Swatch Automates Movement Assembly, Pushing Watchmaking Into The Third Quarter Of The 20th Century

While I kid a bit in the headline, this is actually pretty cool: Swatch, the largest manufacturer of mechanical watch movements in the world, has created a movement that is assembled entirely using automated systems. Why is this important? The watch industry was originally gutted by the rise of cheap quartz watches, making this piece quite ironic, and this means that more people will be able to own higher quality mechanical watches from a trusted brand.

The movement, called the Sistem51, is made of 51 simple parts and has a weight that winds the mainspring. It is made of a copper, nickel and zinc alloy called ARCAP and is anti-magnetic. It’s completely sealed inside the case (making it impossible to service) but a fact that ensures it can stay out of moisture and dust. Another cool thing? Quoth Hodinkee, who got a hands on, “instead of a regulator the special escapement is set by a laser during production and never needs to be touched again.”

Sure, the Sistem51 is basically a plastic watch that costs a little over $100 and will be sold at airports around the world. However, it is an impressive step forward for the company at a time when mechanical watches are making a resurgence. Swatch has been making mechanicals for a while, to be clear, but this is the first time they’ve reduced the price, manufacturing cost, and maintained quality in this way. While it’s easy to get much cheaper movements online (a tourbillon for $24, anyone?) it’s far harder to find a solid, high quality mechanical movement from a trusted brand.

It’s great to see some affordable watches come out of Basel this year and this is definitely step forward in terms of nanomechanics.