June 6, 2023

Alpina watches in the Cayman Islands

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Ralph Simons, Guido Benedini, William BaldwinWilliam Baldwin celebrates 130 years of Alpina watches in the Cayman Islands

By Adam Morin From A Blog To Watch

Alpina recently held an event on the island of Grand Cayman in honor of their 130th anniversary. This event, held at The Mansion at Camana Bay, was a celebration of all things Alpina. On hand for the event was CEO Guido Benedini, president of Alpina Frederique Constant Americas Ralph Simons, Frederique Constant Caribbean manager Michael Stauber, and Alpina brand ambassador William “Billy” Baldwin. The evening focused on Alpina’s history and future as well as a general love of timepieces.

Alpina has been featured on aBlogtoWatch primarily relating to their Extreme Diver line but not too much has been said about Alpina’s long history. It isn’t uncommon for brand names to be snatched up in a post quartz-crisis world for the purpose of selling inferior products at a Sting Ray Citypremium based on name alone. This is the exact opposite of the path Alpina pursues. They seek to pick up the torch of the fallen brand and continue on into the future. Think of Alpina as a continuation under new management. That history started in 1883 when a man named Gottlieb Hauser founded the company.

Things went well for Alpina up until the 1970’s when the entire Swiss watch industry was crushed by the advent of quartz watches. Alpina remained independent but faded away during this time as a result. It wasn’t until 2002 when Peter Stas, of Frederique Constant fame, rediscovered and acquired the brand. Stas sought to do with the sport watch segment with Alpina, what he has done on the dressier side with Frederique Constant, which is to offer affordable luxury. Stas remained at the helm of both companies until this year when industry veteran Guido Benedini was tapped to take over as CEO of Alpina.

William BaldwinThe event also served as a great opportunity to get a closer look at a number of Alpina’s newest offerings. Of particular interest was their Heritage Pilot models. The Heritage Pilot MKII is a re-creation of the brand’s pilot watch from 1926. This classic-styled, 50mm piece features a hand-wound movement visible through a display back protected by a beautifully engraved hunter case as well as applied indices and Arabic hour markers. It is limited to just 1883 pieces in honor of the year Alpina was founded.

The similarly named Alpina 130 Heritage Pilot Automatic Chronograph is one seen on a lot of press material lately. This 41.5mm bi-compax chronograph is available in both gold and stainless steel. The vintage dial might seem a bit asynchronous when the watch is flipped over to observe the movement and modern-looking Alpina rotor. The watch works well as a whole so I’m willing to give that a pass.

Alpina’s sister brand, Frederique Constant was also represented (to a lesser degree).  A number of their new tourbillon pieces were on hand, including this rose gold example. Despite some debate as to the benefit of a tourbillon escapement in modern wristwatches, they have become a rite of passage of sorts for brands in recent years. Frederique Constant’s offering is one of the most affordable Swiss-made tourbillons.

I was able to spend the most time with the new Extreme Diver Automatic 300M Orange. This is essentially the same model that Ariel reviewed in depth here but with some additional color thrown in as well as new hands. It still doesn’t have a serious tool watch vibe to it but it is perfectly at home lounging around on a tropical island, hanging out on yachts, and playing in the water… which is excellent because that is exactly what I planned on doing with it. Alpina brand ambassador William Baldwin spoke at the event but as an added bonus to anyone who purchased an Alpina or Frederique Constant that night was then invited to join Baldwin and the Alpina team in the Caribbean waters the following day.

Baldwin proved an excellent brand ambassador while speaking to the crowd on history and the inherent heirloom quality of well-made watches, something quite fitting given Alpina’s 130th anniversary and clear emphasis on “heritage” models. I’ll admit a certain amount of favorable bias towards Baldwin’s speech due to multiple name drops throughout but the sentiment is valid and one of the reasons I do love timepieces.

The following day new Alpina owners met the brand at the Camina Bay docks to enjoy what Grand Cayman had to offer by boat, in this case a privately chartered yacht. Ralph Simons had to remain on dry land and work while Guido Benedini and Michael Stauber were joined by William Baldwin and Chynna Phillips for the tropical blue waters.

The first stop at famed Stingray City proved to be an eventful one. The shallow sandbars are a famous tourist attraction due to the large number of friendly stingrays that congregate in the area. Guests of Alpina enjoyed the clear water and inquisitive stingrays while Baldwin took a number of promotional photos with hired photographers.

Things got far more interesting as infamous loner “Stinky” the dolphin appeared to join in on the fun. Do a YouTube search, you won’t be disappointed. Stinky swam around and chased after the numerous stingrays until brushing up against Baldwin and charging after him. The dolphin was blocked and redirected while Baldwin returned to the boat but it was definitely a bit too close for comfort. The rest of the day was spent jumping off the boat, swimming, and riding jets skis while the sun set over the island. A day spent like that is perfect for the Alpina Extreme Diver.

Alpina has gained a lot of respect and popularity since their modern re-launch. If they continue along their current path we are sure to see much more from them in the years to come. Few Swiss brands can offer this quality at such affordable prices. They are definitely a brand to watch as they grow. alpina-watches.com

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See also related iNews Cayman story November 5, 2013 “Alpina Celebrates 130th Anniversary in Grand Cayman Islands” at: http://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/alpina-celebrates-130th-anniversary-in-grand-cayman-islands/


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