Hands on: Alpina AlpinerX review

James Peckham Tech Bites

Could the Alpina AlpinerX be the ultimate hybrid smartwatch? Alpina is a Swiss watch brand with real heritage, making timepieces since 1883, and it’s particularly well-known for sports-orientated watches. The AlpinerX is a mix of classic Alpina design and modern connected technology, which makes it incredibly appealing. If Tag Heuer’s Connected Modular 41 and Connected Modular 45 are the perfect examples of Swiss engineering and touchscreen technology, then the Alpina AlpinerX brings the same cache and appeal to the hybrid space.

Distinctive mechanical feel

Before diving into the connected features, let’s jump into the AlpinerX’s design. Our review version came with a 45mm black stainless steel and glass fiber body, with a slightly convex sapphire glass over the top of the dial, and a bi-directional bezel showing compass points and degrees in white. This is repeated on the dial, where luminous orange hands — which recall the instrument panels inside an aircraft — offer considerable visual flair.

At the base of the dial is a sizeable digital screen, and it’s where you’ll see all the connected features. This makes the AlpinerX very different from other hybrid smartwatches, as they tend not to have digital screens, but it’s a subtle and well-implemented bridge between simpler hybrids and full-on digital touchscreen smartwatches.

The strap is made from thick rubber and comes in black, with Alpina and Geneve written across it; but also comes in orange with a black body watch. Alpina will also produce a blue watch with a blue strap. The buckle has a fold-over design, etched with the Alpina logo. After a week on our wrist, we found the AlpinerX to be immensely comfortable, never getting overly sweaty, and due to how lightweight the watch is, it was never bothersome.

This is a seriously comfortable watch to wear. It’s also a beauty. We wore it with smart and casual clothing, and it looked great with all our outfits. It’s not too big, it’s also not overly thick, and the buttons are large and easy to locate and press. On the final version, the rear will be engraved, but it’s blank on our review model.

The AlpinerX is very comfortable, not too big, and never gets overly sweaty.

We loved the mechanical feel of the AlpinerX, particularly the sound the hands make when advancing through time. There’s no second hand tickling away, but as the minute hand moves, it’s accompanied by a very distinct, gear-driven “tick” that is so physical, the watch feels much more alive than any other hybrid watch we’ve worn. It may sound strange, but we warmed up to the AlpinerX more because of it. You just don’t get that level of appeal with a digital watch, smart or otherwise.

The choice of true Swiss-connected smartwatches is small, but when one as impressive as the Alpina AlpinerX is available, you’re unlikely to feel shortchanged.

Connected features and screen

Interestingly, the AlpinerX elevates itself slightly beyond the usual hybrid smartwatch standard by incorporating a small display, rather than solely relying on vibrations to alert you of incoming notifications.

The screen shows abbreviated text of the app that’s attracting your attention. For example, Facebook shows up as FAC, along with a number representing the amount of messages waiting for you, emails are EML, WhatsApp is WHA, and so on. A glance is all that’s needed to identify the alert, and pressing the upper and lower buttons moves through multiple notifications.

Our review model only showed these visual alerts, and didn’t vibrate. We spoke to Alpina about this, and were informed the final models will have a vibration alert. Since it wasn’t operational on our watch, we can’t comment on its effectiveness.

Through an app on your phone you can see activity and sleep data, but you can’t see this information on the digital display on the watch.

If the screen strangely doesn’t show fitness and activity, what else does it offer outside of notifications? This is an outdoors watch, which means it comes with a barometer, a compass, an altimeter, temperature sensor, and unusually, a UV indicator. Data from all these sensors is shown on the watch’s main screen, and you can scroll through them using the crown. It’s all also accessible in the app. The screen is easily readable in daylight, without being too bright, and is genuinely informative.

All the benefits of a full smartwatch, without the drawbacks.

We like the way the screen illuminates with a quick press of the crown, how it shows a customizable world time, and how it automatically moves the hands out of the way when there’s information on the screen. The screen also blends in with the overall watch design, looking less like a cobbled together attempt to mimic a smartwatch, and more like Casio’s cohesively-designed hybrid analog and digital displays used on its G Shock range.

Even though there is a screen on the watch, it doesn’t require charging, meaning the screen offers many benefits of a full smartwatch, without the drawbacks. Who can argue with that?

Like the design, the AlpinerX operates in an ultra-polished fashion, and it’s clear the whole project has been properly thought out.

AlpinaX app

The Alpina app is yet another win for the AlpinerX. All the data is shown in an attractive, easy-to-read manner. It’s fast to react, the settings are simple to change, and the notifications can be tailored to your liking.

If you only want email notifications, for example, you can turn everything else off. We connected the watch to our iPhone X using a beta version of the app, and the process was flawless. Final versions of smartwatch apps are often poor, so to find a polished, reliable, and informative app that’s still in beta was pleasing.

There are some missteps, though. The dynamic coach feature sounds grander than it is, and it appears to only provide long-term activity data. It’s also joined by some basic advice on making improvements to your activity levels, sleep, and eating habits. It’s not tailored for you specifically, which isn’t a problem unique to the AlpinerX, but a downside with most fitness trackers and smartwatches.