The very ’70s Alpina President is a great example of a low-budget watch that you can keep talking about for hours. I won’t keep you for hours today, but perhaps you will find this watch as interesting as I do.

 I like nice coincidences. You know, those that make you find pleasure in otherwise meaningless things. Call it the beauty of everyday life…

Alpina President

The Alpina President comes from the shadows

It came from the darkness, actually. After years of sitting in my safe, it finally turned its face into the sunshine. Last week, I was thinking about the #TBT lineup for May, and my eyes got hooked by this barrel-shaped piece by Alpina. I don’t have to add that it doesn’t get much wrist time. But the other day, I felt like it deserved some, so I took it out.

Alpina President

Coronation #1

I was still rocking the watch hard on the day of the new British king’s coronation last weekend, though I swear I had no intention of putting a President into alert mode for one of the most important days for the Kingdom. I dusted off my Alpina President only a few days before the coronation but realized it only after a few more days had passed: the watch would also witness another coronation event.

Alpina President

The real coronation day

My four-year-old daughter is finally past her long, intense Frozen phase. We haven’t heard the Frozen soundtrack for two months, and I haven’t had to fix Elsa’s dress or pretend to be Anna. All of you parents out there can probably relate. But the other day, my daughter came with an intense request to build Elsa’s coronation crown. I made her dream come true the next day, and we made one together. You probably already guessed that my Alpina President was there again for my daughter’s coronation after completing the crown.

Alpina President

Long-lasting President

In February 1952, 25-year-old Elizabeth became the queen of seven independent Commonwealth countries. This was only five years ahead of the Alpina President, which debuted in 1957. It had quite a long life, although certainly not as long as Queen Elizabeth’s. I would not be surprised if you think you may have already seen an Alpina President before. There are tons of designs, case shapes, and dial styles labeled “Alpina President” to be found on any auction site. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you have never snapped up a single one. They are boringly simple. For the longest time, I had never gotten one either. Besides the strong naming, I didn’t find it interesting enough…

Alpina President

Never say never

I thought it would stay that way and the Alpina President would never be a part of my collection. That all changed the minute I saw today’s chunky hero. I was instantly drawn to it, even though I was never fond of cushion- or barrel-shaped cases. I found having lugs on such a case a joke. Instead of four long, majestic pillars, you get four short legs. My Alpina President reminds me of a panda.

I guess it’s a barrel case with a highly polished beveled edge and a contrasting wide top with radial sunburst brushing. The case is so massive that it makes the President look inaccessible and indestructible. Furthermore, the top of the steel case wall is so broad and flat that it provides one of the most visible and expressive sunburst effects that I have seen on a vintage watch. Add the impeccable condition of each sunray, and you get the impression that they’ll start playing music when you run your finger over them.

Alpina President

Barrel dial

The dial is a perfect copy of the case shape. Let’s call it a little barrel. It is protected by a flat crystal, which has to be a nightmare to replace due to its shape. That’s another reason why near-NOS condition is so important for this watch. The fascination also continues while looking through the perfectly clean acrylic crystal without a single scratch.

Contrast of lines

If there is anything so supremely ’70s beyond this case shape, it would be the horizontal hour indexes. As pitching different ideas (the crazier they were, the better they were) was a substantial part of my professional career, I love to imagine the moment when a watch designer pitched the idea of “lying” indexes to his boss.

Alpina President

With classic indexes, the minute hand reaches out or touches the hour index about every five minutes. With this Alpina President, it’s not easy to find a minute when the minute hand doesn’t cross the trajectory with an hour index. If you add the fact that there is no minute track, I guess accurate time-telling was never an absolute priority.

Alpina President

Presidential details

Each hand style has a name, but I’m not sure what to call these short, tapering, thinly lumed ones. But I like them because they fit the overall design nicely. Notice also the horizontal brushing of the silver dial. It is in line with index bedding and in contrast to the radial case brushing. The “President” branding has some real charm. It’s almost as good as the decent date window, nicely integrated into the 6 o’clock position.

Oh, and can’t you see the crown? It’s integrated into the bottom of the case so it doesn’t break the fluid barrel design. Kudos to the designers for that. If you were interested in where to look for it, it’s sunken super profoundly into the case under the 5 o’clock position.

Alpina President

Last thoughts on the Alpina President

My Alpina President looks like a ladies’ watch on steroids — so many steroids that it looks masculine enough. You will hardly ever find NOS Omega Speedmasters or Rolex Submariners in an old watchmaker’s estate sale. But hidden gems like this Alpina President are still out there, even on an original, never-worn Alpina strap with a signed buckle.

This Alpina President is powered by happily swinging AS1893, quite a reliable automatic movement for a watch under $200. And while this piece doesn’t dare to become my daily beater, it does make me realize my tastes are broader than I initially thought. However silly I find the idea of horizontal indexes, I’m glad I gave them a shot and made this iconic style part of my weirdo collection.