Will Swatch Sistem51 Revolutionize the Watch Industry or Be Rejected by It?

Swatch Sistem51

by John Sealander  

Is the watch world ready for a super accurate, maintenance free, “Swiss made” mechanical timepiece that is mass-produced with only 51 parts?

SwatchThirty years ago Swatch revolutionized the watch industry with the introduction of the world’s first line of stylish, inexpensive quartz watches. Now, many say they’ve turned the world upside down again with the introduction of the world’s first high quality, all-mechanical movement assembled entirely by machine.

The innovative Swatch Sistem51 is unlike any mechanical watch ever made. There are only 51 components, compared to over 600 in most modern mechanical watches. The assembly of this watch has been 100% automated, using high-tech robots to weld together the individual components to create a single assembly centered on one screw. This unique timepiece has no regulator and is adjusted for life at the factory using a laser. The all-mechanical movement features a 90-hour power reserve and is hermetically sealed so that no moisture, dust or foreign objects can enter the watch or interfere with its operation.

Swatch Sistem51 Red Swatch Sistem51 White
Swatch Sistem51 Red Swatch Sistem51 White
Click to Enlarge Image Click to Enlarge Image

The watch is 100% Swiss made, is self-lubricating, and is accurate to 5 seconds a day. Typically a Swiss made mechanical watch with these specifications will cost thousands of dollars, but the Sistem51 is expected to retail for less than $100. This mass-produced mechanical marvel is made using a special alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. It is non-magnetic, so the movement will never need adjusting. Since all the components are attached using a single screw, there is very little wear and tear.

Is There a Demand?

The big question now is whether there is a market for such a watch. Although extremely reliable and accurate, it has none of the snob appeal of its pricy handmade Swiss cousins. The Sistem51 is more expensive than equivalent Swatch quartz watches, yet offers far fewer features than the latest generation of “smart watches” that are starting to hit the market.

What the Swatch Sistem51 does offer is a super accurate, extremely reliable, all mechanical Swiss made movement in an inexpensive plastic case. Like any Swatch design, the Sistem51 can be easily customized with an unlimited number of color variations and face designs. Although the innovative watch has received wide praise for it’s technological innovations, it remains to be seen whether it will be commercially viable.

Does the market really want an inexpensive all-mechanical watch, or will people continue to prefer the exclusivity of handmade mechanical timepieces costing thousands more? Since the technology itself is revolutionary, it would not be surprising to see Swatch incorporate the new movement in some of its own high-end brands. Will there eventually be an Omega, Breguet, or Blancpain watch with a Sistem51 movement? Only time will tell.

Potential Game-Changer

The Japanese and Chinese already offer a wide variety of affordable mechanical timepieces. Currently however, when a watch says Swiss made on the dial, it is usually quite expensive. The breakthrough Sistem51 design might change all that.

If the Sistem51 design turns out to be as reliable as has been initially claimed, it could even cut into the sale of quartz watches. Why would people want to keep changing batteries when they could get a high quality self-winding mechanical watch for the same price?

Although the Swatch Sistem51 was introduced over a year ago at Baselworld 2013, it has only recently become available in retail markets. As people begin to discover this revolutionary new design, it could have a major impact on the entire watch industry. Nobody denies that this watch is a breakthrough. The only uncertainty at this point is whether it will be a commercial success.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.

Hublot Chairman Accuses Apple of Stealing Watchmakers

Hublot Watchmakers


by John Sealander  

Will your next smartwatch say “Swiss made” on the dial?

When Jean-Claude Biver, the head of the Watches and Jewelry division of LVMH and the Chairman of luxury watch brand Hublot, accused Apple of trying to poach some of his best Hublot employees, it started a firestorm of speculation within the watch industry. What was Apple up to? It has long been anticipated that Apple will instantly become a major player in the burgeoning smartwatch category when it introduces its almost inevitable iWatch. Why was the company looking to Switzerland?

Although nobody knows when an iWatch will reach the market, almost everybody agrees that it is coming. With Apple’s design expertise and proven record at popularizing new technology, expectations for Apple’s upcoming smartwatch are high. The market clearly expects something spectacular from the Cupertino giant.

What the Swiss Have to Offer

While nobody expects Apple to include a tourbillon or a moon phase complication in its upcoming iWatch, there is still a lot that Swiss watch experts have to offer a potential smartwatch powerhouse. Watchmakers take metallurgy seriously. For hundreds of years, Swiss watchmakers have been experts at creating entirely new metals and alloys, just to solve a watchmaking problem.

Hublot Watch with Magic GoldOne of these high tech alloys is called Magic Gold, and it was developed by the very Hublot that Jean-Claude Biver says Apple was trying to raid. Magic Gold is a proprietary combination of ceramic and gold that Hublot has used to make watchcases virtually scratch proof. Is it just coincidence that Apple tried to license this special alloy for use in the iPhone 5 in 2013? Later that year, Apple released an all-new gold version of its popular phone and it is still looking for a way to make its cases scratchproof.

