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Cars & motorsport

Watches & exceptional cars: Alpine and its watchmaking partners

Sponsored by Tissot, Alpine made its comeback in the world endurance championship with a closed-chassis prototype. We put the spotlight on a legendary brand whose legacy has attracted many a watchmaking manufacture.

By Rémy Solnon
Specialised journalist

And what a legacy it is! The A460, the closed-chassis prototype sponsored by Tissot, adds fuel to the fire. Alpine, the French car maker is most renowned in high-level car racing and the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. After 35 years of absence, the iconic brand made a great comeback on the circuits in 2013 with the firm determination to resume and perpetuate the legend that has not been revived since 1978. That was the year when the legendary Renault-Alpine A 442B #02 with the Renault V6 2.0 1 turbo engine, driven by the two Frenchmen Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, won the competition.

B.R.M V12-44 Alpine 2013 B.R.M V12-44 Alpine (2013)

2013, B.R.M V12-44 Alpine

For its first year in World Endurance Championship, the Signatech-Alpine team entered the Alpine A450 - Nissan prototype in the LM P2 category. It is driven by Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues and Tristan Gommendy. Concerning its comeback to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alpine needed a renowned watchmaking partner, as all other leading teams competing at Le Mans. Thus, it signed a partnership with B.R.M, a most present watchmaking brand on circuit and in the paddocks.

The French brand is known for its car-inspired watches, the famous "racing spirit" that is so dear to Bernard Richards, the brand's founder. For the occasion, it introduced the B.R.M V12-44-Alpine, a 24-piece limited numbered edition that proudly sports the Alpine colors. The famous blue is found on the tri-compax dial, on the push buttons and on the crown engraved with the well-known logo of the manufacturer from Dieppe. There are also orange touches on the "superlight" hands and the blue alligator strap. The special edition features all the characteristics of the iconic B.R.M chronograph with a 44-mm case and piston-shaped brushed stainless steel push buttons, screwed and skeletonized lugs, a lightened pin buckle, racing numbers to indicate the hours, and a minute-circle with a red zone.

Prototype Nissan Alpin A450 The concept car Alpine A450 by Nissan

It is driven by the famously reliable and robust self-winding Valjoux 7753 caliber, which provides a 46-hour power reserve and is visible through the transparent case back.

2014, Ralf Tech WRV "R" Automatic Alpine Limited Edition

In 2014, Alpine entered its A450b-Nissan prototype in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) championship and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, again in the LM P2 category. The brand's watch partner was none other than Ralf Tech, famous among specialists for its diving watches for special forces and which had already been partner of drivers Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues in 2013. To celebrate this partnership, the brand launched the Ralf Tech WRV "R" Alpine that was developed in collaboration with Renault's team and design office. It was produced in a 78-piece limited edition as a tribute to the team's last victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978.

Ralf Tech WRV «R» Automatique Alpine Limited Edition Ralf Tech WRV «R» Automatique Alpine Limited Edition

The 43.8-mm 316L steel case, water resistant to 200 meters, features a satiny-polished finishing. It is crowned by a unidirectional bezel with a black aluminum insert that calculates diving and race times.

The screwed crown is off-centered at 4 o'clock to allow wrist movements. The black matte dial displays Alpine's colors discreetly –blue on both the minute-circle and Alpine’s logo and orange on the second hand and the bezel. The black Barenia calfskin strap, especially hand-made at Bouveret, is enhanced by blue topstitching and closes with a black PVD-coated steel deployment buckle. The hands and indexes have white luminescent coating. The self-winding RTA002 caliber (based on the ETA 2824-2) displays the hours, the minutes and the seconds and also provides a 44-hour power reserve. The watch is delivered with a replacement silicon strap in the special shock-resistant NATO-certified "Explorer Case".

Tissot PRS 516 pour Alpine Tissot PRS 516 for Alpine

2015-2016, Tissot PRS 516 for Alpine

In 2015, the Signatech-Alpine team returned to Le Mans with Swiss manufacture Tissot as watch partner. Signed for the WEC (World Endurance Championship), this partnership revives the brand’s connections with the Dieppe-based manufacturer that were originally created in the 1970s when the team took part in rallies and endurance races. To mark the occasion, Tissot presented a special model inspired by an iconic piece that it manufactured in 1965. The Tissot PRS 516 is a car-inspired chronograph that pays a subtle tribute to Alpine.

Tissot PRS 516 pour Alpine Tissot PRS 516 for Alpine, the 2016 model with 3 dials

Whilst no mention is made of the French car manufacturer, it has a completely black and sporty display that is underlined by discreet blue touches on the black perforated leather strap, on the chronograph pushers, on the hands for the chronograph function and on the sub-counters. The piece is equipped with a 45-mm black PVD-coated 316 L and a steel case and it is crowned with a carbon bezel which has a tachometer scale. The bi-compax carbon fiber dial is enhanced by hints of white on the indexes and luminescent hands that enhance readability. The automatic ETA A05.H31 movement is a powerful engine which has a comfortable 60-hour power reserve.

In 2016, Alpine will continue its partnership with Tissot and will take part in the FIA WEC with the new A460 closed prototype. Tissot has come forward with two new versions of its PRS 516 model – a chronograph and a 3-hand watch which are characterized by their signature all-black display with discreet hints of blue.

Prototype Alpine A460 The Alpine A460

An atypical tribute to Alpine: the Alpine A110-50 Concept Watch

We draw this review of Alpine’s adventure in watchmaking to a close with the amazing concept-watch introduced as a tribute to the French car manufacturer in 2013. Designed by Benjamin Garson, the original Alpine A110-50 Concept Watch was inspired by the Alpine A110-50. Its atypical and no-nonsense design was inspired by the racing concept-car, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legendary "Berlinette" A110. The case evoked the generous curves of the car’s body with its large radiator grill and rear grills. The semicircular shape of the digital display on the dial with a large Renault logo was inspired by the car's front lights. As for the analogical hours and minutes and the setting buttons, they reflect the design of the wheel rim hubs. The strap's fastening clasp was inspired by the seats' 3-point harness. This atypical watch is for the moment still a concept.

Alpine A110-50 concept watch Alpine A110-50 concept watch

As the Alpine-Signatech team puts it, watches are "the exciting way to success"!

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