Basel, Switzerland—Although most of the technical innovations seen at BaselWorld, the world’s largest watch and jewelry fair which ended today, usually center around mechanical watch movements from high-end brands that cater to the world’s wealthiest, this year one brand introduced a more egalitarian approach.
Exhibiting for the first time at BaselWorld, Swatch—the brand that virtually created the fashion watch business some 30 years ago—is ready to revolutionize things again. It’s called Sistem51, a 100% Swiss-made mechanical movement that Swatch engineers created and garnered 17 patents in the process.
So named because the movement has 51 components compared to most that have twice as many parts (some up to 600 in some instances), Sistem51 boasts characteristics that even the most expensive movements might covet, according to Nick Hayek, chief executive. The Sistem51’s components are welded together to form a single assembly held together by a single screw. It is assembled 100% by robots, has a 90-hour power reserve, and its escapement has no regulator, the rate is set by a laser in the factory, avoiding the usual manual adjustments most mechanical watches require.
High Tech, Low Retail
The movement is made of ARCAP, an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc with anti-magnetic qualities. And the hermetically sealed movement prevents moisture, dust or other foreign objects from interfering with time keeping. While automatic mechanical movements usually are driven by an oscillating rotor, Sistem51 has a transparent disc that rotates in both directions around the central screw. This permits a clear view with the inner workings of the mechanical movement, which has printable surfaces that can be decorated with graphics and colors.
“The watchmaking industry has always maintained that it is too expensive to produce entry-level priced automatic movements in Switzerland,” Hayek said, noting that the Sistem51 models, scheduled for introduction this fall, will be priced within the usual Swatch brand price range.
“For a little more than 100 Swiss francs (about $120) millions of watch wearers will be able to have an automatic mechanical movement that previously has only been available to a few thousand people,” Hayek added.