Review: A trip inside the Swatch Sistem51 / ETA C10111

IMG_3318When Swatch announced the release of the Sistem51, I was of course very curious about what lurks inside! With these things, there is only one way to find out…

I went ahead and ordered one for £108, and it arrived from Switzerland 3 days later.

Now this watch isn’t usually opened, and there are of course no photos of the inside to be found anywhere, apart from the stuff Swatch releases. Time to change that …IMG_3320

Quite nifty how the rotor is acrylic, and you can see the movement through it.

How about performance?IMG_3323

Crown down – very low amplitude, large beat error, and something is wrong with the pallet fork / escape wheelIMG_3324

Dial up has a decent amplitude, but this isn’t your typical ETA performance. Again, there is something wrong with the pallet fork / escape wheel.IMG_3325

Dial down is the only position where we have some decent timekeeping, and that’s probably the position the watch was adjusted in.IMG_3326

Crown up is a disaster.IMG_3327

And so is crown right.IMG_3328Never mind crown left 😉954-01

Before opening, let’s take some photos. Here, the balance jewels. I can see some oil, and I can also see some dirt.

IMG_3338Before getting physical, I vaccum waterproof test the watch, and it loses 10% within a minute, so it’s not quite waterproof. Splash proof one could say.

Now it’s time to get a bit more hands-on, and to open the case.IMG_3340Slightly brutal, but what can you do? 😉IMG_3341

Now I can remove the rotor. The claim that one central screw holds together the components of the movement is total bullshit – it’s just a rotor screw.954-07

The movement is of normal construction with bridges, and instead of bridge screws, they have silver-soldered the bridges on. Saves money, and makes me shudder.

Above, a solder joint that didn’t turn out so well.954-08

This one is a bit nicer.954-09The calibre number, and the hairspring, which is studded into the base plate. No adjustment for the beat error, and that did show 😉IMG_3345

Not easy to get into, as the movement comes out to the front. The dial is real, solid plastic 😉IMG_3348

The bottom plate with the date ring doesn’t look all that bad – quartz movement quality. As you can see, no screws, all soldered together.IMG_3349

Good thing that they painted the bridges, as they are just stamped out of sheet metal.IMG_3350

The case had to suffer a bit 😉IMG_3351

And here comes the real surprise – a plastic escape wheel and pallet fork. I haven’t seen anything like this in even the cheapest Chinese movements, and I think every self-respecting Chinese engineer wouldn’t want to put something like this into a movement. Only the Swiss dare to go where nobody has gone before, and manage to construct the crappiest mechanical movement ever made. Congratulations!


That explains the bad performance on the timegrapher. I still can’t believe it.IMG_3353

The gear train looks fairly standard. The dirt comes of course from me opening the case in a rather unusual way.IMG_3354The winding stem can’t be removed as there is no need to do that. You just buy the watch, and put it straight into the bin. No need to wear it.954-12As a final photo, the pallet fork and escape wheel in all their plastic glory.

I wouldn’t be so miffed if Swatch wouldn’t make such a fuss about this “revolutionary” movement.

If you can take looking at more photos without vomiting, here is the link to the complete set.

I had planned to completely take the movement apart, and to write a thorough review on all its merits and outstanding design features, but I’m afraid this is where I have to stop. It’s just too painful. This has to be by far the worst mechanical watch movement I have seen. Pin pallet watches look better on the timegrapher.

If you want to buy the remains, they are on sale on eBay 😉

173 thoughts on “Review: A trip inside the Swatch Sistem51 / ETA C10111

  1. I have the Sistem Meche from the Irony collection…


    Looking into the back w a flashlight.. I dont see any plastic gears… Am I missing it?

    This line of watches is priced 215 to 235 so maybe these are a different mechanism?

  2. Hi
    I stumbled upon this most readworthy review as I was interested in buying a Flieger Type B watch, and noticed that Swatch Sistem 51 Slate YIB400 had the Type B design. I was not ready to splash out for a Stowa or similar “real” Flieger Type B and thought that the Swatch Sistem 51 Slate YIB400 could be a more budget friendly alternative that came with Swiss Quality.

    After reading your review I bought a new Seiko 5 SNK809 with the 7S26 movement instead. For half the price of the Swatch.

    I have no problems with some plastics in a watch (e.g. the date wheel, as it is just moving a tiny distance once a day), but:

    How on earth could Swatch choose to make the pallet fork and the escape wheel of plastic?! These are parts that are subjected to “hammering”/friction against each other at a rate of 21 600 vibrations per hour (correct me if I’m wrong about the vph in this movement). There are good reasons why the hard working escape wheel and pallet fork normally is made of metal and the pallet fork has jewels to reduce friction.
    I wonder if plastic really can withstand the wear and tear with any precision for a prolonged period of time?

    Btw, I own a “vintage” (1997) cheap Swatch Automatic Circulum, with a traditional movement, and exept for changing the lousy strap and applying some PolyWatch now and then that old watch is still ticking and tocking very well indeed! That is why I had high hopes for the new Sistem 51…

    All the best,
    Erik S

  3. Hello,
    I am a MRI technologist and I work with large magnet scanners of 1.5 and 3 Tesla. (That is about 15000 and 30 000 gauss respectively). I’m looking for a watch that is ant-magnetic and can resist such large magnetic field. I know the Omega seaman can resist 1.5 T. but thats a $3000 watch.
    I am particularly interested in the swatch system watch since most of its parts are mad of plastic and non-magnetic metals. I would like to know if you recommend this watch for such high magnetic field, or if you know of another watch that I could use im my work place.
    Any information is greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

  4. I would never buy this POS. For half the cost, if you want a fashion watch that is actually decent, I would just pick up an Invicta with a Miyota movement.

