Swatch SISTEM51 hands-on review: a new chapter in mechanical watches
This is my second week with a blue Swatch SISTEM51, the first and only watch with a mechanical movement put together on a fully automated assembly line.
Before we would take a closer look at this unique watch, let me shed some light on the origin of the name.
Thirty years ago, right in the middle of the Quartz Crisis, Swatch took off as one the biggest watch brands, by turning the whole industry on its head with the introduction of a quartz wrist watch with only 51 parts. The world’s first plastic watch was made not by hand in the traditional Swiss manner, but on a fully automated assembly line. The small number of parts and automated assembly made quality Swiss watches accessible, for the first time, to millions of people.
With the SISTEM51, Swatch is going down the same road, plastic watches with a movement having only 51 components, assembled automatically, but this time, the movement is an automatic caliber. Conventional mechanical watch movements have at least twice as many parts, but Swatch investment in research and development takes the watch world again by surprise with its innovative engineering.
Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 14 mm
Lug to lug: 50 mm
Modules: Plate with wheel train, gear train, hand fitting and date / Mechanical stem module / Escapement module / Automatic device module / Oscillating weight
Power reserve: 90 hours
Rate precision: +/- 10 seconds/day; set by laser at the factory
Design: Printable surfaces, including oscillating weight and modules
Black ruber strap with blue stitches.
The Sistem51, depending on the colour you chose, it will come in a matching box, pretty much the usual Swatch packaging. While opening it, I was not really realizing, but as soon I had the watch in my hands, I was shocked by how light it is. I know… I know… I should have been better prepared, the specs were quite clear that this is a watch mostly made from plastic, but it’s been quite some time since I had a plastic watch on my wrist – to give you a hint, at that time, shaving was not part of my routine.
I immediately turned it around to see the back of the watch, the transparent case back reveals the blue and black sun-ray pattern of the bridges that continues on the oscillating weight. The rotor is actually shaped as ring and as it bounces back and forth in front of the bridges, it is quite a hypnotizing spectacle.
The black dial is decorated with a celestial map, with white and red dots spread all over it, united with white lines, in a rather arbitrary manner. At first, it seems busy and to a certain level confusing as the tip of the black hands is also white. Not to be worried, just like me, for reading the time, you can always fall back on the white dots printed on the bezel.
There is also a black chapter ring, with a subtle gray marking for the minutes. It is rather indistinct, you might not even realize it’s there, but once you see it, it’s a nice touch. At three o’clock the round date window works nicely together with the celestial map decoration of the dial.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Swatch added lume to the Sistem51, the hour and minute hands, as well as the dots shaped indexes, representing the hour, are coated with luminescent paint.
Case and crown
The transparent plastic case is hermetically sealed, which means that on the one hand, no moisture, dust or foreign elements can interfere with performance of the movement; on the other hand, it also means that you can’t open it, in case you need to fix something. It makes sense! If you think of the price, it’s not really a piece worth repairing and the good news is that Swatch is promising a very long life and sustained accuracy over time (+/- 10 seconds per day).
If there is one thing, I don’t like about the Sistem51, it is the crown, especially when it comes to adjusting the time and date. Pulling it out, then pushing it back is not a smooth as I would like it to be, but in the end it does the job and the 90 hours of power reserve, saved me from playing too much with the crown.
The blue Sistem51 comes with a soft black rubber strap, with really cool blue stitches and transparent blue plastic buckle. It is super comfortable and it is made fit anyone, from a teenager with a small wrist to a gym junkie’s massive wrist, this strap will do the job.
The Swatch Sistem51 is fun piece and if you don’t like blue, in good old Swatch tradition, there are several other colours to choose from. Available throughout Canada since earlier this month, I’m expecting the Sistem51 to be a best seller. At $165 CAD, the price is very aggressive, there is no excuse not to get one and list of potential customers can be really long. Here are few, I could think of:
- Swatch collectors are probably the most obvious target.
- Someone who wants to get into mechanical watches, it is an affordable way to see if they like it or not.
- Seasoned watch nerds that understand that this is a historic piece because of the materials used, the engineering effort that went into reducing the number of components and finally, the way it was put together.
This list, for sure it can go a lot longer. In my case, I have to admit that I will get one (probably the black version, because of its dial), as I fit the third category and during the past two weeks, I really enjoyed the experience of wearing it.
Got you interested? For more info head over to the source: www.swatch.com/en_ca/sistem51