Our Turning Points In Time series highlights the key events in a watch brand’s history, listing all notable milestones and developments along the way.
Alpina Watches founded
Gottlieb Hauser establishes Alpina Watches and at the same time the Swiss Watchmakers Corporation (“Corporation d’Horlogers Suisse”), a unique horological cooperative that brought together an innovative blend of watchmakers, manufacturers, and retailers producing their own calibres.
The Alpina Trademark
Hauser registers the name “Alpina” as a trademark, but it would only appear on the dials of high-end watches. Alpina progressed rapidly and was being sold internationally.
Alpina opens new offices in centre of the German watchmaking industry, Glashütte;
while maintaining its offices in Geneva (Switzerland) and Besançon (France).
Alpina Chronometers used by German navy.
Group is forced to split in two parts with Swiss and German operations going seperate
ways new name for Swiss group: ‘Alpina Association pour Horlogers Suisses’.
Alpina Watches becomes a renowned producer and supplier of military instruments used by pilots.
1929 – 1937
The Alpina Gruen Guild
The smooth and successful operation of the Alpina Union Horlogère provoked other brands’ interest. The American brand Gruen, from Cincinnati, wanted a merger with Alpina in order to use its European distribution network.
In 1929, the “Alpina Gruen Gilde SA” was born; the largest community of interests that ever existed in the horological field.
The factories belonging to the new company were rationalised to produce standard calibres, and the quality of Alpina and Gruen watches improved. Highlight models created at this time were the “Doctor’s Watch” produced by the Aegler factory. Rolex later bought the Aegler factory.
The “Doctor’s Watch” was distributed under the names of Alpina, Gruen, Alpina-Gruen and Rolex (“Prince”). But the infatuation had only a short duration.
Even when Gruen produced good quality watches, they were almost unknown in Europe. Moreover Gruen wanted to sell its watches at higher prices than Alpina, which made it very difficult for the European Association members to accept Gruen.
At the same time, Gruen seemed to have restricted Alpina’s access to its USA members. Heavy losses were the result of this co-operation, and the two brands separated in 1937; and Alpina Union Horlogère SA continued alone.
Alpina’s first sports watch
Alpina presented its first “sports-watch”, the “Blockuhr” in steel. During this time, Alpina also patented a new type of crown (Brevet 1464).
The 4 rules for a sports watch
This year saw the introduction of an Alpina bestseller, the Alpina “4” with Hauser’s four rules for an Alpina sports watch:
1) Anti magnetic
2) Waterproof (thanks to its “Geneva” case)
3) Equipped with the Incabloc anti-shock system
4) Stainless steel case.
The ‘Alpina 4’ was manufactured with the Alpina self-winding calibre 592, one of the strongest calibres of its generation. This calibre was later used to equip further sport-models such as the Alpina 70 (1953), the Standard (1958) and the Tropicproof (1968).
The Second World War
While the Union Horlogère had separated into three legally independent companies during the First World War, relationships were again under intense scrutiny during World War II. Import and capital flow restrictions as well as travel problems suppressed many of its activities.
Eventually, the Allied Forces pressed the Swiss Alpina Union Horlogère to drop usage of the Alpina name in Germany. The German association then adopted the name Dugena (Deutsche Uhremacher-Genossenschaft Alpina), which becomes their new trademark.
Introduction of Alpina’s first automatic calibre
Immediately post war, the first Alpina automatic movement was realised, the 582 calibre. The automatic winding system worked with a mechanism with two springs where in between the oscillating mass moved back and forth. This large and accurate movement (12 ½ lines) was equipped with a Nivarox spiral, had 18 000 alternances and the Incabloc system. Its power reserve was 40 hours.
The Alpina President was introduced and quickly became known as a reliable automatic sport-watch (calibre 584c with date).
1000 Alpina models exhibited at Congress
The Alpina brand was at its height and consisted of many hundreds of models, there were 1000 different models exhibited at the the Congress of 1958 – a forerunner to what is now known as Baselworld.
The successful guiding principle of Alpina, which was central to the brand from the start, was the insistence of affordable luxury. In other words, Alpina watches have always represented outstanding value for money for a premium quality Swiss watch.
First automatic movement for Alpina ladies watches
Alpina realised an automatic movement for women; the smallest and strongest yet made. The calibre 362 (6 ½ lines). It worked with a rotor system, turning in both ways.
Alpina’s quality sports-line became the main focus of the Alpina sales strategy and the performance of its sports-watches followed the trend where people became more engaged in sporting and leisure pursuits.
1970s and 80s
The quartz crisis
Sound and sensible though this strategy was, like so many other Swiss watch brands it was not enough to stave off the devastating effects of the so-called ‘Quartz Crisis’ that either sounded the death knell for many companies or meant the creation of major groups.
Alpina was badly affected by the emergence of cheap, mass-produced and, above-all, impersonal, watches. In fact this lengthy period very nearly spelt the end for Alpina.
Alpina Watches sold to Frédérique Constant
Following a protracted and difficult period, Alpina was revitalised in 2002 when it was sold to two passionate young watch entrepreneurs, Aletta and Peter Stas, co-founders of the Frédérique Constant brand, one of the rising stars of the Swiss watch industry.
A new collection was presented at Baselworld 2003, setting the stage for the brand’s revival and comeback to the forefront of the watch making scene.
Opening of custom built factory
Alpina made another giant stride in its comeback when the company moved to its new, purpose built ultra modern manufacturing site in Plan Les Oates, just outside Geneva, rubbing shoulders with some of the best names in Swiss watchmaking including Vacheron Constantin.
Introduction of the three Alpina universes: Adventure, Racing and Club
Today, despite massive changes in the Swiss watch industry, Alpina’s core beliefs remain the same:
– A commitment to producing the best watches at the best prices
– A promise to respect the customer.
– A dedication to quality
– Independence – despite the buyout the manufacture has retained its independence
Alpina’s design principles still hold true as well:
– Bold design
– Iconic looks
– Premium materials with black and red finishing and
– Every watch, without, exception is water-resistant to at least 10 ATM
The brand is once again available all over the world in over 300 selected high end watch retailers throughout the world and the founding father Gottlieb Hauser is no doubt allowing himself a satisfied smile.