Some industry experts say that Apple may want their upcoming iWatch to say Swiss made on the dial. While this is a possibility, it is highly unlikely, since the company has always been extremely proud of its California roots. The term “Swiss made,” which has long been associated with high quality mechanical watches, would hold little value to a customer buying wearable technology. There are no springs and gears in a smartwatch and there never will be.

Swiss Expertise

What is more likely is that Apple is considering opening a new R&D facility in Switzerland. Steve Jobs was always fond of borrowing ideas from other disciplines and incorporating them in Apple designs. “Good artists copy. Great artists steal,” he said once, lending credence rumors that Apple actually is poaching talent from leading Swiss watchmakers.

It makes sense. The Swiss have been experts in manufacturing all sorts of things for hundreds of years. In Switzerland, Apple could recruit from an amazing pool of watchmaking talent. While Apple doesn’t need the Swiss to put a tourbillon in a smartwatch, they do need Swiss process engineering, ergonomics, metallurgy, and miniaturization expertise. Hiring the best talent they can find from well-respected companies like Hublot, might just give them the competitive edge they are looking for.

While it is fun to speculate whether your new iWatch will say “Swiss made” on the dial, the accusations of talent poaching do have serious implications. Watchmaking is a billion dollar industry and the market for wearable technology is potentially even larger. The Swiss should actually be happy that Apple is looking at them. If Apple hires a few watch experts from Hublot, it won’t hurt the industry. Instead, it will probably help. By acknowledging Swiss expertise, Apple is telling the world what watch aficionados have known all along: Swiss watchmakers are the best in the world at what they do.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.

Signet Jewelers to Buy Zales

Zales Store


by John Sealander  

Who benefits most when two jewelry juggernauts join forces?

When Signet Jewelers, the parent company of familiar names like Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, acquired the giant Zales Corporation with its well-known Zales and Gordons brands, a jewelry juggernaut was created. Signet and Zales were already the two largest jewelers in the United States before this historic merger. Together, they have the opportunity to become an unstoppable powerhouse that virtually controls the US retail jewelry market.

Jared Galleria of Jewelry Store Kay Jewelers Store
Jared Galleria of Jewelry Store Kay Jewelers Store
Click to Enlarge Image Click to Enlarge Image

Investors have already benefited from this sale, with shares of Zales surging 40% on the merger news. Signet shares also rose 12% to a record 52-week high. The jury is still out on whether this monumental merger will offer the same sort of benefits for customers. Consolidation in other industries has shown mixed benefits. The economies of scale that a larger organization brings often result in lower prices for consumers. These savings come at a price however. A large organization must streamline their supply chain to maintain profitability targets, and smaller vendors are often eliminated. This means that although prices are typically good, consumers often have fewer choices.

Michael BarnesAccording to Signet CEO Michael Barnes, “the addition of Zale to the Signet family is consistent with our long-term growth strategy and leverages our combined operating expertise to create better choices for our customers, new opportunities for our employees and makes us a more attractive partner to our vendors.”

Based on what Michael Barnes has already accomplished with his Signet brands, this means big changes for the Zales Corporation in the years ahead. Signet has already completed a multi-year turnaround program that has returned the corporation to profitability. They will almost certainly use the same strategies to return their newly acquired Zales and Gordons brands to profitability as well.

A Retail Jewelry Powerhouse

The combined companies from this monumental $1.4 billion dollar transaction will operate more than 3,600 stores in the United States, in addition to each brands’ online retail operations. It is estimated that this new jewelry powerhouse will generate annual sales in excess of $6 billion. The company will employ nearly 30,000 people.

The merger, which will be financed by bank debt, other debt financing and the securitization of a significant portion of Signet’s accounts receivable portfolio, is still subject to the approval of Zale’s stockholders and must meet regulatory requirements. Industry insiders expect that the sale will go through however, and the transaction is expected to close later this year.

Since all of the brands involved sell watches, the merger will have definite implications for the watch industry. Consolidation is already a fact of life within the luxury industry, so there will probably be no surprises. Some brands will grow stronger through improved access to a larger customer base. Other fringe brands may be hurt, especially if they are eliminated as a Signet vendor.

One thing is certain. With $6 billion in projected sales, there will still be a lot of people buying fine jewelry and luxury watches.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.

History of Water Resistance in Watches


by Adrian Herscovici  

From Oyster to Ocean Floor: A Brief History of Water-Resistant Watches

Watch lovers are a neurotic bunch. It makes sense: when you’re passionate about miniature mechanical or electronic engines encased in polished metals that often cost in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, there’s a lot to be persnickety about. Water resistance is one of those particulars.

Water – along with dust, shocks and magnetism – is one of the oldest adversaries of the wristwatch. Shock absorption has been mastered to a great degree and magnetizing a watch is still a relatively rare occurrence, but sealing a watch from dust and moisture is as relevant as ever; water, especially, can do serious damage to a watch movement. Here’s an overview of how water resistance developed over the course of the 20th century.