  5. So many silly comment.. i guess everyone of you watch “collectors” have an Omega, which coincidently owned and developed by Swatch AG. Not only Omega but there are 6 or more other renowned Swiss horological industry owned by them. A Swatch is the most robust watch out there.

    • Quote: “A Swatch is the most robust watch out there.”

      Awesome. The bracelet of my first and only Swatch took 2 months to break.

          • I had Swatch Automatics in the early 90s (for example the one for the first climate summit).
            Thats 30 years…
            But these models where kind of adjustable…

  6. Why are there guys even supporting a company that is being an asshole to its peers with the eta movement drama (luckily the government intervened and now everyone has time to develop their own in house movements), and who is making the world’s most environmentally unfriendly plastic watches that ends up in rubbish dumps around the world taking eons to disintegrate? Sistem 51.. sounds like a chemical formula for stubborn stains on my toilet bowl..

  7. I was hoping someone cut one these mechanical wonders open, thanks for posting. To everyone that is thinking of buying one of these Swatch Wonders. If you want a good reliable mechanical watch, look at the Boctok from Russia. The Komandirskie can be bought for around $25.00 and the Amphibian for around $59.00 I have several high end watches but I like my Boctoks the best and I have many of them. Besides being inexpensive you can buy all kinds of upgrade parts for them and have fun working on them. Dials, hands, bezels are all for sale in the bay.

    Hey Watch guy, I really like your website.

    • Had to look the Boctok watches on Ebay and they’re actually really cool. I think I’m getting one, maybe the Komandirskie, as its colouring and style is pure awesomeness.

  8. I still prefer the traditional way of watchmaking. But do I want to wear my fine timepieces like IWC, JLC or my vintage watches during cycling or doing some hard garden work? Definitely not!
    That is why I bought a Sistem51 Irony Arrow, including this `terrible´ ETA C10111.
    I also do overhaul most of my vintage watches myself. So I know a lot about watchmaking. But I am also open minded to new ideas and new technology without forgetting tradition. They use a special formulated plastic for the escapement which makes lubrication needless.
    By the way, my Sistem51 runs pretty well with approx. +3 sec./day. And frankly spoken, I do not care about beat error on this watch. I do care and I fine-tune my old Omegas from the 1960´s to chronometer standard! With as little, if not no beat error, as possible.
    I think the Sistem51 is a watch for all those situations where you do not want to expose your REAL watches to risk of damage.

    • how about a sub 100 dollars seiko 5? is it that important you need a Swiss piece to ensure ‘quality’ (there isn’t any quality what that sort of rate as shown in this entry)?

      • I own many Seiko watches. But most of them are JDM of higher value. The cheapest ones are more than 200 dollars. Concerning the rate: I put my Irony Sistem51 on my timegrapher and the rate looks much better. Almost no beat error (0 – 0.5ms), amplitude is approx. 270 – 310 degrees. Avg. accuracy is 0 to -5 sec./day.
        According to my opinion the Sistem51 represents a new technology with no claim to perfection. The only thing I do not like is the production make jobs expendable! But the production of a Seiko 5 is also done mainly by machines.
        At least, a step toward the right direction: the movement, dial, hands, crystals and winding crown can be replaced in the Irony Sistem51.

  9. Great review. Thanks for taking the time to actually open one up and examine the parts up close. Good stuff.

    And what a steaming pile of junk it is! No wonder Swatch seals their cases. The plastic escapement is like… well there’s no words for it. It exists in an alternate dimension of absurdity. What were they thinking?

    And as far as a few of these comments go (above), either some of these folks just absolutely love Swatch beyond all reason, or represent the efforts of Swatch’s online marketing.

  10. Was about to buy Sistem Earth watch but then saw this, appalling, I assume they have plastic parts in that too. Really neat photography equipment you got. Makes me wonder if my Seiko Astron has plastic parts inside, but nobody wants to take apart a $3000 watch for curiosity’s sake xD

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  13. Thanks for the interesting review, perhaps the reason they made it impossibly difficult to get into the inside of this ‘timepiece’ is to prevent people from seeing the plastic components that make it tick!

    I was wondering if you have had a look at Swatch’s other automatic movement, featured on the ‘irony’ range of watches, as I’m on the lookout for a reasonably-priced automatic, and £120 for a stainless-steel Swiss watch doesn’t sound like a bad deal… But maybe you’ll prove me wrong as you did with the Sistem51 movement.

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  15. Not sure what the fuss is about the plastic parts. My Swatch with ETA 2841 movement clearly also has plastic parts, it seems some Tissot watches as well. Is this innovative step in the possibly stagnant automatic technology and nod to watch mortality just annoying to the purists? Not a watch expert by any means but it looks that way. I’m going to get one just because its a different take on existing tech.

  16. I’m not a watch expert, but I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. A bit of desktop research indicates that there are other ETA movements such as the 2841 used in Swatch that use the plastic pallet fork and escape wheel. I can even see that in my own stainless case skeleton movement Swatch automatic. I reckon maybe the purists just don’t like the idea of such a radically different automatic.I’m going to get one just because it represents such a radical step in an otherwise mature and static technology.

    • it’s not about being conservative and not wanting to accept radically different automatic movement. what the author is getting at here, is why are we accepting lousily constructed watch, without the option of regulating it, and pay a full hundred bucks? a seiko 5 can cost less than a hundred bucks, with better quality parts, along with serviceability. this particular swatch piece is simply a rip-off.

  17. Great article, I have a cheap $59 vostok Amphibia with a 2416b movement and it’s totally serviceable n repairable. It’s water resistant to 200m with a service interval of 10 years. Quite accurate out of the box +10 SPD but can be easily regulated to higher accuracy.

