Why is everyone ignoring the Alpine Eagle? The Sustainable hype watch that never was.

Click to scroll down
You would be forgiven for thinking that Chopard is nothing more than a luxury brand that creates heart shape pendants and happy diamonds.

It’s such a cliché to start an article about an accessible sports watch by mentioning an inaccessible one.

I mean, how many of these articles can be written? Well, If I’m as good as I think I am, I think I can offer something a little different to the usual hype watch alternative post.
To start, here’s how it usually goes at your local AD.
“Hi sir, I would like to try on the -insert Gerald Genta designed hype watch here-in the window”
“Sorry that one is display only, and you have to schedule an appointment to view it, we have an opening in six weeks”.
“Uhhh ok, yes please I’ll take that appointment and may I also buy you dinner?”

This isn’t an unusual conversation to the more seasoned watch nerds among us, we’ve all been there. But does it have to be this way?
I know that the brands can’t increase production, so don’t @ me, but I often wonder how long brands can brush off their customers before they have no customers left.
Watchmakers like Audemars Piquet have had a great run and have produced some remarkable watches over the years, but I’m getting a sense that the enthusiast market has had enough. We would rather not be taken advantage of anymore.

Now, I’m not here to tell you what to do, if you want a Royal Oak, you should get a Royal Oak. I’m just here to plant a seed in your mind that as fans of these ridiculous little devices, we should start to value companies' ethics a little higher and their hype a little lower.
So, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, with another “five alternatives to the royal oak you can actually buy” post.  I want to discuss a watch that deserves more attention, from a company that has actually earnt it.
Let’s talk about the Alpine Eagle, but first….

Is Chopard a brand we should be paying attention to?

You would be forgiven for thinking that Chopard is nothing more than a luxury brand that creates heart shape pendants and happy diamonds. After all, it seems like their marketing for the last decade has focussed on middle-aged Julia Roberts types that are gripping on to the 90s aesthetic like an oyster on a rock.
Yes, Chopard makes jewellery, and yes, some of their watch designs are stuck in the last decade, but they are also a brand with real technical history. Chopard has chops as a watchmaker, and they deserve more attention than they get.

The Chopard L.U.C Perpetual twin
The Chopard L.U.C Perpetual twin

Chopard's founding

In 1860, a chap with an incredible moustache, Louis-Ulysse Chopard (L.U.C, remember those initials), started making watches after his father suggested he learn the trade. This was a good move because L.U.C went on to create pocket watches for clients all around the world and even made the chronometers that kept the Swiss railway on time.
This is a big deal, If you’ve ever been to Switzerland, you’ll know that those bastards are always on time.

Chopard got their footing in a time when chronometric precision really mattered, and they earnt a reputation for quality.

Is Independence important?

When I think of independent brands, I think of the top three. Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet.
A big part of the success of these firms today is because of their ability to make decisions without having to consider their shareholders' profits. Instead, only acting to benefit the brand over the next 10, 20, 50 years. Working to protect the brand into the future instead of lining the pockets of shareholders.
It’s not about making a quick buck
, although Ironically, this approach has led to incredible financial success over the years.
Chopard as it stands today belongs to the same club as the three brands mentioned above. Independent and family owned since its founding in 1860, although it’s not the same family, it’s a family nonetheless.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele

The Scheufele family took over Chopard in 1963, and it has remained in their care ever since. With Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and his sister Caroline at the helm, they take care of the ladies and mens lines of the brand respectively.

Can Chopard make a watch?

Looking back into Chopard’s history, it’s clear that they aren’t messing around in the watchmaking department. In their L.U.C range, they make beautiful three hand micro rotor dress watches, Perpetual calendars, tourbillons and even minute repeaters. Take a look at the L.U.C Full Strike, a minute repeater crafted in ethical gold and winner of the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix at the 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. This thing is nuts.

L.U.C Full Strike
L.U.C Full Strike

If you need a little more proof that with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele at the helm, Chopard is serious about watches, you only have to look into his other projects.
Scheufele is currently the chairman of La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud.
Want to have your mind blown? Check out the FB 1.1.

La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. FB 1.1
La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. FB 1.1

This guy knows high watch making.

Are you convinced yet?

Chopard is not only a brand we should be paying attention too, it’s a brand that should be in the so-called “holy trinity”. It’s independent, historic and has the watchmaking chops to back it up. All Chopard needs now is an Icon.

A watch born to the elite of St Moritz.

In 1980, a 22-year-old Karl-Friedrich Scheufele convinced his father to launch a steel sports watch that would be fit for the nepotism rife (I assume) St Moritz. The watch was meant to appeal to the ski bunnies and wealthy alpine tourists of the time. It had an integrated bracelet, was super thin and was the perfect companion as you sat by the fire drinking vermouth.

