From gracing the pages of Vogue to being flashed on Jennifer Anniston’s wrist in The Morning Show, the Chopard Alpine Eagle soared onto the watch scene back in 2019. Now, in 2022, attention-grabbing additions to the line are appearing in the form of the Chrono XL and Flying Tourbillon. But before discovering the watches for ourselves, let’s delve into what lies behind the Alpine Eagle collection.
Alpine Eagle watch on Jennifer Anniston’s wrist in the Morning Show
Photo credit © Apple TV+
Born in the 80s: Roots of the Alpine Eagle
Although its launch lies in the recent past, the roots behind the Alpine Eagle’s design actually dates back to 1980. As with all celebrated watches, there’s a good story behind its conception. 1980 is the year in which, at the youthful age of 22, Chopard’s now co-president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, introduced the company’s first sports model: the St. Moritz. The watch ran with the Bauhaus principle of ‘form follows function’. Like the Alpine Eagle, it showcased exposed screws on the bezel and was accompanied by a refined three-link bracelet. What it lacked, of course, was the defining, deeply decorated dial we have today – but more on that later.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Karl Scheufele and Karl-Fritz Scheufele
Back in 1980, sports watches were a fairly new yet gradually accepted phenomenon. Audemars Piguet’s initially controversial Royal Oak changed the course of history as the first steel sports watch in 1972, with Patek’s Nautilus following close behind in 1976. Scheufele’s push to introduce steel watches in 1980 transformed Chopard into a company with a strong reputation for its sporting partnerships. In particular, its prestigious collaboration with the scenic Mille Miglia race has led to a collection of fantastic chronograph pieces. Chopard is also one of the few brands to impress the watch world with its sports watch collection for women – principally the Happy Sport.
Chopard’s St. Moritz advertising campaign in the 1980s
Sports watch of the 21st century: The Alpine Eagle
Use of steel
It was Scheufele’s son who pushed for a modern-day St. Moritz, which would take its inspiration from his own love of the Alps and the eagle that inhabits its peaks. The result of his dream, today’s Alpine Eagle, reinterprets the famous St. Moritz watch while undoubtedly offering up a strong DNA of its own. Nevertheless, the St. Moritz was indeed a landmark for Chopard as it introduced steel at the manufacture for the first time.
The Chopard St. Moritz in steel
It is no surprise, then, that steel plays an important role in its successor – in fact, the specific steel alloy used for the Alpine Eagle took four years to perfect. The special steel material created by Chopard was christened ‘Lucent Steel A223’. Making a custom-made version of more everyday alloys is a common occurence within the industry. There’s Rolex’s Oystersteel, Hublot’s King Gold, OMEGA’s Liquidmetal – the list goes on. The use of a unique, patented alloy does not only demonstrate the ability of a manufacture. It also helps a watch to have its own distinct aesthetics and feel.
OMEGA’s Liquidmetal, used for a Seamaster Planet Ocean limited edition
In the case of the Alpine Eagle, Lucent Steel A223 has three particular qualities. For the sake of aesthetics, the material shines luxuriously and catches the light. From a sports perspective, the material is beneficial because it is very durable – in fact, Lucent Steel A223 is 50% more durable than your average steel. Thirdly, similar to surgical steel, it is antiallergenic.
Lucent steel gives the metal – to quote the manufacture – an ‘ethereal incandescence’
Last but not least, let’s also remember that Chopard has gained respect within the watch industry for being one of the most conscious manufacturers out there when it comes to sustainability. For example, they commit to using 100 percent ethical gold. Its use of Lucent Steel A223 is likewise ecologically responsible, with the bracelet consisting of a good 70 percent recycled steel.
For me and surely many others, the most defining aspect of the Alpine Eagle is without a doubt its sunburst motif dial. Above all, it is this very unusual and highly recognisable dial that makes up the core DNA of this watch since the beginning. Its stamped decoration appears as though it has been deeply, roughly etched into the brass dial. The effect looks like no other dial ever seen on any other watch, at least to my knowledge. The aim of this unique pattern is to evoke the iris of an eagle.
The Alpine Eagle Chrono XL
Now that we are equipped with a knowledge of the core characteristics of the collection, it’s time to look at the biggest (quite literally) of the additions to the line this year: the Alpine Eagle Chrono XL. Featuring a 44 mm diameter and discreetly integrated pushers, the watch is housed in the largest case to enter the collection thus far. The second exciting quality of this watch is that it introduces a new complication to the line: a flyback chronograph. To top things off, it further embraces the Alpine Eagle‘s rightful place as a sports watch by adding a rubber strap into the mix.
A sporty dial
The stamped dial of the Chrono XL comes with two different colour options: Aletsch blue or pitch black. While the former gives a nod to Switzerland’s largest glacier, the Aletsch glacier, the latter takes its inspiration from the deep, dark nights of the mountains. But romantic aesthetics aside, the dial is of course highly sporty. Never one to do things by halves, Chopard use Grade XI Super-LumiNova for the hands and numeral/baton hour markers. This material not only shines brighter than traditional Super-LumiNova, but also retains its intensity over the years.
Secondly, the bezel ring’s tachymeter scale offers up 100, 160, and 240 graduations in white and red. Divided into four steps, with different intervals of 5, 10, 20 or 40 km/h per line, the wearer can thus read the average speed measurements.
Snailed subdial counters further aid legibility. The 30-minute counter lies at 3 o’clock, the small seconds at 6 o’clock, and the 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock. In addition, the semi-instantaneous date function is on display between 4 and 5 o’clock. Back in the days of the St. Moritz watches, the date lay at 6 o’clock.
