To many of us—or perhaps just me— it seems that only Cartier and Jaeger LeCoulture have made rectangular watches. The most famous one being the Cartier Tank, which has not gone out of fashion in the 100+ years it has been in production. But then, as it often seems to happen, more and more brands have been releasing square or rectangular watches. They usually have made some in the past, but some brands are just starting now. From Seiko’s Dolce to Oris’ Rectangular (appropriately named, isn’t it?) we do have quite a few options at various price points. From what I can tell, if a brand has made such watches before, it mostly happened during the 1920s-1930s. This brings us to the Alpina Alpiner Heritage Carrée 140 Years.
Super Brief History of Alpina
Alpina was founded in 1883 by Swiss watchmaker Gottlieb Hauser. The story goes that he had trouble sourcing parts for his watches and created a union of watchmakers and parts manufacturers called “Alpina Union Horlogère S.A.”. By doing so, he created a network of talented and innovative engineers, designers, and business people who supported each other. Straub had its own movement manufacture through which he developed some of the most refined and accurate movements of the time: so much so that many prestigious brands were equipped with Alpina movements (some say even Rolex did at some point). The brand Alpina was officially trademarked in 1901 so that Gottlieb Hauser could protect its best movements. Since 2002, Alpina has been part of Frédérique Constant.
Brief History of the Alpina Carrée
Although many of my peers mentioned that Alpina had made square watches in the 1920s/1930s, I could only find one potential photo of it (see below). Like many things that happened a century ago, the trend was to make Art Déco watches, in the sense that cases had ornate designs resembling those of iconic architectural creations of the time. As better explained on Britannica.com, “Art Deco is a popular design style of the 1920s and '30s characterized especially by sleek geometric or stylized forms and by the use of man-made materials”. Looking at the photo below, we can clearly see the stylized case of the vintage Alpina Carrée, something we can also see on the iconic Cartier Tank.
To celebrate its 140th anniversary, Alpina decided to create four limited edition square watches under the Alpiner Heritage Carrée 140 Years. Two of the versions are equipped with new old stock calibers (the most expensive ones) while the two others with modern movements (the more affordable ones.) Source: www.timeandtidewatches.com
Specifications of the Alpiner Heritage Carrée
The most expensive versions that come with the restored and serviced new old stock (NOS) calibers retail for a little over $5,000 USD and come with the smallest figures but the most luxurious stuff. Their cases are made of mirror-polished silver and measure 29.50 x 35.70mm. The movement inside is the 2.5Hz/17 jewels AL-490 made in 1938. This was the best of the best square movements in the 1930s/1940s which, allegedly again, equipped the few square watches Rolex made during the same time period. These models come with either a black or cream dial and are limited to 14 units each.
The more affordable versions are made of polished stainless steel and measure 32.50 x 39mm, so they are slightly larger than the other versions. They are equipped with caliber AL-530, a modern movement beating at 4Hz and coming with 31 jewels and 38 hours of power reserve (the old AL-490 does have 42 hours of power reserve which seems quite impressive!). Price-wise, these retail for around $1,500 USD and are not limited. Source: www.gqmagazine.fr
Thoughts on the Alpina Alpiner Carrée 140 Years
I am not a rectangular/square watch kind-of-guy, but I must say the Alpiner Heritage Carrée would be my choice from all such models available on the market today—ignoring whatever price tag they come with. Generally speaking, rectangular/square watches are very elegant, having tiny hands and Roman numerals all around. (Yes, I’m definitely thinking of the Cartier Tank and JLC Reverso here.) The Alpiner, for its part, does not look like its older sibling and instead looks modern-ish. While the Art Déco case is an acquired taste, I like the sportier look of the dial as it comes with modern-looking Arabic numerals and high-contrast color schemes, whether looking at the black or cream version.
Looking at the competition—and yes the Cartier Tank—the Alpiner offers something different. Although they are similar in sizes, the Carrée appears more beefy thanks to its multi-step case design and construction, as well as its small crown equipped with deep knurling. In other words, the Alpiner seems to me as being a Tank on steroids, hence the reason why I would pick this one over another square or rectangular model.Featured image: www.monochrome-watches.com