If you’re reading HODINKEE, there’s an excellent chance that you already know stainless steel sport watches on integrated bracelets are a thing. Chances are you also know that in the past few years, a number of new entries have joined a crowded field of watches that, although they have new designs, employ an aesthetic code originating in the 1970s. By and large, a trio of brands that happen to overlap with what some call the holy trinity of Swiss watchmaking are at the center of this cult of retro-styled, braceleted watches.
Last year, a major independent, family-owned Swiss watchmaker joined the ranks of brands that make this type of watch, offering high-quality in-house movements, impressive ergonomics, and a design seemingly intended to scratch an itch that everyone knew existed while managing to stand out, in large part thanks to some striking dials. I’m talking about the Chopard Alpine Eagle. (To be fair, it’s much better to say that Chopard rejoined these ranks. The watch it launched in 2019 is, in fact, part of a lineage that began with the St. Moritz, a sporty and stylish watch that the company came out with at the dawn of the 1980s.)
Today, Chopard is writing the next chapter of the Alpine Eagle, and it comes in the form of a complication that’s long been a go-to not only for Chopard but for watches in this genre: the chronograph. At launch, the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is available in three variations. Two Lucent Steel A223 numbers with either a piercing blue or black dial, as well as an ethical rose gold and Lucent Steel A223 variation, which brings a slightly more luxe two-tone dimension to the collection. As you probably already gathered from the “XL” in the name, these are fairly large chronographs. They come in at 44mm in diameter, and they measure 13.15mm thick.
Chopard is not only a watchmaker with a host of its own in-house movements (the 03.05-C flyback column-wheel chronograph movement powers all three of the Alpine Eagle chronographs you see here); it’s also jeweler of world-class renown. And to that end, Chopard brings an impressive level of technical strength to the field of metallurgy. It develops its own alloys and even operates a gold foundry in-house. Lucent Steel A223 is a steel alloy developed by Chopard and its partner Voestalpine Böhler. It is a very special steel alloy, known for its anti-allergenic properties (comparable to surgical steel), its intensely reflective character, and its impressive hardness. Made partially from recycled steel, it’s 50% more resistant to abrasion than run-of-the-mill stainless. The point of hardness is particularly relevant when you consider that sport-luxury watches crafted in this genre – which tends to favor sharp angles, combinations of brushed and polished finishes, and flat surfaces – also tend to be magnets for scratches and are not particularly receptive to a kiss from the polishing wheel. Ethical Gold, for its part, is a term that Chopard has used for quite some time. It’s what its name implies, and can be either mined from small scale mines participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association (SBGA) or sourced through the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) Chain of Custody. If you’d like to learn a bit more about how Chopard sources its gold, a more in-depth explanation is provided on the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono website.
When the Alpine Eagle launched last year, it came out in two sizes and was offered only in a three-hand format, the larger of two sizes offering a date. I wrote the post introducing the line, and I remember really liking the watches upon seeing them in the metal. They felt like quality, and I dug that Alpine Eagle could trace its roots roughly to the time in which this mode of watch was born. St. Moritz was an OG of sorts in this field. Another watchmaking group now has an arrangement with the municipality of St. Moritz, and Chopard’s leadership opted to start anew with a fresh name for its revived sport-luxury watch line. I like the one they went with; it channels the mountainous domaine of the original St. Moritz and the piercing, almost hypnotic quality of the new watches’ dials. I’d encourage you to go back to my original post from a year ago, as it had live pics, and have a look at those dials.
But back to the watches at hand. For this introducing post, we don’t have live pics, but as you can see in the supplied photos, the pattern is still there. This sunburst pattern, achieved with a galvanic treatment, has so far been one of the main calling cards of the Alpine Eagle design; having a distinct dial design, along with a distinct case and bracelet, are part of what makes this class of watches. Here, that pattern does seem to be competing for attention with the sub-dials, a tachymeter, and the assorted dial furniture, though. In person, the swirling sunburst dials just may make a stark contrast to the snailed sub-dials. I’m looking forward to seeing these watches in person. Last year, I had a chance to try on both the 41mm version and the 36mm version of the non-chronograph Alpine Eagles, and I found them both comfortable on my seven-inch wrist. While I can see guys with average (like myself) or smaller wrists wearing the 36, I gave the edge to the 41mm version. It felt like a robust, well-designed sport watch, with a balanced bracelet that exuded quality and comfort. I was struck by an impression that a lot of thought and work went into their design and manufacture. The general Alpine Eagle case architecture seems to be very receptive to the modifications necessitated by the chronograph. Looking at how the pushers occupy space between the lugs and the crown guards (perhaps best seen in the above straight-on shot or in the many three-quarter shots in this article), they remain visible and available for a quick press but unobtrusive. I get the sense that a lot of thought was given to how this case shape would look with pushers a while before the original Alpine Eagle dropped. The picture below affords another view of the crown and pushers, as well as a relative sense for the watch’s thickness compared to its diameter, and this in relation to the bracelet.
I’d rather not speculate as to how the 44mm Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono will wear, as I have not worn one, but this is a bigger watch than what I tend to reach for these days. (I do own some big watches, though, and I’ve lately been thinking of returning them to a more prominent place in the rotation.) That the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is on a bracelet likely means that this will be a pretty hefty watch.
The caliber O3.05-C first appeared in the Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition and hails from Chopard’s Fleurier Ebauches factory, a manufacturing center in the town of Fleurier. It’s a column-wheel flyback chronograph, as I mentioned, and it runs at a standard rate of 4 Hz while delivering a respectable 60 hours of power reserve.
I like the look of all three versions, but in the end, for me, it comes down to the two-tone and to the blue dial, with a slight edge going to the blue. Fun fact, this blue is actually called Aletsch Blue, a reference to the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. I feel like a blue dial is pretty classic for this style of watch, and it makes a strong impression with the signature sunburst eagle iris pattern.