Earlier this year, Swiss Alpina announced a new line of watches designed to echo the sporting philosophy of their roots. The new Alpiner collection joins their Startimer (pilot) and Seastrong (diver) lines and draws inspiration from legacy models and the brand’s rekindled relationship with Alpinist lifestyles. Within the Alpiner collection there is a sportier subset consisting of a chronograph and a GMT, collectively known as the “Alpiner 4.” The “4” title is in reference to what Alpina believes are the four essential elements of a sports watch – anti-magnetic, anti-shock, water-resistance and stainless steel. With a modern and well proportioned design along with a sports watch ideology and Alpina’s expertise in producing a high-quality yet accessible watch, the Alpina Alpiner GMT 4 Watch is deserving of a closer look.
While both the Chronograph 4 and the GMT 4 look great, I find a GMT to be a more interesting complication, especially when properly tuned for travel. There are a number of ways that a brand might attempt to implement a second timezone complication. For my wrist, a true GMT watch should be able to quickly, easily, and accurately change the time display to reflect local time while preserving some indication of home time and preferably AM/PM at home (so you’re not calling friends or family when they’re asleep). This is the methodology reflected by the Rolex GMT-Master II, which allows the user to advance the main hours hand in one hour “jumps,” without stopping the seconds hand. So when you land in a new time zone, you can quickly update to the correct time without compromising the accuracy of the minutes or seconds display.
We saw dozens of Alpina Men’s watches at Baselworld and many have the feature backwards. The primary time display is adjusted much like any three-hander while an independent hand can be adjusted to track a second timezone, generally via a 24 hour display to aid in day/night approximations. This feature is handy if you need to know the time in a second time zone for your day-to-day business but aren’t necessarily travelling between time zones.
This setup, sometimes called twin time or simply dual time zones, is less useful when traveling, as you have to essentially reset the entire watch when you land, often requiring a local time display (or time as relayed, often incorrectly, by the flight crew) to ensure the accuracy of the setting. Once set, a second time zone-style GMT will give you the same information, it’s just not tailored for travelling.
The Alpina Alpiner GMT 4 employs a Sellita SW 200 automatic movement with a custom module, allowing for jumping local hour hand functionality. Not only is this setup more functional for travel, its increased cost and complexity suggests that Alpina wanted to make the best possible GMT watch, not simply a “GMT” that can track two time zones. Though it is likely that the Chronograph 4 will be the more popular of the two, the GMT 4 offers a lot for its price tag while maintaining the easy appeal of a three-hander.