Close-Up: the $150, Swiss-Mechanical Swatch Sistem51

Swatch Sistem51 - blue One of the most buzzed-about new watch launches in recent years is the Sistem51, a new mechanical watch from the Swatch brand. First released in Switzerland, the Swatch Sistem51 became available at U.S. retailers in 2014. In this article, we explore what makes these watches fascinating.

There are three main features that make the Sistem51 noteworthy. First, like the original Swatch quartz watches, it has only 51 components, whereas most mechanical watches have upwards of 100. Also like the original Swatch, its assembly is entirely automated. Finally, it will cost just $150. The four models are Sistem Red, Sistem Blue, Sistem Black and Sistem White. The red and blue models have translucent plastic cases and black silicone straps with accent-color stitching. Their dials are black with a red or blue central seconds hand, respectively. The bezel is in black plastic with white Super-LumiNova hour markers. Through the caseback, a transparent crystal rotor is visible, as well a printed “star-burst” pattern. The Sistem Black has a black leather strap and a different printed pattern on the dial. Its back features a “vortex” pattern. The Sistem White has a more minimalist dial design with brightly colored dots and no hour markers on the bezel or the dial. It comes on a white silicone strap.

Swatch Sistem51 - black
Sistem Black
Swatch Sistem51 - white
Sistem White

Swatch designed the Sistem51 from the ground up: it uses no components from other watches, and the company has applied for 17 patents for its design. Each watch is constructed on a 20-meter-long assembly line in a clean-room environment, then hermetically sealed. No human intervention is necessary. Even the regulating of the movement, traditionally a time-consuming manual process, is hands-free: a laser adjusts the movement to an accuracy of +/-7 seconds a day. One key to the automated assembly of the Sistem51 is the fact that the movement is composed of five distinct modules. There is a mainplate to hold the wheel train, gear train, hand fitting and the date mechanism; a module for the stem; an escapement module; an automatic-winding-device module; and a transparent oscillating weight. All five components are held together with a single central screw, which can be seen through the caseback. The movement has 19 jewels, and red dots on the dial mark the placement for six of them. The constellation-like pattern of other dots, which are multicolored on the dial of Sistem White and white on the other three models, mark the places on the movement where the five modules are welded together. Sistem51 has a 90-hour power reserve and runs at a frequency of 3 Hz. The movement is 30 mm in diameter, with a height of 4.8 mm. The case is 42 mm wide.

Swatch Sistem51 - blue
Sistem Blue
Swatch Sistem51 - red
Sistem Red

This article was originally published on March 15, 2014, and has been updated.

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  1. Four new color and design variations of the Sistem 51 watches are available as of February 23, 2015.

  2. Bert Allen

    Perfect size. Light as a feather. Comfortable band. Quiet. Modest legible date window makes
    my Rolex cyclops window absurd. Think I’ll donate it to the almost blind.

  3. I bought the 51 at airport in Lucerne. Fun piece to add to my collection. S51 no human hands. On same trip bought FPJourne Chrono Bleu at opposite extreme – hand built by single watch maker!

    Agree on the popups. Making it nearly impossible to read the Daily Feeds! End them please!

  4. Can WatchTime get rid of those annoying pop-up ads – why should these be inflicted upon the paying readership? And this time they’re for HANDBAGS! – something I don’t use

  5. What happened to WatchTime. It used to be such a great site. Now there are so many ads that pop up that you can hardly see the watches. I appreciate the need for ads and I even like many of them, but not OVER THE PICTURES so that you have to x out of them every few seconds. Come on gentlemen. You are going to kill the golden goose if you are not careful.

  6. CCN 1410

    I enjoyed the blue and red, but I believe the time has not a good viewing because of the stripes on the display.

  7. Hector Peña

    Es interesante, pero la pena es que no es posible abrirlo para repararlo, es decir, es descartable.

  8. José Luis Espinosa

    Es una verdadera novedad que Swatch haya fabricado un reloj automático, no porque no hayan podido hacerlo antes sino por el nicho de mercado que ocupa esa marca. Tomando en cuenta que Grupo Swatch tiene varias de las mejores firmas de relojes con magníficos mecanismos, es explicable que haya mucha tecnología y experiencia en este modelo, que a mi me parece muy atractivo y dinámico.

  9. Adalberto Armengol

    El reloj está muy bueno! Soy un fanático de la marca! Cuando llegara a la Argentina.
    Me gusta el azul.

  10. Picked up a Sistem51 blue on July 4 in New York. Resting crown up runs -1 sec/day. I’m impressed!

  11. Was told that it will be available in the US sometime in July.

    The New York City Times Square Swatch store has a waiting list that you can ask to be added to.

  12. John Key

    That’s a great watch. In Barcelona the Watch Group has opened a Pop up Store in Passeig de Gracia in order to promote it, but it is a shame that (as the watch group has said) it will be the only promotional opened in Spain….

  13. MrTissot

    This is a great ploy by the Swatch Group to engage the younger consumer into buying into the Mechanical Watch market, which will hopefully lead to a new generation of fine mechanical wristwatch enthusiasts, who will go on to buy more expensive timepieces. Very clever. I love the Swatch Group :)

    • Sensitive and classy contribution on your part.. appreciated reading it.

    • What do you mean by a “ploy”? Of course I expect Swatch like any business to aggressively market their products and build a following that will hopefully upsell people at some point to other items within this line or their other brands. This watch is very unique. Go view the videos of their CEO talking about it.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve just finished a week-long vacation wearing this watch as my daily wearer. I left my other Swiss watches at home to see how it would perform. I couldn’t be more happier with the Sistem51–and it’s accurate to within 5 secs a day! Also, I had more people ask me about what I was wearing—it’s a real conversation piece. For watch geeks, they love hearing about the technology behind it. For everyone else, it’s a good looking, fun Swatch.

      I look forward to other Swatch models that use this same movement. Cheers!

  14. mikelyden

    Not quite available stateside YET! But keeping my eyes peeled. Very interesting.

  15. Fabio Anderaos

    What is incredible in this new watch is the 90 hours of power reserve. Swatch group really surprises the consumer with good novelties.

  16. Darn, saw this while visiting Vegas and was hoping the Swatch store had them in. They told me probably won’t be until the third quarter. :’-(

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