It was not all that long ago where we brought you word of a curious thing – a big Swiss brand (Alpina) flogging their watch on Kickstarter, of all places. This was an oddity as we generally think of that platform for launching new brands, for raising capital, and so on. Things that, ostensibly, Alpina is not (they’re established) and should not have a need of (being part of Citizen should have it’s advantages). So, why this route? The word was so that backers could help to finalize some of the design and app features. From the earlier writeup we did, Eric liked what he saw so much that he backed the project (as did plenty of others). Today, I’m going to talk with you about the time I spent with with one on my wrist.
When it comes to smartwatches that have from the Frederique Constant family, I’m rather familiar, as I’ve reviewed both the 1st and 2nd generation horological smartwatch. Alpina has always been the sportier brother of the two, so it makes sense that they’d take that MMT technology in a much different direction. The Alpina AlpinerX is very much an outdoors watch, one that we would normally classify as an ABC watch. Why ABC? Well, it’s because of the sensors in the case (here, it’s hiding between the lugs up at the 12 o’clock position). The Alpina AlpinerX has an altimeter, barometer, and a compass. Along with that, it also brings world time (aka second time zone), calendar, chronograph, a countdown timer, and, something I’ve not seen before, a UV sensor (got to quantify that sunburn). On top of all of that, we’ve got the functions that the MMT-equipped watches have had all along, namely step and sleep tracking. Last, but not least, there’s also a GPS-enabled fitness mode (which relies on your phone GPS) that I did not try out. Oh! And they hit a stretch goal that should allow a bluetooth heart rate strap to be linked in (I wasn’t able to test that function), for a more rounded fitness watch experience.
So, yeah, the Alpina AlpinerX packs a lot into it’s case. If this were a traditional smartwatch, you’d expect to drain the battery in a day or two. Not so with the Alpina AlpinerX. One really nice thing with the MMT technology is that it’s expected to have a 2+ year battery life. This is because the watch is not in constant contact with your phone (well, I suppose it would be in the GPS training mode). Instead, it does what it needs to do on the watch, stores the data, and then syncs it on to the phone (which can then sync things to the cloud if you want, or in to Apple Health for a consolidated view). While you can get barebones notifications on your wrist, it’ll kill the battery. So, I’m ok with it not being constantly connected. If you’re headed off for some backcountry hiking and climbing trip, you don’t want to worry about having to charge your watch every other day. You do your thing, the watch does its, and then you can sync it up later on.
Of course, you can keep track of what the Alpina AlpinerX is tracking via the LCD display on the bottom. By using the crown pusher, you can cycle through the functions, and see what it’s recorded. Interestingly enough, the one thing you can’t see is a step count. How long you slept? Sure. Current elevation or temperature? Sure. If you want to know how many steps you took, though, you do need to sync it and view it in the app. Just an oddity for me, particularly when it will display your sleep duration. On that note, the Alpina AlpinerX does a much better job of communicating when you’re in sleep mode (or any other mode, for that matter). The addition of the LCD really shows why super-complicated non-mechanical watches benefit from a digital display of some sort. Here, it’s clear what mode you’re in, and then you use the chronograph pushers to stop/start the cycle. You can also set some sleep cycle alarms to try and have it wake you when you’re not in deep sleep. This I did not try out either as it’s only auditory. I’ve become rather accustomed to my silent (vibrating) alarm on the Fitbit One, so switching to something with noise has two problems. One, I’m not sure if a watch chirp is enough to wake me. Second, if it is, it would likely wake my wife as well, which would just be rude given how early I am generally getting up.
Functionality is only one part of the equation, even though the Alpina AlpinerX is heavily stacked in that direction. If it’s not wearable, then you’ve got problems. With a 55mm lug-to-lug measurement, this is no shrinking violet. Yeah, you need room for all of the electronics and sensors, and it doesn’t feel overly large, or big for big’s sake. It just is what it is, and will likely overwhelm smaller wrists. If you’re looking at this as a workout companion, bear in mind that this is heavier than most fitness watches (at 98g), due to the construction of the case (steel + CF is heavier than all plastic). However, if you’re used to a steel sport watch when you head off into the outdoors, then you’ll be a-ok. While I may not care as much for the heavy branding on the rubber strap, I do rather like it’s deployant clasp. They’ve done a clever thing with how you adjust the fit here as well.
Normally, if you’re talking a deployant on a rubber strap, you’re cutting things down to get a good fit. Here, the Alpina AlpinerX instead relies on spring bars to get the right setting. This gives you two points of adjustment – one via the grooves set at the end of the strap, as well as the holes in the clasp itself. In other words, you should get a good fit that then remains consistent, without doing any sort of cutting. I would not have minded a micro-expansion in the clasp that would give you some quick-adjust room as the day goes on, but perhaps that can be done in the future.
As you can see from the photos, the Alpina AlpinerX we had in on loan is through-and-through blue. One presumes this extends to the other color options (on the various components), but Alpina really did a good job committing to color on this watch. The bezel and clasp are of the same hue, and while the blue is not identical across the whole of the watch, they’re close enough to make things feel really consistent. The only deviation from the navy-and-white combo we had in was the lighter blue used on the handset, but that makes sense as it helps them to stand out. For telling the time, sure, using the lumed ends would be enough. When you switch into, say, the compass mode (where the hands act as the needle) then you’ll appreciate the clearly-defined outlines of the hands.
Me, I like blue, so this particular reference of the Alpina AlpinerX worked well for me. Given it’s size, I found this to be more of an office and casual watch. Sure, it’s “dressier” than any other ABC watch you’ve seen before, but that’s just a relative thing. If you’re suiting up, you’ll have a challenge making this one fit in. However, for any other situation, the Alpina AlpinerX will fit in. The question that remains then, for buyers, is if this is functionality you’ll want. While KS backers got a good discount, the anticipated retail for the watch is $895. For a smart watch, that could be a stretch. For an outdoors-oriented ABC watch, that could be a stretch. My take on it is to evaluate it on the outdoors capabilities, and consider the connectivity it has sort of the frosting on the cake. If it fits with what you’d want from a watch in the outdoors, then by all means, give the Alpina AlpinerX a gander. alpinawatches.com
- Brand & Model: Alpina AlpinerX
- Price: $895 (anticipated retail)
- Who’s it for? You want an ABC watch that isn’t screaming “let me tell you about my trail adventures!”
- Would I wear it? On the weekends and camping? For sure
- What I would change: I’d like to see step counts on the LCD, and I’d really like silent (vibrating) alarms
- The best thing about it: The addition of the LCD makes for a much, much more usable Horological Smartwatch from the FC/Alpina family.
Tech Specs from Alpina
- Reference: AL-283LBN5NAQ6
- Case: Blue glass-fiber and stainless steel, 45mm diameter with 360° BI-DIRECTIONAL TURNING COMPASS BEZEL
- Convex Sapphire Crystal
- 10 ATM/100m/330ft Water-resistant
- Engraved case-back
- MMT-283-1,Horological Smartwatch
- All connected functions operated by crown
- 2+ years battery life
- Black dial with matte finishing
- Applied silver indexes with white luminous and digital screen
- Blue colored polished hands with white luminous treatment
- Strap: Navy, rubber
- Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date
- Activity Tracking
- Sleep Monitoring
- Dynamic Coach
- Worldtimer (2nd Time Zone + Local 24h Time)
- Smart Alarms (Get-Active Alerts, Sleep Alarm)
- Calls & Messages Notifications
- UV Indicator
- Time Recorder (Stopwatch, Timer, Workouts)