  18. I’m a collector of “affordable automatics” (AA’s) plus a Citizen Eco-drive quartz. My collection of AA’s includes an Orient ($71 on sale), a Parnis (Chinese mushroom brand with a Sea-Gull movement), a Seiko Recraft, and a Sistem 51 Chic. This review, though I respect the effort, kinda saddens me. It turns up high on the page when one Google’s “Sistem 51 review”, and may put people off to purchasing these fun and innovative automatics.

    I’ve owned mine for about six months. I enjoy wearing it. It’s unique and comfortable. The Chic is the most conservative, style-wise of the current offerings in this line — a fun tribute to railroad watches.

    As for the movement, much maligned here? As someone who actually wears this watch regularly and is a user, but didn’t buy it to test and destroy it, it’s within 10 seconds. The differences between the Orient 45943 and the Seiko 7s26b — accuracy about the same. The Orient and Seikos gain seconds. The ETA 10111 will vary… sometimes gaining some seconds, sometimes losing (but usually gains). I guess it’s more sensitive to position? It is self-winding unlike the Orient and Seiko. The Parnis is a hacking movement and is also self-winding (and has a power reserve indicator) but the ETA glides as if designed to be self-winding. The Sea-Gull is a bit of a chore to hand-wind. The ETA 10111 has its vaunted 90 hr power reserve, and while that’s nice, if you don’t wear the watch a few days it could be off by 1/2 a minute. The movement is louder than the Seiko and Orient, but to call it “loud” as some have is an overstatement IMO.

    I paid $105 for this watch and find it to be an enjoyable wear and well-worth the price I paid. It looks great — is made for casual attire, is a nice change of pace from more traditional designs. I’d have to say the movement is “better” maybe by a hair than the excellent movements in the Seiko and Orient movements just due the ETA 10111’s much greater power reserve and ability to hand-wind. They’re about the same in terms of accuracy. The Sea-Gull movement on the Parnis might be the best of the bunch because it can be hand-wound, is hackable, and has a power reserve indicator and was only $81. However, it’s the least accurate, running consistently fast by about 15 seconds a day. Then again, the movement in the Orient and the Seiko have been in production for years and are know to last decades without servicing. The durability and longevity of the ETA 10111 is a question mark. Might last 20 years with modern oils and production technologies — might crap out in a couple years — who knows. My gut says this will last a while. We’ll see.

    Overall, thumbs up on the Sistem 51 AND its ETA 10111 movement. This coming from someone who actually wears the watch often and is enjoying it.

  19. I am an old watch collector as some who posted here. I was looking at Swatches on e-bay. Swatch makes some really nice watches as I have a few. Yep I have a Rolex and others too.
    I saw the Swatch Sistem51 so I bought a red one for $99. It is on its way. I got it because it is unique. Both in the automatic movement and the celestial map face. Like the clear back with the optical illusion appearance. Well thought out and a cheap fix for me. I am an addicted watch collector.

  20. I bought one about a year ago. First, about how I feel about it regardless of what it is inside. It is good, not great. A bit pricey for its accuracy and build quality but not overly unreasonable. Power reserve is long, very easily over a weekend (put it down Fri evening and pick it up again Mon morning) although it’ll need some adjustment for a couple of minutes. This is actually a good point: I can wear it over the week, swap it out for some other sporty ones at weekends and put it on again when I go to work. Comparing to previous automatic watches that Swatch produced (I own a few of them and had been wearing them for quite a few years), I like the previous ones better. They are thinner, lighter, less noisy and probably a bit more accurate (I don’t have any equipment, just guy feel from how much I see it deviate from actual time after wearing one whole week).

    So in net, I like it but I probably will not buy a second one, not unless they drop price by 30 or 40% or more.

    Now, apart from real life experience, the reason I bought this watch, and still have quite a bit of respect to Swatch for making it, is their boldness in trying to manufacture an self-winding all mechanical watch with fully automated process. You may discredit it for the materials or setup of the components inside (compare to other watches of similar prices) but at least, they have solved a big engineering problem. The Sistem51 represents a new step forward to a new journey that is still quite unknown. A few years down the road, may be I can show my son this watch, telling him that this is the first watch that was manufactured like that, among many many other followers. Or, I might tell him that once in a time, someone tried something interesting but failed.

  21. Hi, great review and just shows how 2 faced the swiss watch industry can be – on the one hand they harp on quality and workmanship to justify their absurd prices (never mind if the movement is a mass produced ETA and the rest sourced from god-knows-where) and on the other run down the japs and Chinese for being ‘wannabes’ – well, at least the orientals are honest and don’t have plastic in their movements !

  22. Thank you for the interesting and amusing review. What some posters here fail to consider is that if this product is a big seller for Swatch, once they recoup their development expenses they can cut the price by one-half or more and still collect a large profit.

    What Swatch is trying to do here is create the Yugo of the watch world, and appeal to the customer’s sense of humor as well as sense of style. But unlike the Yugo, one doesn’t risk one’s life to use one.

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  24. I really enjoyed this review, my interest having been piqued by the Sistem 51 hype about how revolutionary it is. I think the disposable plastic construction is entirely appropriate for the Swatch brand which after all is supposed to be a cheap and cheerful fashion accessory you wear for a couple of years and then throw away.

    The problem is the price. I just cant help but think you could get three real metal, serviceable Seiko 5s for the $150 Swatch want. The chutzpah of Swatch cheapening the movement below Chinese standards, bragging about it and then charging out the nose for it really bothers me. If this were a $50 watch there’d be no problem — a neat toy you wear for a bit and then dispose of when it stops working. But to charge real watch money for a plastic toy?! It’s mental.

