Swatch unveils 51-piece mechanical watch

The head of Swatch, the world’s biggest watchmaker, unveiled a new mechanical watch at Baselworld on Thursday that the Swiss company hopes will breathe new life into its line of low-cost timepieces.

Swatch unveils 51-piece mechanical watch
Sistem51, the new watch from Swatch. Image: Swatch Group

Nick Hayek, Swatch’s CEO, announced the “Sistem51” watch, to sell for between 100 and 200 francs ($106-$212), at the annual watch and jewellery fair in Basel. 

The company touts the “simplicity” and innovation of the new watch, completely made in Switzerland, which uses a self-winding mechanical movement made from 51 components.

Most mechanical watches have at least twice as many parts and some have more than 600, Swatch said on its website.

The Sistem51 is a world first because it has the only mechanical movement ever made whose assembly is 100 percent automated, the company said.

Its components are “welded together to form a single assembly centred on a single screw”.

The movement is also made of an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc that is anti-magnetic and has a 90-hour power reserve.

The new watch, to be available to consumers in October, took almost two years to develop with close cooperation between the various companies in the Swatch Group, research and development director Thierry Conus told media.

Around 100 watchmakers and engineers worked on the Sistem51, which is protected by 17 patents.

The Swatch Group, which manufactures a range of luxury watches, has never presented its Swatch brand models at Baselworld before.

But Hayek recalled the important role played by the plastic watches, which were first produced 30 years ago last month.

The success of the Swatch is credited with helping lift the Swiss watch industry out of the doldrums at a time when it was facing strong competition from Japanese brands.

The Bienne-based company, maker of such other brands as Omega, Breguet and Tissot, recorded record sales of more than eight billion francs last year.

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Swatch branches out into ‘cool shades’ market

Swatch, Switzerland’s largest watch company, is branching out into sunglasses for a second time through a deal announced on Tuesday with Italian eyewear creator Safilo.

Swatch branches out into 'cool shades' market
Photo: Swatch

The two companies announced an agreement to collaborate on Swatch branded sunglasses billed as “creative, playful and lifestyle oriented”.

The new line of “Swatch The Eyes” will be rolled out in the spring.

Under the deal, the two companies will co-design eyewear collections while Safilo will develop and manufacture the eyewear.

Biel-based Swatch said the sun specs will be distributed through its global retail network and Safilo’s US retail chain, to be followed by additional selected North American retailers.

“Recreating a success story in eyewear via the reinterpretation of the category is an exciting challenge,” Swatch president Nick Hayek said in a statement.

“Beyond timepieces, eyewear also belongs to those product categories that customers enjoy because they merge fun, style and emotion,” Nayek said.

“We are adding an iconic brand to our portfolio, complementing our presence in the vast and fast growing mass cool consumer segment with a unique proposition that leverages the smart, playful, innovative DNA of Swatch,” Safilo CEO Luisa Delgado said.

Swatch, known for its iconic plastic watches as well as its ownership of luxury timepiece brands, earlier tried a foray in the sunglass market in the 1990s that was later abandoned.

The fresh venture comes as Swatch is struggling to boost revenues in the face of the strong Swiss franc, which ate into the company’s bottom line for 2015.

The company last week reported a net profit for the year of 1.12 billion francs, down 21 percent from 2014, while sales dipped 0.9 percent to 8.45 billion francs.