Alpina is a Swiss watch brand known for its rugged yet polished outdoor watches. Its price, however, is not as affordable, leaving many to be unsure if it’s a luxury watch brand. So, is Alpina a luxury watch brand?
Alpina is an entry-level luxury watch brand. It is Swiss Made, with in-house movements and premium materials. Most Alpina watches are sold between $1,000 to $5,000, similar to many other entry-level luxury watches such as Longines or Oris.
This article will discuss if Alpina is a luxury watch brand in further detail. We will also answer some common questions many people have about Alpina.
We have also discussed watch brands that many are unsure are luxury or not, for example, Longines, Frederique Constant, and Mido. Feel free to click on the links to discover more if you are interested.
How Luxurious Are Alpina Watches?
Usually, luxury watches become luxury because they have separated themselves from other watchmakers in these areas.
- In-House Movements and Technology
- Brand Image
We will now look into each area in detail and see how Alpina fares.
Luxury watchmakers typically use more expensive materials to create their watch parts. Materials used by regular watchmakers may include 316L stainless steel, genuine leather, or resin/plastic.
Materials used by luxury watchmakers include gold alloy, titanium, top-grain alligator leather, and diamonds.
Alpina watches use premium materials such as genuine leather and diamonds. All Alpina watches also come with sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating.
This is a clear indication of Alpina’s dedication to making great quality watches.
Many luxury watchmakers hand-assemble their watches to a greater extent. There is also an emphasis on insisting on producing their watches in-house.
This practice helps to ensure higher quality for the watches, despite resulting in less output overall. This helps to explain why hand-crafted watches are typically much more expensive.
Automation is used by regular and low-cost watchmakers to help mass manufacture their watches. Some companies also outsource manufacturing to cut operating and investment costs. They can keep prices low and remain competitive.
Alpina claims to design, manufacture, and assemble its watches completely in-house at the production facility in Plan-Ies-Ouates, Switzerland. Not many watch companies dare to make such claims, with Rolex being an exception.
By making such a claim, Alpina watches are also Swiss Made watches. As per Swiss Law, a watch can only be considered Swiss Made when:
- 60 percent of its production cost is incurred in Switzerland (design, parts manufacturing, assembly, etc.)
- The movement inside the watch is from Switzerland.
- The watch is encased and inspected in Switzerland.
In-House Movements and Technology
To better control and improve the performance and accuracy of their watches, luxury watchmakers typically develop their own movements and accompanying technology.
Instead, regular and low-cost watchmakers outsource movement development to third-party companies by purchasing their movements. For example, if you open a Stührling, you might find Miyota movements made in Japan.
ETA, Ronda, Sellita, and STP are examples of well-known Swiss third-party movement manufacturers. Japan’s major movement makers are Miyota and Seiko.
Alpina watches use entirely in-house movements (caliber), such as the AL-760 Chronograph. Alpina also makes movements with a tourbillon, with the AL-980 Tourbillon movement.
Alpina also uses movements that have been modified by other movement makers, such as the AL-860 Automatic. This movement is based on Sellita’s SW500. Alpina’s AL725 is, in turn, based on the famous Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement from ETA.
Despite using modified movements, Alpina is honest and transparent about it, mentioning this on their website. Many watchmakers modify movements from third-party manufacturers but are never open about it.
Luxury watchmakers often make watches that become the “gold standard” or “de facto” for their category.
For example, the Rolex Submariner or the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean are seen as the “gold standard” for dive watches. These models are used as guides to make a lot of new models.
Luxury watchmakers can also change the way things are done. For instance, when Rolex adds more design details to their Datejust or Oyster watches, many other watchmakers will do the same.
Alpina’s design reflects their origin and intention – to build rugged, reliable watches that can look good out and indoors.
Alpina also kept a simple lineup of collections. The Alpiner was their explorer/sport watches, the Seastrong collection of dive watches, and the Startimer their pilot watches.
The only issue with Alpina’s design is a lack of unique design style and cues, making it less able to stand out when compared to other luxury watchmakers.
For example, Alpina’s watches are not as easily recognizable as, say, a Panerai – you can look at a Panerai from a long distance away and immediately recognize it.
Homages are watches that look similar but have their own brand. They are legal, and Homages usually have the maker’s mark on them and are slightly different from the original. As the price of the original watch goes up, imitations start to appear.
Many regular/affordable watchmakers make homages based on luxury watch models. This is because these watches are usually expensive and have great designs.
So, homage watchmakers get into the market and make watches that look similar but aren’t exact copies.
