The emotional lure of a meticulously
assembled mechanical watch, with a
movement comprising hundreds of tiny components, all those tiny cogs and wheels working together to power the timepiece – is the simple yet extremely powerful magic behind automatic watches. And for these feats of micro-
engineering, rather than a quartz battery, watch lovers have always been willing to pay a significant premium.
However, the endlessly creative Swatch Group has disrupted this longstanding state of affairs with a range of mechanical watches priced at less than €200. This is a mechanical revolution for the future. Swatch says, “As it is not a quartz watch, SISTEM51 does not need a battery: the energy is provided by the person wearing it. SISTEM51 has automatic watchmaking, with self-winding movement, by which each movement of the wrist causes the rotor to move, which gives the watch a chord. Even though we leave it in the drawer to rest, it has an exceptional reserve to keep working 90 hours.”
The SISTEM51, so named as it has 51 components comprising the movement, was first launched in 2013 but in plastic. The new versions with stainless steel cases, leather straps and metal bracelets make the entire proposition that much more appealing. The movement is made completely by machines on a 65-foot-long automated assembly line, without any human intervention whatsoever during assembly – even the balance is adjusted by lasers.
The Khaki dial model on a Milanese strap is one of the most striking of the collection, but potential customers should note that after-market straps from other brands can’t be used, as the collection uses Swatch’s propriety three-tang connection. Built exclusively in Switzerland, the SISTEM51 makes the entry point to high-end mechanical watchmaking available to almost anyone. The future will likely force other brands to follow suit.
By: Nick Rice