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Coming Soon: Alpina Watches

by Dino 26 October, 2007 View Comments

The stunning line of Alpina watches should be arriving soon. Here is the history:

History - Since 1883

We look back to 1883, the founding year of the association of manufacturers and retailers of watches that evolved into Alpina. Its members called themselves affectionately the 'Alpinists', and they all shared the same target: the success of the Alpina watch.

The first horological cooperation

Everything started in 1883 when Gottlieb Hauser, watchmaker in Winterthur, founded the Swiss Watchmakers Corporation ('Corporation d'Horlogers Suisse'). A number of watchmakers joined to purchase watch components and organized their manufacturing. Quickly, the new concept gained acceptance. Together with qualified manufactures, the Association started to develop its own calibres and to enlarge its distribution network. Ebauches (the base of a calibre) were produced by the Alpina Ebauche Factory in Geneva, owned by Duret & Colonnaz, which played also an important role in the construction of the first Alpina calibres. Final steps in the manufacture of the calibres were performed in Bienne, the place of the head quarters of the Association as of 1890. Success was swift and representations were set up in Germany as well as in East and Northern Europe. In 1901, the name "Alpina" was registered as a trademark at the same time; it would only appear on the dials of high-end watches. From the beginning, Alpina watches were manufactured with high quality components, amongst others Brequet spirals, balance wheels with gold screws and heavy gold cases.

Alpina Glashutte 1909-1922

In order also to participate in the German watch-manufacturing base, Alpina Union Horlogere founded the 'Pracisions-Uhrenfabrik Alpina' in Glashutte in 1909. The Union's factories were now located in Geneva, Bienne, Besancon and Glashutte. In 1912, the first Alpina Chronometer Glashutte was finalized: it was equipped with an Alpina manufactured chronometer ebauche with a Glashutte escapement instead of the typical Swiss anchor escapement. The dial of these watches red 'Pracisions-Uhrenfabrik Alpina Glashutte i.S.'. Another model was created in 1913: it was a 21'' marine watch, which was purchased by the German navy at the time. Alpina Glashutte watches gained ground and competed directly with those of Lange & Sohne. In 1913, Lange & Sohne felt threatened and started a court case to try to stop Alpina on the ground that not all parts were manufactured in Glashutte. The court case dragged on for years but was finally proven without merit. It was dropped in favor of Alpina in 1915. Meanwhile World War I had started and had a stifling effect on the 'Pracisions-Uhrenfabrik Alpina' in Glashutte. Parts could hardly be send to the factory from Switzerland due to war import restrictions. Further, there were major capital flow restrictions.

The First World War

During the First World War, the Allied Forces were obviously not pleased with business relationships between Switzerland and Germany. The Alpina Glashutte factory had experienced already major problems but also the relationships between the Swiss Alpina factories and their customers in Germany were under strong pressure. Finally in 1917, towards the end of the first World War, the Association 'Union Horlogere' was dissolved formally. Two separate anonymous societies were incorporated: the Union Horlogere SA in Bienne, Switzerland and the Alpina Deutsche Uhrmacher-Genossenschaft G.m.b.H. in Berlin, Germany. The branch, which was in charge of Swiss members, incorporated itself as yet a third separate association in the name of 'Alpina Association des Horlogers Suisses'. Activities of the companies surged dramatically after the First World War. Alpina watches were being sold with great success in 2000 retailers around Europe, from Lisbon to Copenhagen to Moscow.

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