Back in 2014, Swatch made waves with the original Sistem51, an innovative and affordable robot-assembled automatic watch. Much like the original Swatch, the Sistem51 was hailed as revolutionary, and touted as radically democratising the Swiss mechanical.
While the sub-$200 timepiece was never going to threaten Omega’s market share (for example), it nonetheless featured some impressive technical features – like the single central screw holding the whole affair together, the anti-magnetic construction and 90 hours of power reserve. The initial Sistem51 came in the distinctive jellybean style case of the classic Swatch. Plastic, and fantastic.
Earlier this year the Sistem51 got an upgrade to the Irony collection – made from far more durable (and a tad more grown-up) stainless steel. The polished case looks great, and reminds me of Marc Newson’s Biomorphism. The caseback is still clear, showing off the printed movements and peripheral rotor. The best thing though, is the dial. Swatch has released a bunch of new designs, from the fancy (and appropriately named) Tux, through to the very ‘flieger’ stylings of the Arrow. However we opted to check out the vibrant blue dial of the Boreal (which continues the vague astronomical themes of the original release), and the neat conservatism of the Earth. These dials look great, with crisp printing, interesting textures and applied details. For example check out the fine circular grain around the edge of the Earth’s dial, and the detailed milling around the Boreal’s bezel.
Strap-wise, these are secured using Swatch’s instantly recognisable pronged approach, so good luck hacking it for a NATO. I’m glad we road tested both bracelet and leather options, because while the padded leather was quite nice, the finish and feel of the heavy stainless steel bracelet detracted from the otherwise overall quality feel of the Boreal.
Having said that, we’re talking about a watch that costs under $300, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong. For me these attractive Sistem51s make the perfect festive gift – either as a carefree holiday watch, or as a way of introducing mechanical watches to the next generation.
Swatch Sistem51 Irony Australian pricing
Swatch Sistem51 Sistem Earth, $270, Sistem Boreal $295
Images by Jason Reekie.