When Swatch announced the introduction of a new, cheap, and revolutionary mechanical watch, it was hailed as a milestone in watchmaking. (SRF/swissinfo.chexternal link)
The launch of the Sistem51 was announced at Basel World in 2013. The wind was snatched from Swatch’s sails somewhat by the arrival of the Apple Watch in March 2015, which Swatch has announced plans to rival at some time in the future. Meanwhile, the Sistem51 has proved so popular that a second production facility is being built in Boncourt, Jura, to supply the Asian market, above all.
So what’s so special about it?
First, the entire manufacturing process is automated, and all production takes place in Switzerland. Many other watch companies use Chinese components. The Sistem51 uses just 51 parts, like the original quartz Swatch watch, whereas most mechanical watches have upwards of 100. Each watch is constructed on a 20-metre-long assembly line in a clean-room environment, then hermetically sealed. 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.
Swiss public television, SRF, visited the Boncourt factory for a glimpse of how the watches are made.