First revealed before the Baselworld 2012 trade show, the Heritage Pilot resurfaces in an even more appealing version. Although with a total production run of 1883 pieces (just like the older model), the Alpina Heritage Pilot Limited Edition (Ref. AL-435LB4SH6) shouldn’t be touted as a “limited” edition (there will be just too many of them in circulation for the model to become a rarity in any reasonable time), it still deserves our attention for the sheer beauty of it.
Powered by the same Alpina caliber AL-435, which is, in fact, a refinished version of the legendary Unitas 6498-1, the Heritage Pilot predictably offers the same dial layout of a three-hander with a small seconds indicator placed at 6 hours.
Although on that front view photo above the dial looks flat, it is in reality deliciously three-dimensional sporting applied brick-shaped hour markers and Arabic numerals on the 12-hour scale. Well, even the dots on the 24-hour scale look like tiny buttons, which is not only nice but is also usable, since the three-dimensional elements make the dial even more legible.
Since the stainless steel case of this vintage-style chronograph remains the same 50 millimeters in diameter, it is still a watch of gargantuan proportions, which is designed for heroically shaped people. No, it’s not just a figure of speech. Look at those numerous wrist-shots taken by normal people and you will see that in many cases the lugs are wider than the wrists of those guys.
Some eight decades ago, when pilots had to put on thick leather jackets and pants to keep them warm at high altitudes, they used to wear their chronographs over their jacket sleeves and the size of their instruments was not an issue (it’s more about self-confidence, you know.) Mainly, because their watches were what they were: tools designed to get them in the air and return safely home. Now, when even an inexpensive wristwatch is mainly an accessory, this sort of “homages” and reissues, which are usually worn with business suits, requires big wrists to look more or less normal.
If that doesn’t scare you away, that’s all right: this device was designed not for the faint of heart.
Still, I strongly encourage you to visit your local AD and try the Heritage Pilot on your wrist: however beautiful it is (and it is beautiful with its nicely sculpted dial and wonderfully finished movement, which is protected not only by a sapphire crystal but also by a stainless steel hunter-style cover), it is a Hummer of a watch that simply dwarves the most timekeepers that you have ever seen. A man may feel an unexpectedly high level of buyer’s remorse if he suddenly finds out that it’s just too big for him.
But, again, if you feel that it suits you alright, go for it, you won’t regret it.
Currently, on offer at CHF 1650, the Heritage Pilot is a reasonably priced device. Frankly, I doubt that you will be able to find any new “aviator” with such a high level of refinement that would be able to compete with it in this price niche.
See also: Muehle-Glasuette Terrasport II Automatic
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Alpina Heritage Pilot (Ref. AL-435LB4SH6) specification
Price: CHF 1650
Movement: Hand-wound, caliber AL-435, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 17
Movement frequency: 18,800 vph
Power reserve: 46 hours
Movement decoration: Cotes de Geneve on bridges
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 50.00 mm (58.00 mm lug to lug)
Case height: 10.00 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Dark brown calfskin strap with contrasting ivory stitching and water-resistant lining with a brushed steel buckle
Back: Sapphire, steel hunter cover