “cuff-friendly”. In fact, because the substantial bezel and its eight functional screws take up so much of the overall real estate of the watch, and the case measures just 9.7mm thin, if anything, the Alpine Eagle wears slightly smaller on the wrist than its dimensions would have you believe.
The bracelet is a joy – handsome and highly comfortable, with a good amount of tapering that ensures it wraps around the wrist nicely. It’s also pleasing to see an original design for an integrated steel bracelet, rather than just a pastiche ripped from one of the Alpine Eagle’s contemporaries. However, the way the links are connected to each other does appear to be overly complex, and I’d hate to be the person responsible for sizing the bracelet.
The Alpine Eagle features sapphire crystal on both the front and case-back, which is a good thing, as it gives Chopard the opportunity to show off their in-house calibre 01.01-C movement. The self-winding, chronometer-certified beating heart is nicely decorated, and features a circularly grained mainplate and bridges finished in a concentric pattern. Power reserve is a respectable 60 hours, and the operating frequency is a fairly traditional 28,800 (4Hz) vibrations per hour.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle has had a fair amount of scepticism levelled at it, and after spending some time with it attached to my wrist, I must say that the cynicism and indeed criticism from, let’s be honest, mostly keyboard warriors and “gram trolls” is completely unfounded.
This is a good watch, and we, as horological enthusiasts, should be celebrating the fact that this timepiece exists, not bemoaning whether or not it looks like other timepieces in the market.