The Sistem51, a new mechanical watch by Swatch, is available in selected Swatch boutiques, and in a few pop-up stores. I visited one of the latter in Milan, open until 11 June 2014. I got there a little before 10.00 a.m. and found the store closed. "Opening hours 9.51-19.51." Ah, a nice ironic touch, I thought, and turned the corner to look at the window displays. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, when I returned to the entrance at 9.52, the doors were open and the sales assistants were ready and waiting.
Inside, it's like stepping into the revolutionary movement, with the ceiling decorated like the dial, the floor like the caseback, and a giant blue screw at the centre, representing the single screw around which the entire mechanism is assembled. The sales assistant explained why 51 is such a special number. It was the number of pieces in the original 1983 quartz Swatch, and so the challenge set for the 30th anniversary of the Swatch was to make a mechanical watch with the same number of components. To do it, 17 patents were filed, and the watch, and above all the manufacturing unit, were designed in the space of just two years.
The collection (I would say the first collection, but there are no clues as to what will happen in the future) consists of four models, all based on the same decorative pattern, a series of dots on the dial. These represent the Pleiades constellation, in which there are 51 visible stars. Towards the centre of the dial, six red dots correspond to the six rubies inside. The stars of the constellation corresponding to the hour indications are fluorescent. I'm beginning to like the content...
They are definitely attractive; the four models are all very different. The white version with a soft silicone strap is more Pop Art, with bright colours that are effective both on the dial, and on the back, where the peripheral oscillating weight puts the colours into movement. Sistem Black has an op-art spiral effect on the back, while Sistem Red and Sistem Blu feature a sunburst design. One model has a strap in leather, specially treated to make it waterproof. The watch itself has the customary 3 bar water-resistance (30 metres).
Using the crown, you can wind the watch (just to get it going; from then on, the automatic movement keeps it wound), set the time, and the date. Its 3 Hertz balance keeps the watch accurate to +/- 10 seconds a day, with a power reserve of 90 hours. The watch costs €130, which compares favourably with the cost of a Swatch (€40-170). It has a 2-year guarantee, and Swatch say that it has a life of from ten to twenty years. The movement is sealed, and so I would imagine that no maintenance is possible.
In a way, it's another step towards the dream of all watchmakers, a watch that will keep running forever, with no batteries and no maintenance. It will be interesting to buy one just to see how long the movement keeps running.
The Sistem51 watch is available in selected locations, in Switzerland, Paris, China, Barcelona and Moscow. In Italy, you can find it in Verona, Venice, Florence, Turin, and, in pop-up stores, in Milan and Rome. More details on Sistem51 and boutiques here.