    • I agree.
      Put all this near-philosophical inquiry to one side, and you’re left with a grand company that simply wants your wallet!
      Sure it’s easy money to churn out Quartzes for 15 year-olds, but this is hardly a gallant effort introducing those folk to the wonderful world of *mechanical* watches!
      Very poor effort lacking any sort of ethos by Swatch. Better luck next time (and do we *really*, I mean **really** wanna go ahead and buy that Omega we’ve been eying up all year now, after seeing this?? I mean honestly!).

    • Great review. I agree with the guy who spoke about getting 3 Seiko 5’s for the same money. For me Seiko is the most underrated watch company in the west. No wonder they keep their best stuff for the Japanese domestic market, why should they bother with the stuck up west. Do you realise for a fee more bucks than this swatch you could buy the Seiko SKX 007/009 an iconic diver. That says it all really. I have had Rolexs, omegas etc then I bought watches like the SKX never looked back.

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  26. What a lousy story. Just admit this is a great looking automatic that is quite precise and will last an awful long time. For a very low price indeed. There is no better value for money. Who cares about your ignorant ivory tower opinion?

    • When it comes to value for money this is not good at all. A cheap SEIKO automatic is a far more durable construction, and costs less.
      As for aesthetics I believe admitting to its grace will not come easily from many more than me. Discussing taste is useless in this context anyhow.
      The only great thing about this movement is how far ETA has cut their construction cost using modern technologies and materials. They have made a decent disposable watch movement!
      There is nothing ignorant about doing an analysis from a different viewpoint than yours, but it might hurt to read it if you have spent a pile of euros and does not like to be told you’ve been had!

      • “When it comes to value for money this is not good at all.”

        Really? Unless it outperforms a $15 quartz watch for timekeeping then it’s safe to assume the buyer has priorities other than timekeeping accuracy, as with any mechanical watch. Since you don’t know what they are, how are you to assess that value for money has not been acheived?

        The honest answer is, you can’t.

        Your statement that cheaper and more durable alternatives exist might be as relative to the purchaser of this watch as the availability of a G-Shock might be to someone considering a Vacheron. That is to say, completely irrelevant.

        It seems, dear comentards, that the pervasive snobbery of horology continues unabated. To criticise the use of more expensive materials (jewelled pallets and metal fork) in a watch built to a price point is redundant if the materials used are sufficiantly able to meet the demands of that product (i.e. to last until such time that a service would normally be required at which point it can be disposed of, instead of paying many hundreds $$$ for a service). I note there was no attempt to discuss this.

        To criticise the lack of adjustment on the balance highlights the bias of the writer and appears to have lead a number of commentater to form the intended opinion. A primary objective of the movement is that it is entirely machine made and hermetically sealed, never to be opened. What then, would be the purpose of an adjustable balance I wonder?

          • I note you have written your reply on a keyboard, and I hope it’s not a stolen laptop.

            Moving on….

            Won’t/can’t refute my points? Take from that what you will. I think it’s fairly clear.

          • Fair comments. What a complete waste of time and effort (+ £108) to prove absolutely nothing. Sorry Christian.

        • I quite liked subjecting the watch to this type of scrutiny. Don’t forget the hyperbole with which this thing is being marketed, so I think the author can be forgiven for putting it through it’s paces. He is quite right to be horrified about a plastic fork and escape wheel – I speculate but assume that the buyer may likely have other swatches or Quartz watches in their collection, and are accustomed to bringing them back from the dead every couple of years with a new battery. These things will just die. I would sooner by a Chinese movement for a few bucks more and sacrifice a handful of quality standards than buy into Swatch and sacrifice all standards of quality.

    • Precise????? Hans mate, you *must* be joking!!!!! It’s all, and everything but (unless +8mins/month is considered… “quite precise”). Please don’t post if you don’t know!!! As a coutesy to all (and yeah, I too bought it as an experiment and still have the pieces lying around).

  27. Hi Christian, I love your blog! Just wanted to post and tell you how fun this was to read. I was thinking of this watch as a beater, but I’ll look elsewhere.

    I have an old family pocketwatch in pieces I might take a few pictures of and email you about fixing… it’ll be quite a project, but possibly rewarding for you and nice for me.

    Best wishes!

  28. jesus , i nearly bought one of these !

    LOVED the mangling !

    swatch keep trying to reinvent themselves , and get further and further from what they initially were in , what , 1983? metal , leather , mechanical , etc.

  29. This thing is going to be iconic (possibly for all the wrong reasons) in the future. I’m tempted to pick one up cheap from those who are apparently keen to get rid of theirs on eBay, and just hang onto it for 20 years until it’s worth a fortune. Sensibly, though, it’s a kitsch piece and some people love kitsch. I’m tempted to buy it just because it is so hilariously crap. I’d wear it to horological gatherings.

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  32. My girlfirend bought it for me last month. An i fucking loved it.
    Firstly I would like to say time lapse is very small.
    First day -> 5 sec
    Second day -> 4 sec
    Third day -> 2 sec
    4th, 5th, 6th days -> 2,5 sec
    And finally after one week lapse is just 1 sec. (If i leave watch home lapse is 10 sec), but when i am starting to use it lapse is decrasing everyday (Fantastic :)))

    Yes it is cheap and plastic, but common guys which Swatch watch is expensive?
    And it has 96 hours capacity.

    • As Bijoux considered it is fine. However as a horological product it is nothing. Christian has, as a watchmaker, considered the horological merits.
      At the price you are paying for it as a watch it is close to robbery when it comes to value for money. On the other hand as a time-telling (at least for a while) piece of bijoux I am sure it can be defended.
      As with most bijoux it is built to be thrown away after a few years (at most). This in opposite to properly designed watches that can last several human lifespans.
      Your Swatch tells you the time now, but rest assured it will not do this for the ones coming after you. But then again it was never meant to do that in the first place.

