The horological migratory season has begun! The Alpiner Extreme Automatic outdoor watch inspired by the Alps has temporarily taken flight from its native Switzerland for a winter sun break: for the first time in its history, it’s been decked out with a California dial. First trademarked in 1941, this dial design features a clever blend of Arabic and Roman numerals, dashes and triangles designed to make reading the time from any angle error-proof. Alpina has made the dial more readable still by combining vintage luminous beige hands and hour markers with a black dial, all housed in the collection’s imposing and iconic steel cushion case. The 41x42.5mm Alpiner Extreme Automatic California Dial comes on a rubber strap – and like its fellows, is powered by the trusty AL-525 calibre.
Watchmaking history is replete with ingenious inventions. Alpina has contributed plenty of its own, not least by establishing the core principles of sports watches almost one hundred years ago: timepieces that are non-magnetic, waterproof, rustproof, and impact-resistant. This legacy endures in most of its models today, including the Alpiner Extreme. Meanwhile, another more stylistic development dating from the inter-war years has also sparked enthusiasm among collectors: the California dial.
A fascinating piece of watchmaking history
As wristwatches became more widespread and came to perform a more functional role, more particularly for pilots and divers, the need emerged for a dial that would be error-proof, preventing wearers from making any mistakes when reading its indications. The need was all the more pressing in that back then, dials featured both Arabic and Roman numerals, with no consensus as to how the latter should be written: the figure 4 could be represented by IIII or IV; 8 could be VIII or IIX, while 12 might be left out altogether, often replaced by a brand’s logo. Not only that, the figure 6 could be mistakenly read upside-down as 9, a potentially fatal error for aviators in flight – or during an ocean dive.
The heir to the greatest tool watches
The California dial was devised to solve this issue. Between the 1940s and 1980s, it was mostly to be seen on tool watches before becoming a fashion in its own right. It became known as the California dial as a result of collectors’ keen interest in the style in the 1980s, when many of the models in question were to be found in the US state of that name.
Today, Alpina’s Alpiner Extreme is very much in step with the original ethos of the California dial: a watch born on the steep slopes of the Alps, designed by mountaineers, and now worn by outdoor thrill-seekers everywhere.
The timepiece’s new dial is nigh impossible to misread. Arabic numerals are used for the 8 and the 4, while the 6 is represented by a dash that can’t possibly be mistaken for a 9. The 3 and 9 hour markers are also dashes; confusion is avoided by them being located between two full figures, one Arabic, one Roman, ensuring they will be read correctly.
Discerning connoisseurs will appreciate a happy coincidence, too: on California dials, the 12 is portrayed by a triangle – which, fortuitously enough, echoes Alpina’s own logo, a red triangle symbolising the Alpine summits. Indeed, one such triangle is to be found (as usual) serving as the counterweight on the seconds hand; another is located just above the brand name. To boost readability still further, Alpina has combined vintage luminous beige hands and hour markers with a black dial. A date window at 3 o’clock provides the finishing touch.