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