    • Everybody wants something different from a watch. The biggest sought after thing for many is provenance. I am not sure this could offer the same level as a mechanical watch, although part of this is sentiment so hey ho.

      Could do without such expletives on a public forum though.

    • Yes, I’m not too happy with the language used on the comments to this post, either. It’s the only post ever where I have had problems like this, and I hope it stays the last.
      I wonder if there is a relation between the bad language and the watch in question.

    • Is sleep the only thing you do with it? Mine is +2mins/week. That’s everything included. No, I don’t take it off at the gym, neither do I my other ETA mechanisms, that’s not how to measure it, the way to measure it is in *real life* situations. Seiko5 wipes the floor with it. Sorry man (I know your gf meant well…).

  33. It was an informative review;I believe that sooner or later,we will only have lots and lots of such cheap products, which have no quality, fit to be enthroned in the kingdom of “dustbin”.
    This is an appeal to all manufacturers (including swatch) ,who fortunately or unfortunately went through this comment, to raise there qualities at least to an acceptable level.
    I also request the gentleman to review the HMT (Hindustan Machine Tools) watches too.

    • There is of course a review of an HMT on this blog as well. They are great watches for the price you pay, and I have one in my collection as well.

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  35. I bought one and i am wondering why it works like this, or should i say it isnt working well! I shake it off every time and it ends up dead all the time so if i wear it i often shake my hand yet it still stop working!! Ahhrrrggg
    What is this?

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  37. I have 12 Swatch watches that i have collected over the past 5-6 years. I have not had a single issue with them. Although i have several INCREDIBLY light weight metal-like swatch watches, the plastic is why i buy Swatch. I like not knowing anything is on my wrist. but i also like the fact that it works, and it works really well. If you want a metal watch, buy it, but don’t buy a plastic watch and then complain that it isn’t metal. That’s like getting a hamburger and being mad that it wasn’t a hot-dog. You are the one that got the thing, right? So, for those of you that was a quality, affordable, durable, self maintaining, stylish, watch, get this one. If you want a metal watch, get a metal watch. Damn.

    i’m just curious, did you take the watch apart with a brick and a fingernail file?

    • I have many upscale Swiss watches like IWC, JLC, Omega etc.
      But I was looking for a cheap but mechanical watch for all those situations where you do not want to put your expensive watch on risk.
      And I could not believe it, I ended up buying one of those `scrap-like´ Sistem 51.
      The results on my timescale look totally different, still some beat error, but within an acceptable range, not more than 1ms. And with approx. +10 Sec./day the accuracy is also o.k.
      I think they have improved their manufacturing process in the meantime.
      I am satisfied with my Sistem 51, even though I still prefer my real watches, of course.

    • Dude. You’re off topic!! Yeah sure, they’re fine, but we’re not talking about those, we’re talking about the mechanical version *specifically*. And who told you metallic was the most expensive way to go?!?!

    • na, it’s just a fluff piece, the second half of the quote below is hilited in orange by the conceited douchebag who penned it.

      “The minute wheel is visible (at 9 o’clock) and it is simply held in place by small metallic pins in the plate that covers the centre of the dial, a detail that shows the radical ingenuity that has gone into engineering this piece.”

      -radical ingenuity? lol…

  38. Great ‘in depth’ look at these.

    I think the comparison with Seiko is relevant. It’s true that a Swatch and a Seiko are not going to appeal to the same buyers.

    Nonetheless, Seiko can offer far more substantial and long lasting products at half the price. And that makes me wonder where my money goes if I bought a Swatch… Marketing? Swiss bank accounts?

    Some will say the Seiko isn’t a sealed self contained unit like the Swatch. That’s true, but I’ll bet if Seiko chose to make a sealed watch with a 10 year warranty, they’d still do it at half the price.

    I’m happy to accept that people like the look or the style of the Swatch. But you’re fooling yourself if you think it represents ‘value for money’. Swatch have just done a very good job of working out the price points that the market will bear.

    • excellent points. Thanks for your perspective. I’m a huge fan of the watches from Seiko, particularly those for the Japanese domestic market.

      That said, I think Swatch fills a market niche…style above substance. For some people, that’s enough. Still, the tests don’t lie. A relatively cheap watch is ok, but it should still tell time with some degree of accuracy. It looks like this particular watch falls short.

    • Seiko Solar – – or Citizen Eco? Perhaps in titanium so it can be lightweight, robust and far more accurate – – ?

  39. Interesting pictures. I bought one “piece of shit“… and love it.
    This watch is not made for eternity, but a beautiful designed lifestyle product. I would never pay thousands of € for a watch just to be able to have it repaired… I can buy a new swatch every 2 years until end of my life, and still it’s cheaper then buying one Rolex with technical comparable features(90h gangreserve). Swatch has a very good service here in Europe, also very cheap repair options…

    My main problem with THIS article is the enormous amount of use of the word SHIT.

      • His problem is that you’re a reckless know-it-all. Ingenuity isn’t about perfection, it’s about progressive thinking, which this watch is full of. There are plastic parts in there, sure, copy them over into metal and I bet you’d be all about it, snob.

        Also, from the care you took taking this thing apart I’m not surprised you couldn’t go on. Admit it, it’s not because it was too painful, it’s because to go any further would have made you look foolish.

          • I know it sounded harsh, but honestly, don’t you own a jewelers saw or something? It’s plastic. You couldn’t have invested forty seconds into cutting the thing open by hand. I could probably open mine up with a small half round file if i wanted to.

