I bet most of you have your underdog. A decent smaller watch that you all hold on to, even though you don’t wear it often. The bumper Alpina Rensie is one of the earliest vintage watches I bought. Every time I see it in a drawer, my heart skips a beat. 

Early automatic watches with the so-called bumper movement are always fun. As explained in the Alpina History Brand Book, “they relied on an active swinging weight to tighten the mainspring which, when fully wound, contained enough power to keep the watch running for circa forty hours.” If you put the case back down you will see two springs that allow the central weight to bump. It is, in short, a simple and genius movement.


Bumper time

The wrist experience is something unusual too. You literally feel the weight flying back and forth and it’s always accompanied by relatively loud and strong metal clinks. “And you know what? It’s not annoying — quite the opposite,“ my wife remarks when I ask her about one of the watches she steals from me most often.

The last thing you would expect would be a sound like a tin can full of metal screws.

With a bumper movement, it feels like there is something loose and a bit out of control. I guess that’s down to a misalignment of expectations. When you see this tiny three-hander sitting on a table, the last thing you would expect would be for it to sound like a tin can full of metal screws. It takes some time to get used to. But in the end, it’s a very genuine feature that makes this 35mm piece really present on your wrist.


Alpina Rensie find

I also picked up this 1940s timepiece due to its untouched dial and original lume, both on the dial and hands. It’s not unusual to find a pristine piece from that era, but it’s also not so obvious. What’s pretty unusual here is the RENSIE signature printed under the old-style Alpina logo. As found on OmegaForum.net, it might “indicate that a fellow named Eisner was an early U.S. importer of the Alpina. His name was already copyright protected so he simply spelled it backward to come up with Rensie.” True or not? I tried to investigate deeper but couldn’t find any additional intel.

Bumper gets worn

My wife has a special bond with this watch, as it was the first vintage watch I gave her to try when we started dating. “It’s elegant, but not boring.“ A simple explanation as to why she loves it and wears it often. I really like the delicately brushed pearl dial that turned slightly yellowish. It fits perfectly with the sandy pale lume indexes. They die the second I turn the UV light on them, exactly as you might expect. If you like it, I think you still could get one within a €300–€400 budget. Well, you just need to bump into one first…


Final thoughts

If you are looking for something unusual and not necessarily expensive to enrich your vintage watch collection with, I vouch for an early bumper automatic watch. Just warning you: the simple genius of the concept could make you feel like your movement has an exciting bedtime on a spring mattress. Enjoy it and happy hunting.