With its extremely clean, visually lightweight dial and a nicely proportioned (as well as elegantly decorated) stainless steel body, this beautiful Alpina Alpiner 4 Chronograph “Race for Water” Limited Edition wristwatch (ref. AL-860AD5AQ6) has only one major flaw: its total production run will be restricted to just 400 pieces, which, I am afraid, will not be enough to justify demand from the general public. Well, at least there is a chance that its resale value will not plunge as swiftly as it is often the case with products delivered by second-tier brands.
As far as I understand, the new timepiece is mechanically based on the gorgeous Startimer Pilot Black Star Automatic Chronograph (Ref. AL-860GB4FBS6) that the Swiss brand has introduced back in January 2014. However, this new model features a radically different, a lot more modern styling, while the aforementioned Startimer was deliberately archaic with its leaf-shaped hands and all. Also, equipped with a compass-style unidirectional rotating bezel and featuring “stubby” hour and minute hands, as well as a silvered sunray dial with blue sub-dial rings and inner bezel flange of the same color, the “Race for Water” version looks a lot more, err, premium.
As usual for this sort of expensive accessories, it is those little things that matter. Like an audiophile-grade tube amplifier leaves miles behind a modern and sexy digital receiver in terms of craftsmanship and attention to the smallest of details, this new Alpiner 4 leaves your average Swiss made chrono in the dust. It is the notched bezel that seems to be quite easy (and also quite pleasant) to grasp; it is the machine brushed sides of the stainless steel body and ergonomic chronograph push-pieces; it is the 12 applied hour markers that perfectly match the hour and minute hands.
Delivered in the same 44 millimeter case, the wristwatch is animated by the same Alpina AL-860 automatic caliber, which is based on the well-known Sellita SW500 ebauche. Since the mechanism is clearly not the most spectacular thing to admire when it comes to this timekeeper (it usually features a very plain finish with just a personalized oscillating weight to make the mechanism look more unique), it was very prudently hidden behind an engraved case back cover that features the usual Alpina logo.
Somewhat surprisingly, the use of solid cover didn’t lead to an increased water resistance rating: officially it is good for just 10 ATM, which is still adequate for a sporty timekeeper, which is not supposed to be used as a diver’s companion.
Also, be aware that visually the gadget is even more massive than the aforementioned Startimer Pilot, so trying one before buying would be a very good idea.
If you still hesitate whether you really want to spend a hefty chunk of cash for this cold beauty, the Swiss watchmaker kindly provides you a very good excuse at doing so. As they report in their press release, the company will donate 50 Swiss francs from every watch sold to the “Race for Water” foundation: an institution that raises public awareness about scarcity of water on this planet. While 20,000 CHF doesn’t seem like a lot of money (Alpina will make only 400 individually numbered Alpiner 4 Chronograph), it still quite generous of them.
Photos: Alpina Watches
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Alpina Alpiner 4 Chronograph “Race for Water” Limited Edition (Ref. AL-860AD5AQ6) watch specification
Price: CHF 2990 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Alpina AL-860 (base Sellita SW500), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 30
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 46 hours
Movement decoration: No data
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph
Case material: Stainless steel
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 44.00 mm
Case height: No data
Lug width: 22/18 mm
Dial: Silvered, sunray
Hour markers: Applied, luminous
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap
Case back: Solid, engraved