Chopard Chrono XL with an Aletsch blue (Ref. 298609-3003)
or pitch black (Ref. 298609-3004) dial
A new movement
All watches within the Alpine Eagle collection feature in-house movements that carry the COSC certification. The one powering the Chrono XL is the Chopard 03.05-C, a calibre offering a 60-hour power reserve, a frequency of 4 Hz, as well as three patents thus far. The chronograph is capable of timing to 1/8th of a second.
The fully integrated chronograph movement features a column wheel system as well as a semi-instantaneous jumping minute counter and date function. Known as a ‘flyback’ chronograph, the movement is able to provide smooth successive timing operations thanks to three pivoting hammers with elastic arms facilitating zero-setting of the counters. This flyback function essentially means that all chronograph indications can be reset to zero, then begin to run again without losing a second. In addition, the vertical clutch ensures accurate time-measurement starts.
Chopard Calibre 03.05-C
Impressively, it is worth mentioning that the high-end 03.05-C integrates a unidirectional gear drive system. This serves the purpose of preventing loss of energy, while ensuring rapid winding. Rapid winding is of particular value in the world of chronographs, given that the chronograph function tends to use up a lot of energy in comparison to your average watch.
A transforming feature: the rubber strap
Alpine Eagle watches have long been available with a sporty integrated steel bracelet, or else a more traditional leather option. The new Chrono XL, however, branches out with the addition of a rubber strap option – a first for the collection. This is not to say that Chopard doesn’t know its rubber straps. In fact, the company was one of the first to adopt the material for its watches back in 1995, reproducing the rubber treads of 1960s Dunlop tyres for the straps of its Mille Miglia chronographs.
Rubber straps were first popularised at Chopard on Mille Miglia chronographs
It makes sense that this sporty chronograph watch deserves a rubber strap, too. Rubber is water-resistant, reliable, malleable, and – perhaps the main reason for its popularity across the industry today – very comfortable. The strap is available in either blue or black, thus matching to the dial, and features a robust titanium insert. It will be interesting to see whether Chopard extend the rubber strap option to the rest of the line in the future, or reserve it for the sportiest of Alpine Eagle models.
Price: from 18,500 euros, depending on material/strap choice
The Chopard Alpine Eagle Flying Tourbillon
The Alpine Eagle Flying Tourbillon is all about showcasing Chopard’s highest horological skillset. The manufacture is not only introducing an impressive complication into the Alpine Eagle in the form of a flying tourbillon, but also taking things further by simultaneously using a pretty slim movement. Ultra-thin mechanical movements are an accomplishment in themselves – so the addition of a complication is a real demonstration of Chopard’s watchmaking know-how. The calibre inside the Alpine Eagle Flying Tourbillon, the L.U.C 96.24-L, measures a mere 3.30 mm. The result of the unprecedented attention to detail and technical skill on this watch is that it is one of the very rare flying tourbillon watches out there to hold both a chronometer and Poinçon de Genève certification.
Balance is key
Given that this timepiece is full of achievements and technical feats, Chopard do a good job of keeping things nice and simple from an aesthetic perspective. The stripped back Aletsch blue dial stays true to the design of the Alpine Eagle‘s hour and minute models, with the addition of the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The result is a very measured design, in which the absolute focus of the model is (quite rightly) its tourbillon.
The watch’s Lucent Steel A223 case has a diameter of 41 mm and height of 8 mm – bear in mind that the average ‘large’ (41 mm) Alpine Eagle case measures 9.75 mm in height. The altered height fits well to the slim movement within. It also keeps things balanced and comfortable on the wrist. In addition, Chopard slim down the case flanks and bezel in order to offer a wider dial aperture. This gives the floating tourbillon the space it needs to shine, without giving the dial a cluttered effect.
There is a little history behind this Alpine Eagle’s calibre, which bases itself upon Chopard’s slim L.U.C 96.01-L movement from 1996. The first in-house calibre following the horology house’s founding, it measured – just like the new movement – 3.30 mm thick. Having started life housed in the revered L.U.C 1860, the calibre with double-barrels and micro-rotor now serves as a base across a good ten different movements.
Chopard LUC 1860/1 First Generation 1.96
Credit © subdial.co
Today’s calibre L.U.C. 96.24-L offers a 65-hour power reserve and features a 22-carat gold micro-rotor, beating at a frequency of 3.5 Hz. The engraved micro-rotor is a thing of beauty in itself. Not only does it allow for the relatively thin movement measuring 3.30 mm, but also showcases Chopard’s skill when it comes to decoration. Focusing as always on refinement, each of the components in this in-house Chopard movement feature a Côtes de Genève motif. Additionally, a variable-inertia balance wheel allows for extremely precise regulation.
Of course, the focal point of the movement – and, in fact, the watch – has to be the flying tourbillon. Unlike your typical tourbillon, flying tourbillons lack an upper bridge. It is the lack of this component that makes the tourbillon appear to float. The lower bridge alone holds up the tourbillon carriage. Naturally, the tourbillon can also be of use for those wanting to count small seconds.
As with pretty much all Swiss watch manufacturers, tourbillons are by no means a run-of-the-mill feature. Flying tourbillons even less so. In fact, Chopard currently only have one other flying tourbillon model available; a limited, white-gold Imperiale model. The fact that the non-limited Chopard Alpine Eagle has been graced with a flying tourbillon, then, is proof of the collection’s ever more prominent position within the horology house.
Price: 114,000 euros