Some amateurs collect only these. Others hold on to them as the gold standard for readability. And others still are nostalgic for an era when they were essential for keeping the railways running on time. The regulator is the stuff of legend in watchmaking. Fifteen years after its first appearance, it’s back in Alpina’s collection. Calling all collectors!
The world’s best display?
The concept for the regulator is based on a very simple observation; telling the time with three central hands is not always easy when the hands regularly overlap. Incidentally, a railway accident in the United States in 1891 led to the generalisation of watches for all station masters – pocket watches that were very often regulators, to avoid any timing errors, the legendary "railroad watches".
This is how an atypical display came into being; the hours, minutes and seconds shown by three hands, each with their own counter. In effect, three dials in one. A truly striking complication.
Just 15 years ago, Alpina – founded in 1883 and contemporaneous with these events – launched the Avalanche Regulator, already equipped with the AL-650 movement. Its unique dial was embellished with vertical decorations recalling the Alpine slopes. Featuring a handsome case somewhere between cushion-shaped and round, a steel version was produced in 2005, followed by an "Extreme" version in 2006 complete with rose gold plated case and bezel with visible screws – a winning take on the ultimate sporty chic watch.
The Alpiner Regulator Automatic is the successor to these early versions, the latest instalment of an ongoing adventure. The case has been profoundly modified, returning to the perfection of the circle. The dial is adorned with Cotes de Genève, inspired by the original, while the baton index hour markers have been replaced by triangular index hour markers, echoing the Alpina logo that represents the Alpine peaks. To make them easier to read, these have now been marked with luminescent material along their entire length.
For Alpina, the aesthetic tone of the new Alpiner Regulator Automatic is unambiguous; even if we generally have an idea what hour of the day it is, this is not the case with minutes. These therefore occupy the central position on the dial, a broad luminescent hand tracing a minuterie engraved from 0 to 60 on a silver flange.
At 10 o’clock, you’ll find the hour dial. There’s no need to for 24 hour markers, as everyone knows if it’s day or night. Finally, the small seconds is located at 6 o’clock, as is customary, instantly enabling anyone to tell the time as usual.
A family of 4 + 1
The new Alpiner Regulator Automatic is embracing modernity as part of its big comeback. The 2020 collection comprises four models, including: two blue dials and two black dials, worn on a brown or black calfskin or steel strap, respectively. For collectors, there is a limited series of 883 pieces with a blue dial on a black calfskin strap with red topstitching to match the hands. Sporty, rare and stylish.
A new signature
The collection's aesthetic signature is the dial, entirely decorated with Côtes de Genève. Traditionally, this decoration was used by watchmakers to adorn movement bridges, not just for decoration, but to reduce reflections and avoid dazzling the watchmaker at work.
This is the same thinking behind the Alpiner Regulator Automatic with its exceptional and traditional watchmaking finish, which is also designed to make the dial clearly readable in all lighting conditions. Even in the absence of light, all three hand-polished hands are filled with luminescent material, so that they can be seen at night. The same goes for all the index markers, arranged at five minute intervals.
For optimum readability, Alpina has opted for a wide 45 mm diameter to reveal as much as possible of the guilloché dial. As for the movement, each piece is powered by an AL-650 automatic calibre with 38-hour power reserve and beats at 28,800 vph – the high frequency further lending itself to the precision of this watch.