The Choaprd St Moritz
The Choaprd St Moritz

The St Moritz joined the wash of steel sports watches that had launched in the decade before it. The Nautilus, the Laureato, The Royal Oak. All had a similar feel and were a fitting representation of the 70s and 80s. Wealth was hot, and what better way to spend it than on a steel watch that cost more than a gold one. 40 years later and, you guessed it, more nepotism happens. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele’s son decides it’s time to convince his dad to revive the watch that he himself convinced his father to make in the 80s.
In 2019, the Alpine eagle was born. With a clear lineage from its predecessor and a brand-new name. It was a watch for the modern era.  

41mm Chopard Alpine Eagle Blue Dial
41mm Chopard Alpine Eagle Blue Dial

You would be forgiven for thinking that the St Moritz and subsequently the Alpine eagle were just efforts from a struggling brand to stay relevant. They re-launched an integrated steel sports watches in an era where if you didn’t have one, you were a no one. It’s so easy to brush it off as a cash grab.
All is not as it seems.

41mm Chopard Alpine Eagle Green Dial
41mm Chopard Alpine Eagle Green Dial

The Alpine eagle and the quest for sustainability.

Chopard was one of the first brands in Switzerland to focus on reducing their environmental impact. Not in a half-assed way either, they are actually doing it properly.  Among corporate governance, and philanthropy, responsible materials sourcing is a big part of their strategy and, although I don’t think mining gold and diamonds is ever great, it's better than nothing.

Lucent Steel

In watchmaking, you generally have two types of steel. 904L for Rolex and 316L for everyone else.

Yes, your 40k royal oak uses the same grade of steel as your 5k Tudor!

What makes the Alpine Eagle special is its use of Lucent Steel. It’s a blend of 20% virgin and 80% recycled steel sourced from watch and medical industry waste. You never know, your watch could have been a scalpel in a past life! I hope they washed it…

A closeup of Lucent Steel
A closeup of Lucent Steel

All suppliers for Lucent Steel are located within 1000 km of its manufacturing centre, which for Europe is actually a pretty big radius and includes multiple countries. All the material Chopard uses for the case and bracelet are also kept within a circular loop, reducing the need to mine for new metals. Pretty cool. Eco credentials aside, Lucent steel is just bloody nice. It glows like white gold and is harder to scratch than standard steel. There are none of negatives to using it in a luxury product that you might think. No eco compromise here.

Fly like an eagle.

If you look closely at the dial of the Alpine Eagle, you will see two main elements that link it back to its name. The dial plate itself has a beautiful sunburst grain that is meant to look like the eye of an eagle, and the seconds hand counterweight is shaped like a feather. Nice little details, sure, but does it actually mean anything?

Feathers on the seconds hand
Feathers on the seconds hand

To push the sustainability angle even further, through the sale of the watches, Chopard supports the Alpine Eagle foundation to help preserve the European Alps, the natural habitat of the Eagle.
Eagle in name and eagle in nature.

A manufacture movement and a bracelet that could be a little more tapered.

Ok, we are at the part of the article where I need to be honest with you. The Movement in the Alpine eagle, (LUC version excluded) is barely finished.

The In house movement of the Alpine Eagle
The In house movement of the Alpine Eagle

Like it’s not really finished at all apart from some engraving on the rotor. Chopard says it has a “circular grained man-plate” but it looks to me as if it’s missed out on a couple of steps in the finishing workshop. Technically, it’s a great movement. It’s COSC Certified, has a 60-hour power reserve, a flat hairspring, and is pretty thin at 4.95 mm. The aesthetics just leave a little to be desired.
Bracelet wise, it’s fantastically finished, beautify put together and just a little too wide at the clasp. Can’t have it all!

A bracelet that could be a little more tapered.
A bracelet that could be a little more tapered.

Are these dealbreakers? Not really. The Alpine eagle is all about the philosophy.
If you want ornate finishing, wait for your AP, if you want a tapered bracelet, buy an explorer.
In my opinion, how a watch makes you feel is more important than anything else. And this thing makes me feel great.

The Alpine Eagle in profile
The Alpine Eagle in profile

The Alpine eagle isn’t a watch that needs to be compared to other, more in demand pieces, although I admit it’s hard not to. It’s a watch that carves its own path but is held back by a lack of brand awareness and a surplus of snobbery for the ‘big brands’.
When I hear comments like “it’s only a royal oak copy”, all I can think is, what a shame. You’re missing out on something amazing just because it looks a little like something else.
The materials, the mission, and the independence make Chopard and the alpine eagle a proposition that I can’t ignore.
Go and try one on and forget about your royal oak for a second. There are other watches out there that deserve your attention.
Sorry Genta.

A Star to indicare popular posts