Hans Wilsdorf and the Rolex Oyster

Hans WilsdorfThe forefather of water-resistant watches is none other than Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, which introduced the first truly water-resistant watch in 1927 – the Rolex Oyster. The crucial inventions that led to the Oyster, however, were conceived of by others.

Swiss watchmaker François Borgel patented a threaded screw-back case system in 1891 that would become the basis of the Rolex Oyster. Borgel’s design involved fitting the dial and movement into a threaded carrier ring; the bezel and crystal also mounted onto the carrier ring, and the entire assembly then screwed into the case frame from the front. The design significantly reduced the ability of dust and water to enter the case and was a huge improvement over common hinged or snap-on backs and bezels.

By the early 1920s, many companies were using the Borgel design. But in terms of meaningful water resistance, the his design still had one serious flaw: the stem opening (where the winding stem and crown attach), unlike the screw-back case, was not adequately sealed. That is until 1925, when two Swiss watchmakers by the names of Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret patented a screw-down stem system.

Wilsdorf recognized that the two innovations together were the solution to creating a genuinely water-resistant watch case. He negotiated the purchase of Perregaux’s and Peret’s patent in 1926 and combined it with Borgel’s hermetically sealed case design and a fitted crystal. The result was the Rolex Oyster – so named for the fact that it could remain in water without being damaged – like an oyster. The concept remains the paradigm for water-resistant watch cases to this day.

Daily Mail Front Page - Rolex OysterThe Oyster design became a huge commercial success thanks in part to Wilsdorf’s marketing prowess. During the summer of 1927 a London secretary named Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel with an unlikely companion: she wore a Rolex Oyster on her wrist. The watch survived the journey, remained watertight and kept time for the duration of the roughly fifteen-hour swim to Calais in France. Wilsdorf followed up by buying the entire front page of the Daily Mail to announce the accomplishment. The headline read: “Rolex introduces for the first time the greatest Triumph in Watch-making ‘ROLEX OYSTER’ The Wonder Watch that Defies the Elements.” The publicity helped launched Rolex as a global brand.

Mercedes Gleitze Swimming the Channel Mercedes Gleitze’s Rolex Oyster
Mercedes Gleitze Swimming the English Channel Mercedes Gleitze's Rolex Oyster
Click to Enlarge Image Click to Enlarge Image

The Next Wave

By the 1930s other companies were trying their hand at water-resistant watches. They included a watch designed by Cartier for the Pasha of Marrakesh with a specially designed screw-down crown (and later inspired the watches of the current Pasha collection), as well as the Omega Marine, which featured a case within a case. Companies also began introducing gaskets as part of systems to improve water resistance for a reasonable cost. In the early 1940s, for example, Fortis marketed its first waterproof automatic wristwatch called the Fortissimo.

Fortis Fortissimo Omega Marine
Fortis Fortissimo Omega Marine

But for the most part, water-resistant watches were still viewed as tools for specialists. During the Second World War, several highly water resistant diver’s watches were introduced for use by military frogmen. These watches were usually quite large for the purpose of being legible underwater and often featured bulky systems to seal the crown and stem. The Italian company Panerai, for example, supplied Italy’s navy frogmen with large dive watches and underwater compasses (early Panerai watches used Rolex movements). Panerai later patented an iconic pressure-lever crown that is still in use today. Nonetheless, at the time, these early dive watches were too large and impractical for general use.

The Wristwatch Goes Deep

Original Rolex SubmarinerThe proliferation of the modern dive watch can also be traced back to Rolex and its introduction of the iconic Submariner in 1953. The original Submariner was water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters/330 feet and its design was an instant success. It wasn’t the first dive watch designed for daily wear, but it was the first commercially successful one. It also introduced the unidirectional dive bezel for measuring elapsed time that is so commonly associated with dive watches today.

Some argue that the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms dive watch predated the Submariner (by a matter of months), which may be true, but the popularity and influence of the Submariner is unparalleled. Thanks to these and others, the modern dive watch category is hugely popular today.

Water Resistance Today – There is No Such Thing as Too Deep

Today, adequate water resistance is expected; after all, the average quartz watch is built to handle the occasional dip in the pool or accidental submersion and, in the case of mechanical watches, there are tons of sport-watch options that have suitable water-resistance ratings for general immersion. (To learn more about general water resistance, read Mechanical Watch Water Resistance).

In addition, our human obsession with over-engineering drives us to try and surpass our previous bests, and so the importance of water resistance is often exaggerated. For example, thanks to the Submariner there are countless watches that can withstand submersion to depths in the hundreds and thousands of feet – depths at which few people, if any, will ever go – when really all that most people will ever need is a watch that can withstand a tropical storm or a leisurely swim at a whopping depth of, perhaps, 15 feet.

Needless to say, whatever demands your profession or lifestyle put on you to go deeper, there is a watch that will serve you ably from the shallowest pool to the ocean’s depths.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.