A First Look at the Swatch Sistem51

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Swatch is not necessarily a brand that pops to mind these days, especially when it comes to mechanical watches. Yes, Swatch was extremely popular during its heyday back in the 1980’s but since then has been perhaps more of a novelty. This month, Swatch introduced a new watch, and a new movement, that it hopes will help it regain some of its former glory.

The watch is the Swatch Sistem51 and while it seems an odd name when you look at the stats behind the watch it falls into place. First off, the movement in the watch is a self-winding automatic movement made entirely of an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc called ARCAP. The material has strong anti-magnetic properties and is hermetically sealed within the watch’s case to prevent any foreign substances from entering and interfering with the movement’s performance. Incredibly the Sistem51 movement is made up of exactly 51 components. Most mechanical watches will have two or three times the number of parts (if not many more) than the Sistem51, which was engineered as a more simple and efficient design. All 51 components are linked together as a single piece and centered on a single screw. Swatch calls it “a Copernican idea in contemporary terms” as Copernicus was the one who put the sun at the center of the solar system.

Swatch has the movement also boasting another first: the assembly of the movement is 100% automated. And in another hi-tech move the rate of the movement is set by a laser as the escapement has no regulator. Swatch claims this will prevent the need for manual adjustments during the lifetime of the watch. Along with all of that they managed to obtain 90 hours of power reserve for the movement.

It is a very interesting looking watch, yet still 100% Swatch. It has the familiar Swatch-styled case that is quite unmistakable. The dial hails back to the Copernicus ideal with a star pattern around the center of the dial. As an interesting touch much of the watch is transparent including the bi-directional rotor which offers an unobstructed view of the movement underneath.

The Swatch Sistem51 is a fascinating watch with some very forward-thinking design. The assembly of the movement being automated, the regulation via a laser all seem very next level in terms of watch making. It will be interesting to see if the Sistem51 can capture the interest of watch-enthusiasts and the general public when it is available.

by James Enloe

Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.
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  • Nice entry point for my kids’ first automatics. When you say the watch has no regulator, do you mean no humans touch the watch in manufacturing or the watch movement itself has no regulator ie balance spring? Deconstructing one of these could be a good post . . .

    • Deconstructing it might severely damage the movement, a big issue with their construction. Being diamagnetic, the metals were most likely assembled and sealed in a vacuum, to prevent undue oxidation. Expositing it to air would be to corrode the movement almost immediately.

  • “Expositing it to air would be to corrode the movement almost immediately.” A worthy sacrifice in the name of science! Just kidding . . . don’t destroy the watch. Thanks for the knowledge.

  • Interesting concept. I’d buy one just for fun, except that the two designs I’ve seen are deal-breakers.

  • I will deconstruct one as soon as I can lay my hands on it.

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