It was not all that long ago (see here) that I fell pretty hard for the Alpina Alpiner 4.  It was my first time going hands-on with the brand, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw there.  Well, if you know me, you know I like GMT complications.  I’ve been starting to focus in a little more closely on those watches lately, and I saw Alpina had a few in the mix.  Put two and two together, and you’ve got our review today of the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours.

Ostensibly, the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours is for the traveling businessman (given the 44mm diameter, I am guessing it will not grace the wrists of many women).  How so?  Well, it’s that Business Hours part of the name, which shows up on the chapter ring as an interpretation of the iconic “Pepsi” bezel.  With it, you get the red to indicate the normal working (banking?) hours (9 am – 5 pm), with grace time on either side in white, showing when people are actually going to be in the office.  That leaves the blue to indicate when folks are, well, not at work.

This chapter ring is not moveable, nor can you adjust where those colors bands are hitting.  While those may have been clever paths to go, this keeps things much simpler.  If you are traveling around, you will just have that GMT hand set to the home time of your home and office, and you won’t risk trying to get a hold of someone in the middle of the night.  Conversely, if you find yourself dealing more with an office on the other side of the globe, you’d set that GMT hand to the foreign time.

What about someone like myself, who really does not travel much any more, and has a remote team but in the same time zone?  Does a watch like the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours have a place?  Perhaps not the “Business Hours” iteration, but a GMT, there’s nothing wrong with that.  I personally like the complication (these days) as it’s something slightly different than a simple three-hander, without making things overly complicated.  How my love of the complication started, that’s different.

I was drawn to the GMT complication back before I had any sort of watch winder, and I found myself constantly needing to wind and reset watches.  With a three-hander and date, I was always winding things around to figure out where “midnight” was in the movement, so I’d have an accurate date set.  With the GMT hand, that became vastly simplified, as I could use it, at a basic level, as a 24-hour indicator.  Easy peasy, and less manual manipulation of the crown and handset.  Not particularly an issue for me these days, but it’s where things started for me, and that extra hand really has stuck with me.

And, frankly, as far as complications go, the GMT hand is a relatively simple one.  It’s just one additional hand, geared to turn at half the speed that the hour hand is going at.  That’s at a high level.  For each watch, there can be variations on how that is all implemented.  On the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours, the hour hand and GMT hand are set independently.  In this case, the hour hand is set with the crown in the first position.  Rotate it one way, the hour hand jumps in hour increments; rotating the other way gets you adjusting the date.  As to the GMT hand, that’s set along with the minute hand (i.e., how you would expect an hour hand to work on a standard three-hander).

Of course, if those hands are moving around on a busy or otherwise illegible dial, then it won’t make a lick of difference as to how they’re set.  That is not the case, thankfully, with the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours.  The black sunray dial provides a deep background for the polished (and luminous) indices and hands to set against; even the GMT hand (with it’s splash of red) is easy enough to pick out.  Speaking of the dial, we mentioned the Pepsi-bezel inspiration on the chapter ring.  You might also think of the four lines of text on the lower half of the dials coming from another brand, which it may (I didn’t interview the designer).  Fortunately, the text is small enough that it’s not a significant distraction.  There is one other larger influence as well, and that shows up on the case.

That particular detail would be the lugs of the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours.  This “twisted” style is something we commonly see on Omega watches (and is something I had a good watch friend point out), and I have seen it used on some others (particularly, the Benarus Sea Snake).  As with so many of these little details, you can cry “copy cat!”, or you can accept them for what they are – details that, because they have worked well and look well, show up  across a variety of places.  For the lugs in particular, I like the look, as it gives things a somewhat more streamlined look, and the alternating surface finishes are something I am always a fan of.

Ok, how about a detail that I have not seen on any other watch, that the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours has?  Take another look at that date window – does anything seem different there?  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  You see, there is a magnifier there.  On most watches, this takes the form of a cyclops that is glued onto the crystal.  I know that is a particularly divisive feature (albeit one I’ve come to like given it’s extreme practicality).  Well, then, setting the magnifier directly onto the date window (yet below the main crystal) is a particularly clever solution, and one I certainly would not mind seeing popping up all over the place (see, that’s how these good ideas can start showing up across a variety of brands).

On the whole, while the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours does have some details that are reminiscent of other brands, I would say it is indeed it’s own watch.  It’s not paying homage to any one model in particular, it is cutting it’s own path using maps from prior adventurers.  Even how to classify it is sort of it’s own thing, in my book.  More often than not, we see GMT movements implemented into sport watches, which are then polished up a bit to make them fit into a dressier setting.  Here, I would say the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours is going in the other direction.  They started with what is very much a dress watch, and then by enlarging the dimensions a bit, putting the GMT in, and then including their “Big 4” features (anti-magnetic, anti-shock, water resistance, stainless steel) we end up with a dress watch that can hold up to some sportier activities.

Sure, you come to the same result – a somewhat sporty, a somewhat dressy watch – but where you start can make quite a bit of difference.  Well, more realistically, it makes more of a difference in the mind of the buyer.  Are you looking for a rough and tumble watch that can fit with the occasional suit?  Then you want to start with the sport watch.  If you find yourself more in the office (and wearing suits with frequency), then starting with a dress watch makes sense; adding in the sporting sensibilities then turns a watch like the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours into a very capable travel companion, ready for the board room or the beach, all in the same trip.

So, yes, I did enjoy my time spent with the 126g Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours.  It is perhaps a touch larger than I might prefer for regular wear (both in diameter and thickness), but it’s not like we’re talking dive watch dimensions.  Ok, yes, the diameter is like a dive watch, but with the small bezel and those twisted lugs, it wears smaller than the 44mm might suggest.  And, yeah, it is going to look a good sight better with a suit (particularly if you are partial to French Cuffs, as I am) than your sport watch-based GMTs.  Yes, they work, but the Alpina GMT 4 Business Hour ups the game.  If you’re on the hunt for a great travel (and everyday) watch, you certainly should consider the $1,995 Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours.  While I won’t advocate (yet) just owning a single watch, if that’s what you’re going for, this is a watch that will work for just about anything you would want to throw at it.

Review Summary
  • Brand & Model: Alpina GMT 4 Business Hours
  • Price: $1,995
  • Who’s it for?:  You like GMT complications, and you like sport watches, but you want something dressier (and more affordable) than what some of the “regular” recommendations might be
  • Would I wear it?: Indeed I would.  I don’t know that it would supplant my favorite GMT from my personal collection, but this is a solid watch for a variety of scenarios
  • What I’d change:  As with my Alpina Alpiner 4 review (LINK), a thinner case would be welcomed
  • The best thing about it: The best small detail is that “hidden” cyclops on the date window.  The best overall detail is how Alpina managed to take a dress watch design and embiggen things to create a capable sport watch, while still retaining the dress watch looks
Tech Specs from Alpina
  • Movement
    • Caliber:  AL-550
    • Frequency:28’800/h
    • Jewels:  26
    • Winding:  Automatic
    • Power Reserve:  38 h
    • Theme:  Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date, Compass turning bezel
  • Case features
    • Materials:  Stainless Steel
    • Crystal:  Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with antireflective treatment
    • Dial:  Black sunray dial with applied luminous indexes
    • Crown:  Screw-in
    • Water resistance:  10 ATM
    • Diameter:  44 mm
  • Strap or Bracelet Width:  22/18 mm
  • Strap:  Genuine leather

Last Update: January 15, 2017

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