Launched at Baselworld 2013, the Sistem 51 has been the most talked-about sub $1,000 watch I can remember.
What is so special about it? As the name suggests, it has only 51 parts. A single screw holds the movement together. The movement is made of a synthetic, anti-magnetic material called ARCAP. There are 19 jewels and the power reserve is 90-hours. The automatic winding rotor is the peripheral type, so you barely even notice it. Uniquely, everything is made and assembled by machine. There are 17 patents pending for the process.
It’s 100% made in Switzerland.
There are four versions of the Sistem 51: white, black (shown), translucent blue and translucent red. The dial symbolizes the Copernican Revolution, which Swatch relates to this revolutionary process for producing a mechanical watch (and maybe also as an homage to the Swatch brand which was instrumental in helping the watch industry survive the quartz crisis in the 1970s).
As you would expect from a Swatch watch, the case material is plastic, which is easy to scratch, but at this price point, I think it is not an issue. The Sistem 51 with strap weighs in at a featherlight 30.8 grams, making it a great daily wearer that won’t get in the way. It measures approximately 41.5 mm in width by 13.48 mm in thickness. It is 50.37 mm in length (from lug to lug).
While the strap is listed as leather, although it’s clearly man-made leather (it’s likely made from shredded leather that has been reconstituted). It can be taken off via the spring bars that are accessible through the pierced lugs, however, it is a proprietary strap so replacing it with an aftermarket strap is not possible. The hands, as well as the dots on the bezel, are luminous. Functions include hours, minutes, seconds, and date. The water-resistance rating is 30 meters.
For anyone looking to buy their first mechanical watch, the Sistem 51 is a great start. That said, I know many serious collectors who have purchased one as well. The plastic case will not hold up the way a stainless steel case will but at a price that is less than most quartz watches, it does not need to. Of the four colors, black is most appealing to me. (Ref. SUTB400)
The retail price is $150.