Looking at our stats, I see that demand for recommendations regarding diving watches is a seasonal thing with most visitors coming in summer and then gradually declining till Christmas only to start growing again in early January. “Pilots” are different animals: I have an impression that people are always interested in “aviators” regardless of the time of season. So, for your reading pleasure, a choice of fifteen timekeepers from under $200 to more than $10,000 as priced by online retailers that I find worthy of being considered while shopping for your new (or maybe your very first!) pilot’s watch this year.
The 2016 Alpina Startimer Pilot automatic chronograph (refs. AL-725B4S6, AL-725GR4S6 & AL-725N4S6) is available in three colors of its laconic, extremely sober dial and in two colors of the genuine leather strap. It is a bit expensive, many people may (and probably will) call it boring, and it is not a match to majors like IWC and Omega in terms of mojo and perceived value, yet the combination of a highly ergonomic design, reliable mechanism, and an acceptable price make it a nice everyday watch for a person who can afford one.
The 2016 Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage (refs. AL-525S4H6 & AL-525G4H6) collection of dressy divers is a clear reference to the brand’s so-called “days of independence” when, back in the late 1950s and throughout all the 1960s, the company introduced one beautiful model after another. Although I can’t call it a real “homage” (and I actually like that it is not,) this new pair of timepieces does a good job at recreating the spirit of the days long gone. Perhaps, the only thing that somehow devalues these gorgeous retro-styled models -besides the fact that, differing so much from other members of the Seastrong family, it needed to become a foundation of a completely new collection- is the simple mass-produced mechanism: each of these beauties just screams for a hand-wound NOS job!
Presented in two colors of its laconic, easy to read dial, Alpina Alpiner Manufacture makes the time-proven Caliber AL-710 in-house automatic movement its selling point. The “Manufacture” mechanism slowly replaces third-party mechanisms from their relatively inexpensive lines. Accurate and reliable, the AL-710 greatly increases the timekeeper’s collectability while still making it a nice daily wearer
The 2015 Alpina Seastrong Diver 300 Chronograph Big Date expands the brand’s line of affordable diving companions with yet another product. Featuring a reliable and accurate quartz mechanism packed into a visually attractive, nicely sculpted stainless steel body, the timepiece looks like a perfect “first real Swiss watch” choice for a young customer who still can’t afford to buy “a real thing” be it a member of the same collection powered by a more expensive mechanical movement or something of an entirely different league like, say, an Omega Seamaster or a Breitling Superocean.
Revealed at Baselworld 2015, the Alpina Alpiner 4 Manufacture Flyback Chronograph (ref. AL-760SB5AQ6) is not just another handsome wristwatch from just another second-tier brand. Besides featuring a distinct and interesting exterior, it is also one of the few relatively affordable chronographs that are powered by an in-house caliber. Developed by the brand’s parent company Frederique Constant, it sports an unusual design feature: instead of the tried and true cam-and-lever or a more precise column-wheel, its chronograph module has a star-shaped gear that makes it easier to produce on an industrial scale without sacrificing much in the precision department.
With its Comtesse (refs. AL-525APWD3CD3B and AL-525APW3CD6B) series,Alpina targets a wide array of customers, both in terms of exterior styling and price. While some may find this “one for everyone” concept too undiscriminating, the logic behind it is undeniable. After all, Alpina is here for the money and there seems to be nothing more cost-effective than offering a model that, as generic as it is, allows the brand to make so many nice variations without investing too much money designing the new collection.
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 (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 the resale value will not plunge as swiftly as it is often the case with products delivered by second-tier brands.
With its 2014 self-winding Alpina Alpiner chronograph, the Swiss-based brand finally offers an interesting timekeeper. Interesting for the kind of customers that are tired of numerous recreations and reissues and just want a watch that would look cool in a room filled with 85-inch 4K TV sets, smart coffeemakers, and modern furniture made of shiny steel and expensive leather. Although in its finish I see numerous references to products made by other watchmakers (like, for example, this 2010 Chronoswiss Pacific Collection), I must admit that all in all the device looks refined and well-balanced. It is one of their collections that Alpina will never be ashamed with.
About two years ago, the Swiss watchmaker has introduced its vintage-styled Startimer Classic three-hander (Ref. AL-525SCR4S6). With a sleek, easy to read dial, the timekeeper looked great and probably generated good sales because for this year the company re-introduced the watch as an Alpina Startimer Pilot Sunray (Ref. AL-525GB4S6).