Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono: A ‘Big Friendly Giant’
by Martin Green
A watch journalist sometimes requires skills that many might not associate with the profession.
Visiting Chopard’s comfortable headquarters in Geneva’s outskirts last year, I was presented with the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono. I worked hard to keep a straight face, not showing my initial reaction to my gracious host as a brand launching a 44 mm chronograph was not what I expected to see in 2020, a year continuing the downward trend in case sizes. And I especially didn’t expect a 44 mm watch from Chopard, which is known for its elegance even in its sporty watches.
This was also one of those moments highlighting the fact that you cannot judge a watch by just looking at it – or, more importantly, just a picture of it – but that you need to put it on your wrist. It was while on my wrist that the new Alpine Eagle XL Chrono made a distinctly different impression.
Two Alpine Eagle predecessors with a different name
The current Alpine Eagle is the third generation of a watch previously called the St. Moritz. When this prestigious Swiss ski resort town entered a partnership with the Swatch Group, Chopard had to change the name of its watch for this new generation of models. I think that Chopard chose the new name well as referencing an alpine eagle inspires powerful imagery of an incredibly graceful bird.
The St. Moritz was the first watch created by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in 1980. As co-president of the brand, he has made a significant contribution to watchmaking as a whole with his passion and flair, and it all started with the predecessor to the Alpine Eagle.
When Scheufele created the first generation of the St. Moritz he was in touch with the times and trends of the early 1980s, but the model needed to be refreshed for the 1990s. The second generation of the St. Moritz was much cleaner in its appearance, a touch industrial, and close in character to the current Alpine Eagle.
It was in that second generation that Chopard also introduced an automatic chronograph. At the time, the brand was still building up its manufacture capacity, having crafted several L.U.C models with movements of their own, but otherwise relying on outside suppliers.
Powering that generation of the St. Moritz chronograph – which included a smaller quartz version – Chopard selected the legendary Frédéric Piguet Caliber 1185. It made for an imposing yet still slightly understated watch. One that is still on my personal wish list.
Now a full-blown manufacture, Chopard no longer has to rely on outside sources for its movements. The Alpine Eagle XL Chrono’s movement leaves little to be desired: the manufacture Chopard 03.05-C caliber is a fully integrated chronograph movement featuring a column wheel chronograph with a generous power reserve of 60 hours. It is also officially chronometer certified.
Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono: a “Big Friendly Giant”
With a very few exceptions confirming the rule, I don’t like to wear watches the size of the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono. At Chopard, my eye is usually immediately attracted to the brand’s L.U.C collection, then moves over to the more classical parts of the Mille Miglia collection.
However, I have to give credit where credit is due. On the wrist, the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono looked profoundly better than I expected. It was large but not overly so, and wearing comfort was exceptional for a watch this size.
For that, credit goes both to the design of the case and the bracelet. I kind of like it a bit chunkier, perhaps because there are not that many other chunky Chopard models. I am reminded of Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, the 1982 book about a friendly, good-natured giant. The Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is just that.
What also helps is that the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is very well proportioned; Chopard didn’t need to utilize any design tricks to fill space. The watch does still have a bit of that 1990s vibe as a true descendent from the second-generation St. Moritz.
And while cool in stainless steel I prefer it in two-tone steel/gold, which lends the watch just a dash of that ’80s vibe and sets it more apart from the competition. It also adds some luxury, an element with which Chopard is always associated.
While the brand is known for being at the forefront of using ethical gold – “Fairmined” in Chopard lingo – the Alpine Eagle is the first watch in which something similar has been done with steel.
Working closely with an Austrian supplier, Chopard has developed Lucent Steel A223, which consists of 70 percent recycled steel.
While it is produced as ethically as possible, this type of steel also offers other advantages. When finished, it reflects the light more than regular steel, there’s more play of light. Additionally, it is also much harder than most other types of steel, making it less prone to scratching.
These are qualities that really transform the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono into a “Big Friendly Giant.”
For more information, please visit www.chopard.com/intl/alpine-eagle-xl-chrono.
Quick Facts Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono
Case: 44 x 13.15 mm, Lucent Steel A223 or Lucent Steel A223 with pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber Chopard 03.05-C; 60-hour power reserve; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, officially C.O.S.C. chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; flyback chronograph, date
Price: CHF 19,200/$19,200 (Lucent Steel A223); CHF 26,800/$26,800 (Lucent Steel A223 with pink gold)