People who know me know that I really didn't get the hype surrounding the Sistem51. I didn't see the point of a throw-away mechanical watch. But I admitted that it was a revolutionary step in watch history. Not for the so-called technological advances. But for what it stands for. That perhaps we're ushering in a new era of getting used to tossing away something that was once associated with craftsmanship and engineering and art.
But then I saw the more positive side of it. This watch (if and when regulated properly and assuming all the initial issues have all been troubleshot) will last you the better part of 20 years and it's supposed to always keep reasonable time over this period (since a watchmaker will not have access to the movement to regulate it). This means the one thing that bugged me about quartz watches - running out of battery when you actually want to wear it - is relegated to the history bin. And let's face it, the Sistem51 was never going to be haute horlogerie. I think it's designed to replace quartz watches, and even though it will never keep as good a time as a quartz, it is a small inconvenience for 20 odd years of "Shake it, set and go" and no more "Argh it's out of battery! What am I going to do without a watch for 2 weeks???"
Ok. That preceding scenario has never occurred to me. No, not because I'm a movement snob but a) my quartz powered watches seems to last forever on one battery (thank YOU G-Shock) and b) why the heck would you only have one watch???
Anyways, I did give in to the hype (like I did with those damn Jordans) and when the opportunity arose I acquired a piece of this watchmaking history. So, what's it like living with a Swatch sistem51 in Australia? Well, disclaimer first. I do rotate through other watches so it's not constantly on my wrist. As I have alluded to, there have been documented quality issues with the watch and although I've been lucky, I know first hand from collectors here in Australia the issues they've had with theirs. But mine does what is says on the box. Massively long power reserve and keeps relatively reasonable time. Mine was about an average of about plus 5 seconds a day. This is within cosc accuracy specs. And to be honest, at this price point for a mechanical watch, I would've accepted anywhere from 0 to plus 15 seconds a day. I cannot stand a watch losing time though.
My particular example is white plastic case on white silicon strap. It gives a very bright and summery feel but perhaps for Australian climate with hindsight, not the best colour as it gets dirty very quickly. Nothing a little wipe down won't cure though. The ticks very loudly. I suppose this is a trademark Swatch characteristic? But I think it's less annoying than one loud TICK every second for the quartz Swatch watches. The power reserve will come in handy even for those who swap watches regularly as the watch will still be ticking when you pick it up again after 3-4 days. As it is plastic, the watch is very light and comfortable. It won't be an everyday watch if you suit up during the week, but a perfect weekend watch.
So, after 8 months have I been converted? Well, let's just say it's not a massive outlay (AU$185) and it's nice to have a piece of watch history. I still don't know what all the hype is (aside from being caught up in it), but I'd expect some lines forming outside Swatch boutiques for the Australian launch come Friday. Let's just say that in terms of hyped products, it will have the longevity advantage over a similarly priced retro Jordan sneakers. But other than that...