            Sure, it’s not as solid as other watches, but that’s not what it’s about. This is the first watch that embraces the upcoming age of cheap 3D printers, over engineered polymers, and fully mechanical assembly. Is it amazing, no, but the idea behind it is.

            There are much nicer watches with 61 moving parts, but no one is trying to make them any cheaper.

            I want everything made out of metal, too. I get that. But I carry a bic lighter instead of a zippo because sometimes, only sometimes, cheap and disposable is what you need.

    • I agree
      If you talk shit eat shit hear shit after all you are a shit
      I have an ideea for the reviewer
      Instead of buying a cheap shit watch you put on loose your thingie and measure the solar time just putting it upright. Cheers

  40. Pingback: TISSOT RESEARCH IDEA 2001 The seed of a counterrevolution

  41. Pingback: Please convince me to buy a Sistem51 (or not?!) - Page 4

  42. Pingback: Swatching the Sistem51! | Barnebys SE

  43. all crap aside good looking watch if you don’t like it don’t buy it if modern and new .do buy one I am 73 and it impressed me

  44. Pingback: Great photos of the Sistem51 from Australian launch

  45. All very interesting. Out of curiosity I bought a Sistem 51. On the wrist it has gained 5s in the last week and keeps better time than my Rolex automatic and recently serviced Glashutte Original Navigator…. not bad for such a “crude” movement. Less is more? It reminds me of my old Fiat Panda. … Cheap and fun!

  46. What do you expect, it’s a Swatch. Everything from them is a piece of shit. But the fact that ETA would make such a crap movement amazes me. Bet they made it for Swatch with the condition that it couldn’t be accessed. Swatch sells a lot of watches, so bet they lowered their standards for this project for the profits.

  47. Pingback: HANDS-ON REVIEW: Swatch Sistem51 (Blue)

  48. Great job!!! Happy that the plastic escapement is out of the bag. Swatch group is guilty of this in recent value modified movements like the Tissot powermatic and Hamilton Pan Europ auto. People need to be aware of what they are buying.

    Thanks for the great writeup!

  49. I think the Swatch Sistem 51 is sort of like an LP record…

    The recent resurgence in popularity of LPs (small as it is) is proclaimed most loudly by people who *completely* fail to understand the real reasons that LPs are “better” than CDs and other digital media (which happens to be that records *can* sound better in many ways than CDs *if* they are pressed from an early generation stamper, are in perfect condition and are played back on a sufficiently high-end audio system).

    I would guess that the target market for a cool looking plastic cased, mechanical watch with a gee-whiz story about how great and revolutionary its disposable pot metal and plastic mechanism is, has to be the young hipster who is going to wear it as a retro “accessory” while still checking their iPhone for the time. That same skinny jeans wearing, PBR drinking, customer is the one bragging about how great their records sound, but who listens to them on an iPod, smart phone, or laptop speakers, after digitizing them to 192kbps MP3 via a $99 all plastic USB record player that has a 49 cent A/D converter in it, thus completely obviating any goodness that the analog source might have potentially had…

    In other words; misleading story of innovation aside, this watch is probably appealing to the market it was aimed at very well, despite being an horological turkey of the highest order and will likely exceed the expectations of that consumer quite handily by simply functioning moderately well for a few years… I bet most folks won’t wear it past the life of the first strap, since they likely don’t realize that it’s replaceable 😛

    Everyone reading this thread is likely to be a knowledgeable hobbyist and will appreciate the fact that this new movement was created for one purpose only and that is cheapness of production… but Swatch didn’t make the Sistem 51 for us.

    • Well, yeah, it’s about profit for the company in the first place, in expense of their name of course (which isn’t all that pristine in the first place).

      All in all, it’s not too bad! I’ve never been accused of being a hipster, but I think the watch looks kinda cool, and for anyone who doesn’t take horology too serious, it’s a swatch approach (disposable) to an automatic mechanical watch.

  50. Interesting. I went to the Swatch store today to get an new bracelet for my “old-style” Swatch automatic and the salesman was talking very enthusiastically about the new model (as he should, being salaried and all). Decided to google and chanced upon this site.

    This has now made me curious about the quality of the older model, and I found this (hope I’m allowed to link):

  51. Great pictures and review! (I bought one in black despite its obvious shortcomings)

    That pallet fork and escape wheel are dead ringers for the parts in an Astrolon/Autolub, with the exception of the hoity-toity metal axles and ruby bearings that is 😉

    Must be someone at Swatch Group was looking over old designs from Tissot and decided that it was time to revive part of the “autolub” concept that they bought the rights to when they acquired Tissot, rather than try to figure out a new way to make an escape train that could predictably survive 10-15 years in an sealed and un-lubricated environment…

    I agree that plastic parts in a mechanical movement are totally un-sexy, but it *is* after all just a $150 USD retail watch… what did we really expect, when metal cased, serviceable ETA made automatics start at $650 and go up from there? Swatches are about fun/cool styling and the trend of the moment, they have never had any pretension to being generational heirlooms.

    But if we’re all going to gripe about Swatch foolishness here, I have a minor thread hijack to add: The fact that the Autoquarz series is also fully sealed (unlike older plastic cased mechanical Swatches that could be serviced), thus rendering the movement useless when the energy cell finally fails years later… Which of course happens all the sooner if the watch isn’t run on a regular basis 😛 I mean *really* why put a fairly high end movement in a watch, then limit its useful life by sealing the back so that the energy cell can’t be replaced?!? …ahem, um, see the “what did we expect for $150” part of my post above for the answer to this rhetorical question 😉

    • For me, it’s about what I get for my money. For £49, I can buy a Seiko 5, which will last as long as the Sistem51 without a service (e.g. 10 to 15 years). After that, I can service my Seiko 5 and get another 10 to 15 years out of it, whereas I have to throw away the Sistem51. Also, the Seiko 5 performs much better on the timegrapher.

