Manufacturing Breakthrough in Automatic Movement – Swatch’s Sistem51
An interesting innovation that came out of BaselWorld2013 was the announcement by Swatch Group of a new automatic movement entirely assembled by robots. Utilizing a new alloy, it will be priced around the USD135 range.
The Swatch Sistem51 is an automatic movement, developed by ETA and Nivarox, made of just 51 parts and features a power reserve of 90 hours. The components are welded together to form a single assembly centered on a single screw. The movement is made of ARCAP, an alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc, which is highly anti-magnetic. The movement will be entirely assembled by robots and completely sourced in Switzerland making it truly a 100 percent Swiss-made timepiece. The high-tech escapement has no regulator; the rate is set at the factory with a laser, making the manual rate adjustments normally required by a mechanical watch unnecessary. All movement components are hermetically sealed within the case so that no moisture, dust or foreign objects can interfere with its operation. The watch will debut in October of 2013.
Below is a picture of the press conference during BaselWorld2013 where a comparative photo of a typical automotive movement (on the left) versus the new Sistem51 (on the right). The modular design of the new movement makes it very easy for robots to manufacture it.
In one swoop, Swatch Group is able to achieve manufacturing efficiency at four levels; shortening the manufacturing process, reducing raw material usage, speed to market and most importantly of all, reducing overall cost.
Other major movement manufacturers should look at this new development seriously. Swatch Group has effectively made it extremely difficult for others to clone the mechanism due to the way it is manufactured. It has also made it extremely cheap to produce, hence, will be the first choice of boutique watchmakers requiring an automatic engine for their designs.
This is very exciting. I believe this is a breakthrough in redesigning automatic movements. I also suspect that this unit will be one that the Swatch group will offer to other watch manufacturers instead of the ETA movement. Swatch Group could effectively flood the market and reduce substantially the market share of other automatic movement manufacturers!
It would also be very interesting to see how other major movement manufacturers will look at this new development.