Hands-On With The Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chronograph
Given the current situation, you could be forgiven for having forgotten what it’s like to travel. On the other hand, not flying out on a near-weekly basis, helps remind you where you actually went and when. It was last August that we went to Switzerland for the Geneva Watch Days event. Back then, there were a lot of watches that were still under embargo and the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL is one of those.
The atmosphere at Chopard was amazing and relaxed as we had plenty of time to look at all the novelties. Right next to a well equipped private bar we got a first glimpse of the new Alpine Eagle XL chronograph watches. All three models were available, two in steel, and one in gold and steel.
Chopard Alpine Eagle XL
Although I usually say that 40mm is the perfect size for a watch, that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally find smaller or larger watches attractive. Yes, it generally takes more for me to like them, but anything exceptionally characterful or well-made stands a chance. Going up to 44mm, though… That would take something quite impressive indeed.
Surprisingly, these dauntingly large chronographs feel pretty good on the wrist. Perhaps it’s because the case doesn’t have traditional lugs. The stouter lug-to-lug length than the 44mm diameter threatens is truly a blessing and, I think, the key to this design. The case design continues seamlessly into the bracelet. Although it looks nice, there is one drawback. This lug style doesn’t (yet) allow for a different strap. Personally, I have a growing interest in custom leather straps and discovered some top-quality brands last year. I’d prefer it if brands offering sports models with integrated bracelets also conceived some kind of adapter end-links so after-market options could be fitted to the watch instead.
The design is pretty symmetrical apart from the crown and chronograph pushers. Pleasingly, the pushers (and the crown to a lesser extent), have been done in a complementary fashion. On the top of the crown, you’ll find a compass arrow. Throughout the watch the surfaces are finished with a linear grain, all going in the same direction, with alternating mirror polished surfaces. This gives the watch enough contrast to make it interesting. That is in case you haven’t noticed the dial yet.
This dial is a real eye-catcher. The Eagle was used as a reference during the design of these models. You can see the “majesty of the Alps and the Eagle” woven into the design of various parts of the watch. The galvanic blue or grey brass dials and their course sunburst motif are inspired by the iris of the eagle. These vivid dials come to life instantly when light hits the dial at an angle. This is especially true of the blue dial — my personal favorite of the bunch.
Furthermore, the dial design is quite balanced even though there is a lot going on. The tachymeter scale is placed on the rehaut. As such, it is not as invasive as a bezel scale. Applied hour markers give the dial more relief just like the different heights of the subdials which all have a radial finish (this breaks up the iris pattern nicely). The running seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock has a beveled edge while the others have a polished edge.
Little details like this just make a dial so much more interesting. At 4:30 there is a small date. The date wheel color matches the color of the dial. The chronograph hands all have red details and the counterweight of the central seconds hand is shaped like an eagle’s feather. And if you see an arrow leaping out at you from the seconds hand in its entirety, you’re not alone…
Visible through the sapphire case back of the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL is the Chopard 03.05-C caliber. This column wheel, flyback chronograph caliber is developed, produced, and assembled in-house. Fully wound it has a power reserve of approximately 60 hours. All surfaces of the caliber are nicely finished. Again, we can see the iris motif reflected here on the bridges and cocks of the movement, as well as on portions of the automatic winding weight.
Impressive specifications are topped off by a certified chronometer-grade by COSC. The case back is held in place by eight screws, which you’ll also find in the bezel. Where the screws on the back side seem to have random positions, from the front they are perfectly aligned. The bracelet has three rows of links where the middle one is the smallest, polished and slightly raised. It is advertised as being reminiscent of its mountain biotope which I found a bit far fetched.
However, the bracelet looks nice and the small links make it very comfortable. It closes with a double folding clasp which opens with two small buttons on each side of the hidden fastener. It has to be folded in a specific way otherwise it doesn’t close. Personally I’m not a fan of this kind of clasp but you still find them regularly on various watches. It’s just a visual thing as that one extended center link holds the Chopard brand name.
The Chopard Alpine Eagle family is Chopard’s Haute Horlogerie answer to the ever-present dons of the luxury steel sports watch field. This chronographs are going up against the best of the best. Can the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL ruffle the feathers of the Nautilus? The Royal Oak? The Overseas? What about the modern claimants to the throne, like the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo, The Czapek & Cie. Antarctique, or the H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner?
For me, on a wishlist from top to bottom, it would come in fifth position. Props to the first Fratelli that guesses the order in which I rank all seven! And what about you? Where does the Alpine Eagle rank in your estimation? Is it a modern classic or is it on the outside, looking in on the big boys’ club? Share your thoughts in the comments below. You can learn more about Chopard here.