No matter the season—or climate—Swiss watchmaker Alpina encourages its wearers to head outdoors. Gottlieb Hauser founded the “Alpina Swiss Watchmakers Corporation” in 1883 to optimize the construction of movements and timepieces by bringing manufacturers and suppliers together. In the process, Alpina began developing and producing its own in-house calibres and chronometers, which remains a trademark of the company’s mandate today: to create accessible sports watches, inspired by the mountain culture of Hauser’s native Switzerland.
Bracing for the elements is second nature to the watchmaker, which still has a dedicated community of “Alpinists” who remain inspired by the watchmaker’s mission today. “Gottlieb aimed to create watches that could really withstand the alpine environment,” says Alpina president and CEO Guido Benedini. “We are about alpine territory as well as outdoor style. And—very importantly—community.”
The company has found innovative ways to pair its heritage with today’s newest technical developments to foster that idea. “I believe technology creates ties between people around the world,” Benedini continues. “We like to be on the forefront of things.” In a perhaps unexpected move, the company is in the beta phase of a project with Google Glass, testing ideas to display user manuals on Google Glasses, or to display information on the glasses when looking at watches in stores.
The company has also launched a new program, Alpina Adventure, in support of the upcoming Ice Legacy project. Ice Legacy will be led by famed Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland, who has crossed the North and the South Poles alone, and Frenchman Vincent Colliard, who Ousland is mentoring. The two men aim to walk across the 20 largest glaciers in the world—from Russia to Alaska, Patagonia to Pakistan—over the next 10 years to raise awareness about the disappearance of these natural landscapes. There’s even a Canadian stop, currently slated second on the tour: the Grant Ice Cap, located in the northern part of Ellesmere Island, part of the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut. “There’s a nice watchmaking lesson here as well,” Benedini says of the partnership. “The passing of lessons and legacies from Børge to Vincent, and telling the age-old stories of these natural wonders.”
This project will not only test the resolve and stamina of the men, who will gather data on the state and specific properties of each glacier, but it will also test the performance and resistance of their tools, including the new Alpiner 4 timepiece. The watchmaker’s newest release (recently shown at Baselworld) was specially created to weather extreme conditions: it is anti-magnetic, shock-resistant, water-resistant, and crafted in stainless steel.
Those who wish to try an expedition of this nature for themselves can do so via the Alpina Adventures program, which offers trips led by Ousland and his team. For extreme enthusiasts, there is plenty to choose from: kayaking through Steigen on the north coast of Norway, taking a three-day adventure to the North Pole, traversing Greenland on foot or by dogsled, or crossing the northern Patagonian icecap, to new a few.
For those inspired by the project but less inclined to face the subzero temperatures, Alpina partnered with an app called AllTrails, creating an elevation competition “tracking the tracks” of its participants. Via the app, competitors in the Alpina 4 Summits World Challenge log their steps as they do their daily routines and sports, which add up to a total number of metres climbed and an elevation reached on a daily basis. There are four summit challenges: Matterhorn (4,478 metres); Kilimanjaro (5,895 metres); Mount McKinley (6,194 metres); and the ultimate, Everest (8,848 metres). Each summit is its own competition, independent of the others. Although the competition launched May 1, users can join in any time before the competition closing date of October 31, and next up is Kilimanjaro, beginning July 1. Those who successfully reach the required elevation are entered in a draw to win a trip to and guided trek up the mountain they summited (so to speak). The top three finishers each round will receive Alpina watches, and the overall altitude winner will be sent to Mount Everest’s basecamp.
There’s no slowing down for the watchmaker as it takes Hauser’s original philosophy and applies it to today’s technology. Benedini sums it up well: “I think it’s important to go back to the past to go to the future.” As “Alpinists” know, there is always time for adventure.