Introducing: The Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition
Blacked-out watches — what emotions do they stir inside you? Do they leave you longing for excitement, or do they calm your desires? Do they repel you with a lackluster, humdrum approach, or do they reel you in with a sense of mystery and intrigue? These may seem like lofty questions for a Saturday morning because, for some, the answers are not so black and white. Admittedly, my gut reaction to monochromatic watches is usually one of pure apathy. Few things get me less excited than overt attempts to remove color and “life” from timepieces. Oddly, though, Chopard’s new Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition caught my eye, drew me closer, and even prompted introspection. What the heck is going on here?
When our managing editor Nacho called my attention to this release, he was clearly on board with it from the start. “I really love the look of it! The Alpine Eagle goes Blackbird stealth mode!” he proclaimed. And it seems he was right because, just as the aircraft would, this watch’s blacked-out visage snuck up on me and caught me unawares. Having seen so many “stealthy” watches that just made me yawn, I was fairly certain that the concept couldn’t work for me. However, as I’ve come to realize over the last few days, with the right canvas and execution, it is indeed possible. The fact that I love the Alpine Eagle is already a good start, and Chopard’s design choices have led to a surprising result. Let’s examine the Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition and find out why.
Chopard Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition — A tribute to Japan and zen aesthetics
Chopard designed this watch for the Japanese domestic market to pay homage to the nation’s traditional culture and attitudes. In the press release, the brand says that the dial is meant to invoke classic zen aesthetics, symbolizing “nature, profound mystery, and tranquility.” It does this mainly through its shikkoku (漆黒) color. Individually, the kanji characters in this term can be read as urushi (lacquer) and kuro (black). Thus, as you may be able to guess, this color has a long tradition of use in Japanese lacquerware. Traditionally, shikkoku was also the darkest shade of black, long before Vantablack and Musou Black existed. Here, I must point out that this dial does not actually have a glossy lacquered black finish. In the way that a “sky blue” dial isn’t made of the sky, “lacquer black” is just a way to describe the color.
However, shikkoku does have a long history in Japan. Tying into this aesthetic quite well are the glossy black hands and hour markers. All of these, except the seconds hand, have an application of Cool Gray Super-LumiNova. This provides a subtle but critical contrast and should enhance legibility, both in the daytime and at night. The dial retains the intricate iris pattern that we know from all other Alpine Eagles. However, with such a muted color scheme, it softly beckons observers to look closer rather than screeching at them. Altogether, I do see the parallel with shibumi (渋味), the zen aesthetic principle of austere elegance. Critically, the dial also forgoes the usual four-thirty date window, further emphasizing the beauty in simplicity.
The lovely Alpine Eagle canvas
If Chopard had given the entire watch a black coating, I do not doubt that I would have lost interest immediately. However, the brand left the Lucent Steel case and bracelet as they were, displaying prominent vertical brushing and polished accents. Our founder RJ dislikes the Alpine Eagle’s bracelet construction, its “center links” being caps fastened with screws from the back. This is a valid criticism, and I agree with him, but in terms of comfort, I cannot complain. Whenever I try on an Alpine Eagle, it wears like a dream, especially with the case’s 41mm × 47mm × 9.7mm dimensions. The bracelet drapes nicely around the wrist, and I love the shape of the links, which remind me of gold bars. All in all, changing nothing about the watch’s externals was a smart design choice in my view. It’s so easy to go too far when blacking out a watch.
A Chopard manufacture movement inside
Powering the Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition is the Chopard caliber 01.15-C. Essentially, this is a no-date version of the 01.01-C, the movement that powers many of the Alpine Eagle 41 models. Indeed, the brand has removed the date mechanism entirely, so there is no need to worry about the dreaded “phantom date” crown position. Developed, produced, and assembled by Chopard, this is a true in-house caliber. It runs at a 28,800vph frequency and delivers a 60-hour power reserve. Like all of Chopard’s manufacture movements, it is also a COSC-certified chronometer. It features perlage on the mainplate, eagle-iris-like graining on the bridges, polished bevels, and a semi-skeletonized rotor with fluting. The movement is visible through a black-tinted sapphire window on the case back.
Some may question why this watch does not utilize the L.U.C 96.40-L caliber, unlike the recent Alpine Eagle 41 XPS. While that watch was my favorite of Watches and Wonders 2023, I understand why Chopard didn’t use the same movement. Aesthetically, the sub-seconds register would have added more to the dial rather than following the theme of paring it back. Additionally, the 96.40-L carries the Geneva Hallmark and a higher level of finishing (and a price) to match. If Chopard were dead set on using this tinted sapphire crystal from the start, it makes sense not to partially obscure such an exquisite movement with it.
Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition — Price, availability, and final thoughts
The Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition is limited to 100 units, available exclusively in Japan for ¥2,156,000. The Chopard website shows prices in other currencies too (€16,600 / US$15,300), but these are simply for reference and do not reflect international availability. Therefore, if you live outside the Land of the Rising Sun and want this watch, I suggest finding someone in Japan (not me; sorry!) who can pick it up for you. Alternatively, you could come here and make a vacation out of it! Japan is fun, I promise.
As I explained earlier, I am usually not one for monochrome watches, especially those with an all-black coating. However, I do think this execution is tasteful with the black treatment only on the dial, hands, and case back. Furthermore, as a long-time resident of Japan, I appreciate the inspiration. In a way, using the shikkoku color and the zen theme is a more thoughtful tribute to Japan than, say, a red dial. Then again, Chopard probably couldn’t have gone with the latter anyway. After all, the red-dial Horobox Limited Edition already exists.
This watch is far outside of my modest budget, but it did open my eyes to the possibility that “blacked-out” watches could work for me. That realization is refreshing, and I look forward to hopefully seeing this watch in the metal to make sure. What do you think of the Alpine Eagle 41 Shikkoku Edition? Do you love it, hate it, or find it oddly intriguing? Let me know in the comments below!