      • I would much rather have a steel watch out of Japan than a plastic one out of Switzerland. Am wearing one today actually – a funky 7009-8100 with a faceted crystal and ink blue dial… and I bet it hasn’t been serviced (or missed a beat) since it left the factory in the late 70s 😉

      • I concur, however the Seiko will feature staid and stolid (boring) Seiko styling along with that workhorse all metal mechanism… The Swatch will be available for a year or two, then fade away, like all swatches do, but have an interesting and collectible design.

        In terms of performance and quality the Seiko wipes the floor with the Swatch, but it doesn’t really get there with much style and many people want style in their watches as much as performance.

        Personally I wear vintage 40s to 60s watches much more frequently than anything modern, most of those cost under $50 USD plus a service, so similar to the Swatch, but much more durable and with true classic style… but the Swatch is just fun!

        • making clear that im a seiko guy!!….

          1 example .
          swatch windfall(irony series)

          is made since 1999
          and still selling 2014 ….

          (i dont like swatches…but i see them everywhere…!!)

    • my original swatch autoquartz from 1997, which has sat for many of years between wears.. and yet 20yrs later, with no needed service, still runs reliably and still has a unique styling that seems modern…

  52. This web is verry nice really the work that you do,too!I like whatchs and this was the first web they see the watchs in inside and you do work verry precise and rigorous at the works and think you are a Master for this work!

  53. An interesting and objective exercise. I hope people stumble across it when googling for the watch itself. I agree a previously loved Seiko would be a far more satisfying thing to own, but there is a little, tiny part of me that says if it gets people into mechanical watches it’s a good thing. But only a tiny part. And it’s not soldered or plastic either.

  54. Pingback: Swatch Sistem51 - Analiza mehanizma

  55. I have this watch and the watch I think Its very nice! You can not tell this watch is bullschit or the same please They are lot of people that work on this watch!And I know ıts not a Omega or Rolex this is a 130 dollar best Watch,sorry!

    • For the price, buy 2 $50 Seiko 5s… Or 1 ~$100 5 Sports.

      The 7s26 and 7s36 movements in those are infinitely better.

      • Yes I know but I like this Watch really I wear Swath more as 16 years!Can I tell you somethink?Thank you for the answer because Seiko or the japans are make all that what Swiss watchmaker do you know the seiko grand master is the copy from Omega and I think that is wrong to make the same also the copy they must they have a big komplex reallt I mean the Japans!I lıke seiko 5 too why not but the seiko 5 is not the seiko 5 with the same bevor 20 years! Made in japan is missing to day!All is china and that I like’d thank you!

          • And because the plastik part You know in the since 1970 the tissot make a watch with plastik part and its work verry good! prejudice is not good the swiss watch maker know what he do I think! I had a Seiko 5 from my Dad bevor 18 years ago I love it really but I lost it and I was very upset! but I say again The Seiko 5 is verry different now I must think allways ıts this from China or not and I cant belive when they stay with big letters Made in Japan the soul is gone bevore 18 years ago

          • every seiko that says ”made in japan”
            is made in japan.
            if made elsewhere its mentioned..

            if they where lying you would always see made in japan..
            japananese are serious people
            and dont mess around…

            and they dont use legal tricks to stamp their watches what they want…

        • The proof is in the pudding, e.g. in how the watch does on the timegrapher. Any £50 Seiko does a lot better, with a more stable beat rate, and a straighter line, e.g. less deviation in the beat rate. That’s all that counts – plastic or not.

  56. Apparently “the Sistem51’s movement is made entirely from a material called ARCAP.” Mmm, if i change the letters around a little ….!

  57. I would love a comparison to its main competitor,

    The Seiko 4R36 is a hacking and handwinding automatic movement thats put in to watches as cheap as 140 usd,

    and apparently, its 100x better then the S51.

      • Yeah, but those are the 7s26/7s36, and that doesn’t hack or hand wind. I have watches with the 7s26, 4r37, and 6r15 and they’ve all worked beautifully for me…

  58. I was hoping that a destructive test critique was going to appear on your blob Christian; brilliant and honest piece of Watch journalism. I was also going to buy one of these, going on the positive musings from the QP watch magazine. What a piece of junk!

  59. I think this watch should be judged by what it was designed to do: keep reasonable time on the wrist over a ten-year period. If it manages to do that, an to expose more people to mechanical watches (who might then become interested in “real” watches), I’d say job done.

    It remains to be seen what happens to this movement when Tissot uses it. The plastic parts won’t be acceptable in a more expensive watch.

    • I have a Sea-Gull M177S which cost as I recall £77 delivered from Hong Kong. I have had it three years and it keeps time to about one second a day. It has a beautifully crafted all steel and brass ST16 movement. This disgusting plastic junk movement sold for far more than the watch I am talking about would revolt any first time mechanical watch purchaser and they’d never touch one again.

      Christian did a revue of the M177S and other Sea-Gull watches. Check them out. That’s the comparison price wise.

    • Wow! Some of the replies here are truly awesome! Amidst some really negative and useless ones!

      I especially liked this and the one with the LP reference…

      I am considering buying the S51 and this comment really spoke my mind. I’m starting to get interested in mechanical watches and luxury timepieces but still do not know why I’m paying the entire bank for it… And I think the S51 would be a good place to start!?

      So… I guess the watch really did serve some of it’s purposes…

      Really love the design though… It’s the dirt cheapest alternative to the one Van Cleef & Arpels made (Which is probably the most beautiful timepiece I have ever seen), the reason why I got interested in luxury timepieces in the first place.