A great example of homages would be the Tisell 9015, which is a homage to the Rolex Explorer.
Alpina’s lack of unique design language and affordable price made it less likely to be made into homages.
In fact, some of Alpina’s watches do carry a look similar to Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra and the Rolex Submariner.
You might even start to consider if Alpina is an homage maker instead.
Fake, counterfeit, or clone watches are a common problem for luxury watch brands. Due to the high price of the watches, this can’t be helped. They are popular and in high demand, but many customers can’t afford them.
This is a good market for people who make fake watches. Fake and clone watches can range from low-quality copies to “super-clones” that look almost exactly like real.
With super clones, you need a qualified watchmaker and a way to check the serial number to tell a fake watch from a real one.
There are fake Alpina watches, but not as many as there are fake Omega or Rolex watches. This is because, compared to Rolex, Alpina watches are not very popular.
Also, the prices aren’t so high that many people give up on trying to buy the real thing. Like Longines and Tag Heuer, Alpina is an “affordable luxury” that many people can still save up for and buy.
Luxury watch brands spend money and time to show that they are unique, sophisticated, and hard to get. They do this by linking their brands to similar events, people, or media outlets most of the time.
For example, Rolex, Omega, IWC, and Richard Mille are just some of the high-end watch brands that sponsor sports like tennis, golf, and Formula One. Many celebrities are also sponsored to wear these watches.
Luxury watch companies also put ads in publications like Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Entrepreneur Magazine. These media outlets project power, status, and wealth, making them desirable for the watch companies.
Alpina watches sponsor events and celebrities, but closer to their brand image of being outdoor, rugged. Alpina sponsors events such as the French Ski Federation, National Park Foundation USA, and the Freeride World Tour, a skiing event.
Alpina sponsors many winter sports celebrities such as Markus Eder, Yann Scussel, and Juliet Willmann.
Alpina does not attempt to build an ultra-luxury image such as Jaeger-LeCoultre or be the best in every watch category such as Rolex. It focuses on one and goes all in. As a result, Alpina watches are well recognized for quality and refinement in the outdoor category.
Luxury watchmakers usually charge a lot for their watches, and most of them start at four figures. In many ways, high prices help luxury watchmakers.
First, the high-profit margin can be put back into marketing and building up the watch brand’s luxury, success, and prestige.
Second, high prices make the watch harder for most people to buy, which adds to the idea that it is a luxury item.
Those who can get the watch will be able to use it as a sign of their social standing.
Alpina’s status as an entry-level luxury watch brand is evident in its pricing. Most of their watches are priced from $1,000 to $5,000. The most expensive model is the Startimer Pilot Chronograph, at around $3,350. The most affordable model is the Alpiner Quartz, which is around $1,000.
Overall, Alpina’s pricing model is similar and close to other entry-level luxury watch brands such as Longines, Tag Heuer, Oris, and Maurice Lacroix.
Is Alpina Owned By Citizen?
Alpina is part of the Citizen watch group, together with brands such as Frederique Constant and Bulova. However, Citizen had largely left Alpina alone to operate, allowing Alpina to maintain its’ identity and character.
The Citizen group currently contains brands such as Citizen, Bulova, Alpina, Campanella, and Arnold & Sons. The watch group also owns Miyota, a major Japanese movement manufacturer powering many watch brands around the globe.
Citizen acquired Frederique Constant in 2016, which means its sister brands, such as Alpina, are also becoming part of Citizen. However, Citizen has essentially allowed Alpina to operate independently, without too much interference.
What Are Alpina Watches Known For?
Alpina watches are known for being rugged and reliable, yet refined and classy. Alpina’s collections, such as Seastrong dive watches, are well appreciated by watch enthusiasts.
Alpina’s watch design is rugged and modern, with excellent pricing. Its Alpiner collection hosts its explorer/sport watches. The Seastrong collection contains their collection of dive watches, and the Startimer their pilot watches.
Are Alpina Watches Expensive?
Alpina’s watches are not expensive when looking into their build quality. Alpina’s watches are Swiss Made and fully built in-house with in-house movements. Watches of such quality could have cost much more, but with Alpina, you pay around $1,000 to $5,000 only.
If you like modern sports or dive watches such as the Rolex Explorer, Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra, or a Submariner, Alpina is a great choice.
Models from these brands cost a lot of money, and if you can’t afford them, you could get something similar from Alpina that would be much more respectable.
It’s also a good choice if you want a Swiss watch that is slightly “under the radar.” Longines, Maurice Lacroix, and Rado have prices about the same, but they are much more well-known. Alpina is a good choice if you want something less popular and understated.