A young friend asked me the other day what I thought of his new Swatch SISTEM51 Automatic watch, which he was wearing on his wrist when we met. Swatch of course is about as well known as Coca-Cola and I’m sure I own a couple myself, though not SISTEM51 automatic models.
The very first thing I noticed was the fact his particular model (the Unavoidable) was really quite thick at nearly 14mm coupled with a large diameter case at 42mm, makes this a big watch on the wrist – perhaps too big for me. In fact, when I checked my own Swatch models, not one of the three were as large. (in fact one of my Swatches – the Pounds & Squares quartz is only 10mm thick and 41mm diameter).
But, back to this model which is called the Unavoidable (perhaps owing to it’s size?) it has a small seconds @6 and a Date window @3 and a buckle strap, but my overall impression on first seeing it, was all a bit clunky on the wrist.
Now, I have a whole collection of conventional automatic watches, some of which are vintage even, so an automatic watch with winding rotor is nothing new. Some are what you’d call high end, some not so and they are all accurate enough for me (some very accurate indeed). And I doubt any of them are larger than around 12mm case depth.
But importantly – and I allude to the fact this watch has a totally sealed movement – all are repairable should anything go wrong. Now OK, it’s fair to say and certainly in my experience, very few do go wrong and those that might, would probably or possibly rather, be ‘complication’ models, chronographs and the like.
I do note that Sistem 51 Automatic models are mostly simple time keepers with few complications, save the Date, so I assume Swatch are hedging their bets, by minimising the possibility of anything going wrong. In fact, you could be forgiven in assuming these might even be viewed as disposable throwaway watches, which at £200 I believe this one cost, is some throwaway!
Would I personally buy one? Well no, being honest probably not this model. The case thickness and the overall diameter doesn’t do it for me.
The SISTEM51 features, such as the reduction of movement parts, theoretically less to go wrong, the re-designed transparent rotor wind, whilst OK, frankly are substantially little different from conventional automatic models.
In other words, personally, I don’t see much of an incentive to have one. And if I wanted a throwaway watch, I’d surely be better with a cheap Quartz model, which could well give better accuracy plus many hundreds of styles, sizes, some amazing complications, looks and features to choose from and so on.
It’s as if they’ve over innovated – updated to transparent rotor – OK but why?, made entirely by robot machine – OK, then sealed it up in a non-opening case? Welded components – so basically it’s un-repairable. Maybe it’s a case of trying to re-invent the wheel? I don’t know, but it doesn’t give me a buzz at all.
However, my young friend likes it, this is his first automatic, so maybe he was unaware autos existed? You never know with the youngsters of today. It could be the mechanical movement fascinated him, as everything else he owns is electronic, modular and solid state (goodness even the latter words are out of date).
Anyway the plus side, for me is, he’s seen some of my watch collection now and is hooked! So much so that he has since bought another automatic watch (not Swatch this time) with an exhibition back, just to wonder at the movement.
So, maybe these folk at Swatch know more about young potential customers than I realised – a little bit of marketing & fashion hype, whilst not, as I say, re-inventing the wheel, managed to convert a young lad brought up on “cell phones and wearables” – to the good old mechanical, wear and forget, battery-less watch.
He’s from birth – in a world of “throwaway” anyway – I mean today if it don’t work – bin it – right?
I’m writing this and thinking – sad! I was brought up in a world where things were made in a way that allowed them to be fixed – in fact when I was younger I used to make transistors – Yeh Yeh Yeh – I know – what on earth is one of those?