januari 03, 2024
Bird’s Eye View: Reviewing the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono
This article is from the WatchTime Archives and was originally published in 2022.
The dial of the Chopard Alpine Eagle XL Chrono was inspired by the iris of an eagle’s eye. Even though we cannot view this fascinating steel chronograph with the extraordinarily sharp eyesight of that bird of prey, we nonetheless scrutinized it with an eagle eye during our test.
Scientists believe that eagles can spot animals the size of rabbits more than half a mile away and are able to see small organisms, like insects, from a distance of more than 50 feet. A person would need to look through binoculars with at least seven times magnification to see that well. We used a watchmaker’s loupe with 5.5-times magnification to give us a proverbial “eagle eye” view when we scrutinized the impressive face of the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono, our test watch. The dial’s ray-like or feathery structure, which emanates from the center and curves slightly as the rays approach the rim, is quite difficult to describe. What would we see if we could view it through an eagle’s eyes? Irregular stripes, broken lines with heights and depths, an iridescent blue that changes from very pale to bluish gray to nearly black depending on the incident light, a finely printed tachymeter scale along the flange, and a minute scale, which doubles as the scale for the chronograph’s elapsed seconds, concentrically below the flange. The shorter end of the central elapsed-seconds hand is shaped like a feather; its longer end has a slim red tip that sweeps along the elapsed-seconds scale, which is calibrated in single-second increments. This hand is long enough to reach the finely drawn arc of the tachymeter scale, which has unobtrusive red accents at the 100, 160 and 240 marks. These accentuate the gradations for 5, 10, 20 and 40 kilometers per hour and make it easier to read average speeds.
A Detailed Dial That’s Easy to Read
The small hand above the subdial at the 3, for tallying up to 30 elapsed minutes, as well as the 12-hour counter at the 9, are also colored red. The positioning of the subdial with the continually running seconds at 6 is rather unusual and offers an obvious reference to the in-house movement with a construction all its own.
The subdials are wreathed by circles and have meticulously calibrated scales. The two elapsed-time counters have polished rims to enhance their contrast with the main dial. These shiny rims also make them appear larger than the subdial at the 6 for the continually running seconds, which has a smooth, downward-sloping edge.
Luminescent coating accentuates the hands of the main time and the hour indexes, which are reduced to tiny squares in some places, i.e., at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. The large Roman numeral XII, on the other hand, glows bright green in the dark. The date display, which is positioned between 4 and 5, advances instantly and almost exactly at midnight. The date is inconspicuously printed in white against a black background, but an eagle’s eyes — which can discern fine differences in color — would immediately notice the discrepancy between the black date disk and the blue dial. Those same sharp eyes would also quickly discover the two tiny white marks that flank the date window at the 22nd and 24th seconds. Considering the price of this watch, some might want the date’s white numerals to be printed on a blue disk to match the color of the dial.
Even without the eyes of an eagle, you can look through the sapphire crystal in the caseback, which is secured with eight screws to affix the sapphire to the 100-meter-water-resistant stainless-steel case, and discover automatic Chopard Caliber 03.05-C. This movement’s uppermost level is reserved for its skeletonized rotor, which is made from a tungsten alloy and winds the mainspring in both its directions of rotation to help the movement amass a 60-hour power reserve. Sharp eyes will discover brushed patterns, satin finishing, and circular graining in the depths. As a whole, however, the designers intentionally gave the movement a technical look.
An Industrial In-house Caliber Protected by Four Patents
Caliber 03.05-C is a comparatively new automatic chronograph movement with column-wheel switching and vertical coupling to guarantee precise measurement of elapsing intervals. It was conceived, developed and assembled by Chopard’s subsidiary Fleurier Ébauches SA. It premiered slightly more than four years ago in the limited edition Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition, where it replaced a caliber based on an ETA movement. In contrast to Chopard’s elaborately handmade L.U.C movements, Calibers 03.05-C and 03.05-M are manufactured mostly by industrial means.
Technically derived from L.U.C Caliber 11 CF, these two movements offer inexpensive alternatives (other than ETA calibers) to L.U.C movements and handmade mechanisms. One such caliber was installed in the Mille Miglia in 2020. Now the new Alpine Eagle XL Chrono follows suit with Caliber 03.05-C. Four patents protect the various technical innovations that Chopard has integrated into automatic chronometer-certified chronograph Caliber 03.05-C. The stopwatch mechanism includes a flyback function, which lets its user repeatedly reset the running chronograph to zero and then immediately restart it. Flyback and error-free resetting are made possible by an ingenious patented zero-set mechanism utilizing three rotating hammers with elastic arms. The winding mechanism is equipped with backlash-free gearing for one direction of rotation, which avoids energy loss and ensures fast automatic winding. With the help of a patented planetary gear, the automatic rotor winds the mainspring in both directions of rotation. The barrel stores enough energy for approximately 60 hours of uninterrupted running.