  60. I haven’t read all the marketing bumph, however their claim of “one screw to hold it all together” isn’t entirely wrong, they just cheated by soldering everything….. 🙂

    • Wow, lots of unjustified hate round here.

      Their “claim” as you put it is actually “Sistem51’s components are welded together to form a single assembly centred on a single screw.” Which is entirely true and without cheating. But why let facts get in the way of an uninformed negative opinion?

      In fact, since the caseback is clear (itself a £300 option on some NOMOS watches) and you can clearly see the joins, I’m at a loss as to how any right thinking person looking at this without prejudice could expect anything different.

    • Quite, but the Sea-Gulls are not in the same universe. I have two and they are great timekeepers and very nicely built. I have an ST16 and a 6498 clone – I think it goes by the nomenclature ST36. Lovely work and reliable – both of them.

  61. Well actual if we say that piece of chunk cost $$108 I was able to found a year a go one vintage Girard perregaux giromatic on a pawnshop for only the haff of that price and it is in exelent conditions so I definitely won’t buy this type o crap swatch I rather look up for some nice vintage watch that will endure a lot of time

  62. Pingback: Inside the Swatch Sistem51 - not for the faint of heart

  63. Christian,

    Do you think a plastic escapement will function longer without service than a traditional escapement? If so, I wonder if Swatch chose to use plastic for longevity reasons as well as to cut costs. Although if they have cut costs, they’re not passing any savings along to the consumer!

    Also, would a proper, traditional escapement cost much more than this anyway? I have an HMT Janata that cost $40 (U.S.) new, and it doesn’t have any plastic parts and it’s a solid timekeeper. And it can be serviced. Of course, it’s not “Swiss Made.”

    • The HMT movement is far better than this plastic piece of…

      With a bit of tlc, you can pass on your HMT to your children. The Sistem51 won’t make it past the 10 year mark.

    • I think the use of plastic had more to do with consistent performance along a wider range of temperatures. Obviously they still have other areas to work on, but I don’t consider the use of plastic in a non-magnetic watch to be an issue.

      • That is almost correct – it’s about the lubrication. You need lubrication when using a metal escape wheel and pallet stones. With the use of plastic, the need for lubrication at that point is taken away. Unfortunately, the timegrapher shows that the plastic doesn’t perfrom there as it should.

        • I think we’re both correct. You bring up a great point, but that doesn’t mean a polymer can’t be engineered to do both things. In fact, that’s partially why chemical engineering is one of the highest paying fields right now.

  64. Christian, what a metaphorical way of servicing this “watch”… Drilling to the core. I guess you would rather use a hammer if possible.

  65. Christian, Europa Star dismantled a movement as well and were somewhat more enthusiastic about it. It would be worth taking a look at.

    • I quote: “At this point, Denis Asch goes wide-eyed. He cannot believe it: the entire lever is in plastic, including the pallet stones, “this is the real prowess,” he exclaims, “because this is what determines the rate! I have never seen that before! And what’s more, in this plastic, the axes are metallic!”

      If that’s true enthusiasm, than I was enthusiastic, too 😉

      • I’ve read it too – He was rather impressed by it’s “ingenuity” if not by it’s inability to be serviced.

        Disposable rubbish to be consigned to landfill when the oil in it dries out or some piece of plastic inside it snaps.

        • It also states “our watchmaker is dumbfounded: “It’s a miracle that it works, bravo…!”. I suppose that could be construed as impressive in the way a bin bag serves the same purpose as a proper dustbin, say.

  66. What can you say?

    If ever there was a great advertisement for buying vintage when movements had care and attention given to them – this is it. Cheap, plastic disposable crap.

    I know it’s not an expensive watch but for £108 i’d expect better than that.

  67. Pingback: The Watch Thread - Part 6 - Page 412 -

  68. oh my God… what the hell was that!!! what a stupid piece of crap I can’t believe it… the only place I’ve found plastic parts is in a $5 kitchen timer…

  69. Pingback: Sistem51 Teardown By A Watchmaker

  70. i assume the ebay listing is for this particular watch. if i am correct, then i think you should really add language to the listing indicating that the watch can never be put back together or fixed. yes, i realize “parts” seems obvious to you, but others might not understand what has happened to it that resulted in its current state.

    • I thought that was self-explanatory 😉 The photo shows the case pretty clearly, and the state it’s in. I’ve added something to the description of the item listed that will hopefully make it clearer that this watch can’t be put back together.

      • yes, again, i’m sure it seems obvious to you and me. however, in vintage watch circles, “parts watch” is a thing the connotes resusitation- usability in some future endeavor. this will never be the case here. the watch has been destroyed and the parts can never be used for anything else. an art project, maybe, but certainly not anything horological.

  71. The only thing I wonder about….and if you could have hung on before the stripping of the watch….is how good/bad as a timekeeper in every day use this would be.

    Your disappointment is tangible and no wonder.

    Fur coat no knickers?

  72. Great work Christian!

    You are turning out to be something of a Captain Kirk from Star Trek….daring to boldly go where no man has gone (or drilled) before!

    I am sure you will be getting a call from a certain Swiss phone number in the next few days asking you questions in a heavy French accent! 🙂

    Keep them teardowns coming!

  73. Thanks. You just saved me $150US
    I still have a Swatch from 1987 which is still running, I think I will continue to wear that instead of the new one.

  74. I think by ‘revolutionary’ they must just mean that the wheels go round… What a hideous thing! Thanks for sharing – love your work 🙂

  75. Wooooooooow.

    How about as a suggestion for the next teardown, an ETA C01.211 (Lemania 5100-derived) or C07.111 (ETA 2824 derived) movement?

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