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Beware the Ochre Ogre: a review of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT

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Surprising no one, I’m back reviewing another GMT watch for you today.  What may be surprising, however, is that this particular watch is driven by a quartz movement.  As my watch buddy at work asked, “Who even makes those?”  Well, if you’ve been reading here, you know that Butler does.  I’m sure there are others as well, but the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT is only the second one I’ve had cross my review desk.

While I’ve been late to the game when it comes to reviewing Alpina watches (last year was my first one), I have quickly come to appreciate what the brand is putting together.  It’s a mix of good design, Swiss builds, and affordability.  Then again, for many, it’s a bit of a stretch to call a four-figure watch affordable.  That’s when things like, say, a quartz movement come into play.  Oh, and along with lowering the price, quartz brings another very nice benefits to the table.

You see, the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT is what I would very much call a thin watch.  Coming in at a svelte 9.4mm thick, the 42mm case slips under a shirt cuff with a whisper.  Yes, you can get that thinness in mechanical movements, don’t get me wrong.  You just won’t be seeing it at this price point.  The movement in question here is the AL-247.  Not one that I can say I am overly familiar with, but it specced to give you 25 months of battery life while driving it’s functionality.

 

For the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT, the function includes, of course, a GMT hand.  I do want to call out something that was unusual in my experience with setting the hand.  You see, when you move the crown to set the GMT hand, there are no clicks to the hours.  In short, you can set that GMT hand to wherever you want.  Perhaps good if you are concerned about a timezone that is not on the hour, but for the majority, those missing click steps are just odd.  It’s simple enough to set the main time to midnight and then adjust the GMT hand, though, and then let things chug along (another win for the battery).

Speaking of the 24-hour track?  That’s where I gave the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT it’s nickname in our Slack channel.  Originally, we were going to have the more classic blue-and-red combo coming in for review, but things happen, and we ended up with the loaner you see here.  Officially, the Alpina materials call it a grey-and-beige combo.  Given my tendency to relax with some Bob Ross episodes, though, I’m calling that lower level ochre.  From there, it was only a short step to calling it the Ochre Ogre.  Simply a play on words, not a judgement on the watch itself.

Another oddity, for me, was the missing seconds hand.  Take a look at the dial of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT.  There is no seconds hand, central or otherwise.  To be sure, this does not impact the day to day usability of the watch in the least.  For me, though, it’s a little disconcerting to not have some sort of visual indication that the watch is moving.  Even holding the watch to your ear won’t give you a tick-tick-tick.  Again, the battery should keep it moving, I just have a feeling without that ticking hand (and even the stutter step most quartz seconds hands will do when the battery is low), most owners will be in for a surprise one day when the battery is just dead.

It may seem like I’m picking nits with the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT, and yeah, I’ll give you that.  There is a lot done right here – a clean and legible dial, color-matched date wheel, a compact case, the mixing in some different colors (the ochre and grey), and the very, very nice textile strap.  And sure, at $595, you expect there will be some compromises.  In this case, the issues all seem to stem from the movement.  Perhaps getting central seconds and a clicking GMT setting would have increased the thickness, or there were other justifications for it.  I do know other brands have done it, so it’s not out of the question. Perhaps something we’ll see in the next generation.

For all my picking on the movement in the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT, I did enjoy my time with the watch.  It wore quite easily, though it’s more of an office or casual watch, given the strap it’s on.  For a textile strap, it’s well-done.  A very tight weave leads to a stiff – but malleable – strap, giving you the confidence the strap will last a good long time.  So, then, who is this a watch for?  It’s really not for the suit-and-tie business traveller set.  No, I’d say it’s more for the leisure traveller, and for those (such as myself) who dig a GMT movement, and don’t mind if it’s paired up to a dead-accurate quartz movement.  For those interested in the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT, but not quite digging the Ochre Ogre configuration, bear in mind there is the more classic “Pepsi” look as well.

Be sure to let us know below (and over in our Slack channel) what you think of the Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT.  And, if there are other quartz-driven GMT watches out there that you know about, please do let me know, so I can expand my survey of that particular combination.  For know, though? The Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT remains part of a very select group of watches.  alpinawatches.com

UPDATE:  We also just saw that Alpina is running a giveaway for two of their watches as well, you can check that out here.

Review Summary

  • Brand & Model: Alpina Startimer Pilot Quartz GMT (ref. AL-247BBG4S6)
  • Price: $595
  • Who’s it for?  This is a good fit for the leisurely world traveller
  • Would I wear it? Indeed I would, good sir.  Indeed I would.
  • What I’d change:  Central seconds first, and second, clicking stops on the GMT hand when setting.
  • The best thing about it:  The compact and lightweight design
Tech Specs from Alpina
  • Movement:  AL-247 QUARTZ
    • JEWEL: 1
    • BATTERY LIFE: 25 MONTHS
    • FUNCTIONS: HOURS, MINUTES, GMT, DATE
  • Case:  STAINLESS STEEL, 9.4MM THICKNESS, 42MM DIAMETER
  • CRYSTAL: SCRATCH-RESISTANT SAPPHIRE CRYSTAL
  • DIAL: BLACK DIAL WITH GREY AND BEIGE RING AND WHITE COLOR INDEXES
  • WATER RESISTANCE: 10 ATM/100M/330FT
  • STRAP: BLACK NYLON STRAP

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve seen this GMT watch in the window and directly fell in love with it.
    They had it in three different gmt styles for myself i got me the all black version so that it keeps the flieger look.
    I was looking now for some time to find a gmt watch in a reasonable price range and due to its character I decided it will be the startimer GMT.
    What a few will miss but what I love is that you don’t hear the classic ticking of the watch.

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