At the other end of the power chain, a Variner balance with a variable moment of inertia oscillates at a frequency of 4 Hz. It compensates for torque fluctuations, thus contributing to the stability of the rate. A Triovis system enabled Chopard’s watchmakers to precisely adjust the rate until the watch keeps time with the accuracy of a certified chronometer. Our timing machine confirmed this high precision. Our test watch deviated from perfect timekeeping by approximately 2 seconds per day and kept time with similar accuracy while the chronograph was switched on. The deviation was even smaller on the wrist, where it gained just 1 second per day.
Caliber 03.05-C ticks inside an amply dimensioned 44-mm case made from forged stainless steel, which Chopard calls “Lucent Steel A223.” Chopard developed this innovative stainless-steel alloy, which consists of 70 percent recycled steel. It has anti-allergenic properties and is harder than ordinary steel, thus making it more robust and scratch-resistant. It also has a special shine. These qualities are achieved through repeated melting and accentuated by the case’s architecture.
A Robust Sports Watch, Inspired by the Alps
On the right-hand side, the chronograph’s elongated and unconventionally angular push-pieces form a stylistic unit together with the raised protectors that flank and guard the crown. A similar but nonfunctional protrusion is repeated on the left side of the case for symmetry’s sake. The large, knurled and thus easy-to-grip crown is screwed into a tube between the elevations on the right; the corresponding protrusions on the left offer strong visual appeal but serve no practical purpose. The appearance is further enhanced by four pairs of screws, which have their slits aligned tangent to an imagined circle along the bezel, which they firmly connect to the middle section of the case. All in all, the case forms a sporty angular but not sharp-edged ensemble with alternating polished and satin-finished sections. Satin finishing is also given to the contact surfaces of the chronograph’s push-pieces, which are shaped like truncated wedges with polished edges. Thanks to the integrated column-wheel, the chronograph starts, stops, returns to zero and performs its flyback function smoothly and neatly, with unmistakable pressure points to trigger the various operations.
Case and Bracelet Crafted with Unique Expertise
Like the bezel, the back is also firmly screwed to the case, which accordingly remains water resistant to 100 meters. The case’s middle section has polished inlays and flows smoothly toward the lugs, thus harmonizing with the styling of the bracelet. The case merges seamlessly with the stainless-steel bracelet, embodying the currently popular integrated case-and-bracelet construction. The ensemble achieves this goal because Chopard not only manufactures and assembles the movement and all its components, but also produces the case and bracelet in its own workshops.
The parts of the bracelet, which are also made of Lucent Steel A223, are screwed together in Chopard’s own way on the back of the wristband. The individual links consist of satin-finished surfaces with faceted edges and polished center parts, and lead to a high-quality, two-sided, folding clasp. When the bracelet is closed, it forms a seamless whole and unobtrusively reflects the jewelry expertise of the House of Chopard. But the Alpine Eagle XL Chrono is also adorned with an impressive price that you have to view with an eagle eye before you make a purchase.
Manufacturer: Chopard & Cie S.A., Rue de Veyrot, 8, C.P. 85, 1217 Meyrin 1, Switzerland
Reference number: 298609-3001
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date, flyback chronograph (central elapsed seconds hand, subdials for up to 30 elapsed minutes and 12 elapsed hours), tachymeter scale, screw-down crown
Movement: Chopard 03.05-M, automatic, COSC-certified, 28,800 vph,
45 jewels, Chopard Variner balance, Nivarox 1 flat hairspring, Triovis fine adjustment, Kif shock absorption, 60-hour power reserve, diameter = 28.8 mm, height = 7.60 mm
Case: Lucent Steel A223 case with anti-reflective sapphire crystals above dial and in caseback, water resistant to 100 m
Bracelet and clasp: Lucent Steel A223 bracelet, double folding clasp with lateral buttons
Rate results (deviation in seconds per 24 hours (Fully wound/after 24 hours):
On the wrist +1.0
Dial up +0.7 / +1.2
Dial down +2.1 / +1.3
Crown up +2.3 / +2.5
Crown down +1.0 / +1.3
Crown left +3.4 / +3.7
Greatest deviation 2.7 / 2.5
Average deviation +1.9 / +2.0
Flat positions 316° / 305°
Hanging positions 292° / 283°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44.18 mm, lug width = 25.5 mm integrated, height = 13.27 mm, weight = 204.0 grams
Variations: With absolute-black dial (Ref. 298609-3002, $19,200); bicolor case (Ref. 298609-6001, $26,800)
This review originally appeared in the May-June 2021 issue of WatchTime.
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