Though it stands on the shoulders of giants, Chopard’s Alpine Eagle is a welcome addition to the furore of integrated bracelet steel watches. This beautifully executed package pulls together multiple trends in luxury watchmaking, all without descending into pure mimicry. And the 41mm two-tone reference is a particularly funky way to experience the steel watch craze. Read our Watch Editor Randy’s full thoughts below.
It’s a truism, universally applicable, that there is nothing new under the sun — and so it goes for watchmaking. On that premise, it’s easy to dismiss the Alpine Eagle — Chopard’s newest collection, launched in late 2019 — as an attempt to exploit the market hysteria surrounding steel sports watches. Comparisons to similar watches fielded by industry leaders like Rolex and Audemars Piguet are inevitable, but if we put these (frequently simplistic) critiques aside, what remains is a design with strong fundamentals — backed up by some genuinely fresh takes.
In spite of what internet troglodytes would have you believe, the Alpine Eagle is not a collection that has been haphazardly thrown together over the last three years, in order to wrestle ground from AP et al. Its underlying inspiration is the St. Moritz: a sports watch introduced in 1980 by Chopard president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. More than 30 years after its initial release, Karl-Freidrich’s grandson Karl-Fritz saw an opportunity to re-imagine the St. Moritz for a modern audience, and thus the Alpine Eagle was born.
Consequently, many of the design queues on display are carry-over from the St. Moritz, lending the Alpine Eagle substantially more retro appeal than its competition: on the dial, you’ll find a mixture of baton and Roman numeral indexes; the cardinal positions on the bezel are set with exposed screws (orientated in four groups of two); and flat surfaces throughout the case are all satin-brushed and highlighted with smaller ‘pops’ of polishing.
The notable exception — as you may have clocked from the gallery above — is the dial. Its variegated, geode-like texture is reportedly inspired by the craning of an eagle’s iris: an effect that is made possible by modern galvanic finishing. Here, I had my first taste of Chopard’s serious horological chops. Akin to a certain Japanese-made ‘Mt. Iwate’, this new dial is highly reactive when exposed to light. Depending on the angle, distance and intensity of light, the dial takes on varying gray tones. Combine this with the ultra-variegated texture, and you have a dial which never ceases to make an impression — on you and people in your vicinity. As you’d expect, Chopard reps are reporting that the blue version of this dial has proven to be the most popular, but for what it’s worth I think the gray execution lends better visual continuity to the Alpine Eagle’s overall design, blending the dial, bracelet and case into a coherent whole.
On the wrist, the Alpine Eagle wears a pinch smaller than its stated dimensions. Despite the 41mm diameter, a relatively thin case (9.7mm) and skewed bezel-to-dial ratio give the watch presence that’s closer to 39mm. As somebody who’s barely capable of pulling off the original Jumbo, this ‘wears slightly smaller than’ quality is hardly a knock against the Alpine Eagle. The size comes off as substantial without being obnoxious, and the short tapered lugs sit neatly above the centre of your wrists.
So far, most of the elements I’ve covered will feel familiar to watch enthusiasts. Beyond an interesting dial treatment and archival design queues, Chopard are seeking to differentiate their newest offering by way of material innovation. Whereas most brands rely on 316L stainless steel to manufacture their watches, the Alpine Eagle uses an original proprietary alloy known as Lucent A223. Derived from Vickers steel, the A223 compound consists of 70 percent recycled and 30 percent traceable metal. In practice, you’re left with an alloy that is as robust as conventional stainless steel but there’s a visual difference that’s immediately discernible. Seriously: over the 70-something hours that I had the watch, I must have rolled it clasp to dial close to 100 times. That’s because Lucent steel is shinier than what you’re used to with plain old 316L, giving off an intense luster which, under the right conditions, is easily mistaken for white gold. Chopard already get points in my book for espousing an ethos of ‘sustainable luxury’, but the aesthetic attributes of Lucent steel prove so desirable that you almost forget it’s semi-recycled — it’s simply that good.
Before we wrap up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a brief moment to talk about the bracelet. When the Alpine Eagle’s internet-dwelling detractors accused it of being ‘unoriginal’ they clearly hadn’t stopped to ponder this aspect of the design. For starters, the bracelet is pretty distinctive — genuine watch enthusiasts will immediately note the absence of any vertical mid-links (something that’s endemic to Rolex and all the brands which crib from them). You can see above that Chopard’s new bracelet consists of a series of gradually tapering, solid ‘ingot’ links. Each is visually punctuated by its own ‘cap’ — highly polished segments affixed to the top of each ingot.
The build quality on this thing is also fantastic: the bracelet strikes the right balance between stretch and solidity, and the points of articulation between each link are extremely responsive. The only downside, for all this comfort and visual razzmatazz, is that it’s a b**ch to resize. Individual links cannot be attached with a mere springbar, which means that on-the-fly adjustments are off the table. Again, if I’m being really picky I’d level this as a criticism but you can achieve an extremely precise fit by simply taking a few extra minutes at your local AD/boutique. Trust me: you won’t be disappointed.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle 41mm in two-tone Lucent steel A223 and rose gold is now available for HK$149,000. To learn more, visit Chopard online.