For those of us who adore vintage timepieces and always on the look-out for pre-loved, the Alpine Eagle may well remind you of the St Moritz, a popular watch once a mainstay in Chopard’s line-up before it was discontinued as it was intended to be a limited release. The St Moritz was a zeitgeist of the ‘80s aesthetics. It was angular but with fluid lines to smooth over the edges, representing an improvement over the cushion case of the ‘70s. It was a sports chic watch for men and women with an integrated bracelet, made of stainless steel, precious metals and two-tone – a union of the aforementioned materials.
When Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, presently co-president of the maison, first burst onto the scene as the scion of the family business, he was eager to stamp his own authority on how the brand was run. One of things the then 22-year-old sought to change was to include stainless steel as part of their offering. Karl Scheufele had reservations about his son’s suggestion of utilising an inexpensive material in their watches, which up to that point, were only made with solid gold and diamonds.
It was an evolutionary path fraught with risks, potentially jeopardising the cachet of the brand’s L.U.C collection accrued over the years since its founding in 1860. No amount of persuasion would change Scheufele Sr’s mind until Karl-Friedrich put forth his proposal to create an entire new collection – part conviction, part corporate manoeuvring – to finally secure his father’s consent. The name St Moritz showed just what a strenuous effort it took to arrive at the birth of the collection, which marked Karl-Friedrich’s maiden watchmaking project and subsequently opened the door for many to come.
As fleeting as it was, the St Moritz clinched the honour of being the maison’s bestseller. As irony has it, the Alpine Eagle – very much the St Moritz Mark-II – is the result of Karl-Fritz’s, Karl-Friedrich’s son, nascent involvement in the business. While studying the family archives, Karl-Fritz stumbled upon the St Moritz and put into motion the plan to give it a facelift prior to its reintroduction. With his grandfather’s blessing, he brought it up to his father who was initially hesitant but relented, fondly recognising the exact episode played out 40 years ago.
Staying true to what the maison stands for nowadays, the Alpine Eagle, apart from encapsulating the sentimental value, is proof of the brand’s commitment towards sustainability. Revered for its policy of using 100 percent ethical gold whose origins are traceable in its watches and jewellery, Chopard didn’t settle for mere stainless steel for the Alpine Eagle. Instead, it forged ahead by choosing to work with the exclusive Lucent Steel A223 as the material for the watch. Taking four years of research and development, Lucent Steel A223 is a product of Chopard’s alchemist. The process entails re-smelting of recycled steel to make it hypoallergenic, 50 percent more durable and reflective compared to conventional steel thanks to its superior homogeneous crystal structure.
The decision to bestow a new name to the watch lies in Karl-Friedrich’s passion for safeguarding the biotopes where the eagles call home. Other than concurrently launching the Eagle Wings Foundation of which he is a founding member and the Alpine Eagle, he has taken the opportunity to design a watch evocative of the features of the majestic creature. For example, the watch’s brass dial is galvanic treated to form a bark-like texture to resemble an eagle’s iris. Similarly, the tail counterweight of the second hand is finished to mimic the raptor’s feathers. Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do the textural subtlety justice as it is much more vivid and pronounced when seen in person.
Just as importantly, he has contemporarised the watch with a modern profile and high standard of finishing. The Alpine Eagle’s round bezel is punctuated by eight screws, grouped in pairs at the four cardinal points and set at a tangent to the circle of the bezel. These screws contribute to both aesthetics and functionality, as they hold the case tightly and raise water resistance to 100m. Furthermore, all flat surfaces of the case are satin polished, while chamfered surfaces are mirror polished to create contrasting effects.
Unlike the rest of Chopard’s watches, the crown of the Alpine Eagle is ingeniously engraved with a compass rose, alluding to the eagle’s innate ability to sense the earth’s magnetic fields. Legibility is not an issue with the large applied hour markers generously paved with Super-LumiNova Grade X1 coating. The three-link Lucent Steel A223 integrated bracelet is equally brilliant, not just in the way it plays with light but its finishing. Chamfered and alternately polished, the bracelet is comfortable, smooth and without rough edges, indicating the polishing work that goes into it.
Chopard is one of the few brands whose watches are all COSC certified. The Alpine Eagle is powered by the in-house Chopard 01.01-C and 09.01-C automatic movements viewable from the caseback, respectively for the 41mm and 36mm models. The former boasts 60 hours of power reserve, while the latter is less at 42 hours and among the smallest movements to pass COSC’s stringent test, which guarantees the time-keeping precision. The 36mm model, although not targeted solely at ladies with its wider application of 18k rose gold, Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial and diamonds, has the distinction of not having a date aperture. For men who like zero date, three-hand, smaller steel watches, it is a compelling choice.
Between the haute horlogerie L.U.C and the contemporary Mille Miglia, Chopard had in its portfolio watches that would cater to nearly all watch collectors – nearly. The conspicuous missing piece was an all stainless steel, sports luxe model with an integrated bracelet. With the Alpine Eagle, the jigsaw is now complete. Issued in 10 references in Lucent Steel A223, gold, bi-material and diamond-set gold, they are Chopard’s newly hatched brood.
Images provided by Chopard. This story first appeared in Prestige October 2019.