Swatch's highly anticipated Sistem51 finally hits the US!
After more than a year, the highly anticipated Swatch Sistem51 is finally available in the United States. Swatch is known for making inexpensive quartz watches in a variety of styles and colors. So, why is this plastic, $150 automatic watch creating so much buzz around the watch community that is typically focused on very expensive watches? Because it represents what may be a shift, a revolution, in the world of mechanical watches. It is the first mechanical watch ever produced without human hands.
To achieve the goal of a mass-producible mechanical movement they had to start at the very beginning, the materials used. Swatch developed a unique anti-magnetic alloy of zinc, copper and nickel to aid in creating a movement that, over time, did not need any adjustments. To further this idea of a no maintenance automatic watch, all of the movement's components are anchored by one screw, greatly reducing the tooling needed for assembly. The escapement is also built without a traditional regulator that would normally be used to adjust variations in the watch's accuracy. Instead, the regulation is set by a laser during production and will never need an adjustment. To further the reliability they have created a pallet fork & excape wheel out of a very hard plastic that will not need additional lubrication over the years. Swatch then hermetically seals it all into the Sistem51 case. Thus ensuring that no elements may enter the case and hinder the movement's operation. Though, what stands out to me most is the Sistem51's 90 hour power reserve. That is almost 4 days and more than double the typical power reserve found in most mechanical watches.
In 1983 Swatch reduced the number of components in a quartz movement to 51 and created an automated process to mass produce quartz watches. They were able to sell millions of watches every year and build a watch empire along with it. The Swatch Group now includes names like Breguet, Omega and Glashutte Original just to name a few. These and others are highly respected names under the Swatch Group's umbrella. With the Sistem51, Swatch looked to further the idea of mass production by reducing the components in a mechanical watch down to, you guessed it, 51.
The styling of the Sistem51 is themed after Copernicus. Swatch likens the placement of the single anchor screw in the center of the movement to Copernicus's placement of the sun at the center of the solar system instead of the Earth. Also on the dial you'll notice six red dots to correspond to the dial-side placement of six of the watch movement's 19 jewels. The design on the dial also corresponds to other elements of the movement. Right away when you strap the watch on, you notice that the watch is very comfortable on the wrist. Swatch does a nice job with their silicone straps. As Mateo from Swatch pointed out to me, there are relief cuts throughout the skin-side of the strap to aid in breathability. The silicone strap comes on the red, white, and blue models, with the black version sporting a leather strap.
I have seen a few naysayers around the forums and websites that don't understand this watch and why everyone thinks its a big deal. Well, it may not be THIS watch but, its the trickle down effect. This innovation in watch manufacturing could change many aspects of the watch world in the years to come. The last 10 years has seen tremendous amounts of innovation and leaps forward in design and achievement. This is another stepping stone along that path. I'm certainly looking forward to see what's next. Until then, I'm going to enjoy my new Sistem51!