What Exactly is the Swatch SISTEM51?

Swatch x Blancpain 50 Fathoms

Swatch has been making headlines for weeks now since teasing a new collaboration a few weeks ago - we knew water and Blancpain were involved, and the speculation began. Forums were flooded with mock ups and comments comparing this new collaboration with that of the Moonswatch (one of the biggest hype watches from last year). No one knew what to expect, but the biggest question was “Will Blancpain be making its first ever quartz watch?”. We received our answer earlier this week as Swatch announced 5 variations of their collaboration with Blancpain , the Scuba Fifty Fathoms featuring a bioceramic case and the Swatch SISTEM51 movement. While the world may never understand exactly what bioceramic really is, let's take a closer look at the SISTEM51 powering this new timepiece.

Swatch x Blancpain 50 Fathoms

Image Source HODINKEE

It was 2013 when Swiss watchmaking giant Swatch introduced a game changer to the world of horology and challenged the status quo: the SISTEM51. This groundbreaking watch not only redefined affordability but also brought a fresh perspective to mechanical watchmaking. The Birth of Swatch System 51. The SISTEM51 was born from the desire to create an automatic mechanical watch that was affordable and accessible to a wider audience. Swatch's founder, Nicolas Hayek, had a vision of democratizing Swiss watchmaking, making it available to everyone, not just collectors and connoisseurs. This vision was realized through the SISTEM51.

At the heart of the SISTEM51 is the revolutionary Swiss made movement. What sets this watch apart from traditional mechanical watches is the way it's assembled. Unlike traditional movements, which can consist of hundreds of components, the SISTEM51 comprises only 51 parts. This reduction in complexity was achieved by using an innovative fully automated production process. One of the most remarkable aspects of the SISTEM51 is its Swiss origin. In a market where Swiss watches are often associated with high prices, the SISTEM51 manages to offer an authentic Swiss-made mechanical movement at a price point that's far more accessible. 

Swatch SISTEM51 Movement

Image Source Swatch

The SISTEM51 boasts an impressive 90-hour power reserve, a feat not commonly found in affordable mechanical watches (and honestly something most of us wish our expensive mechanical watches could brag about as well). But it isn't just a technical marvel; it's also a fashion statement. Swatch is known for its bold and playful designs, and the SISTEM51 is no exception. With a wide range of color options and styles, there's always been a SISTEM51 for every taste, bringing more beginner potential collectors into this hobby we all love. The transparent caseback allows you to peek into the inner workings of the watch, showcasing the movement's intricacies. The use of unconventional materials, such as a plastic case and synthetic movement parts, adds a unique twist to the traditional watch design. The watch is also lightweight and comfortable on the wrist, making it ideal for everyday wear.

One of the primary objectives of the SISTEM51 was to make Swiss mechanical watches affordable and accessible to a broader audience. With its modest price point compared to many Swiss counterparts, Swatch has achieved just that. This watch appeals to both watch enthusiasts looking to expand their collection and newcomers to the world of mechanical watches who want to experience the artistry of Swiss watchmaking without breaking the bank. The Swatch SISTEM51 has had a significant impact on the watch industry. It challenged the conventional wisdom that high-quality Swiss mechanical watches had to come with a hefty price tag by proving that automation and innovation could reduce manufacturing costs while maintaining Swiss precision and craftsmanship.

SISTEM51 Production

Image Source Swatch

However innovation has its price as is the case with the SISTEM51 movement. The official stance of Swatch is that the SISTEM51 cannot be serviced, making it disposable. This is the downside to having a watch movement completely designed and assembled by machines, making disassembly near impossible. There have been watchmakers who have tried, but even with their attempts the tight control that Swatch has over their spare parts make this movement impractical for long-term use. Given, most watches that have the SISTEM51 movement range between $200 and $400, there is still frustration that these watches end up in a landfill, and likely as ocean trash in the future making this movement for a watch inspired by the oceans an unusual selection to say the least.

Regardless of how you feel about the movement or the collaboration, it is sure to be a success. Swatch clearly knows what they are doing - after all, it’s taken over a year for people to finally access the Moonswatch regularly. I guess the real question is, who in the Swatch Group family of brands is next for a Swatch collab?

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