First colour, now movement from Swatch

Swatch sistem51_back and front

Swatch look to the simplest mechanical movement yet, just 51 parts, to make the plastic-fantastic a world beater all over again.

It was 31 years ago that Swatch made its name popularising the inexpensive quartz watch by making it fun and acceptable to all; now their aim is to take mechanical magic to the masses with the revolutionary Sistem 51. It’s revolutionary because it has just 51 parts instead of the usual 100-plus, and carries a price tag of just $185. The robot-assembled movement even boasts 90 hours power reserve  – double the usual – and is claimed to be maintenance-free for 10 years. No wonder it’s covered by more than 17 patents. You might ask why the metal motor when the quartz Swatch – which of course continues in its numerous guises – is still a sales success? Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek told us: “We wanted to create a watch that enchants the viewer with the movement…we also wanted to make a statement about ‘Swiss made’ – we need innovation, and sometimes we need also to think more simple – and to be available to 100,000 people, not just a few thousand.”

The project’s creative director, Carlos Giordanetto, explained to Watch-Next: “There are two goals: in new markets, to awaken them to a Swatch with a difference, to say ‘don’t take us for granted’. And for developing markets it’s a fantastic opportunity to give us an innovative positioning; it says to people who know less about watches, that we’re not a child, we know watches – a mechanical movement makes that believable.”

Not that Swatch have forgotten their real strength. “Of course we keep the distinctive visual aspects of our personality – it’s who we are,” says Giordanetto. Indeed Swatch has applied its famous way with graphics – in blue, black, white and red treatments for the launch – right through to the movement itself, going so far as to package the watch bottom side up, so you can see the workings in all their glory through a clear caseback. This unusual presentation is backed by a marketing line that for once doesn’t exaggerate: “The front tells the time … the back tells the story.” Given this, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have made the watch reversible – after all you can always get the time from your phone.

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