One of the Most Affordable Mechanical Watches on the Market, Now in Steel

By ditching the plastic case for stainless steel, Swatch is expanding the appeal of its low-end mechanical watch.


Unveiled at Baselworld in 2013, the Swatch Sistem51 was universally lauded for its Swiss mechanical movement, playfully bright appearance and dirt-cheap price of just $150. That low price tag was a result of some unorthodox (for the watch industry, anyway) engineering: the movement was assembled through an entirely automated process, mostly from plastic, and put in a plastic case. But while the Sistem51’s appeal has rested primarily in its cheap-and-cheerful nature and bold colorways, Swatch has decided to take the timepiece ever so slightly upmarket by offering an “Irony” version in stainless steel.

In addition to the new metal cases on the Swatch Sistem51 Irony, the brand has outfitted the watches with a collection of six new dial designs (including a flieger!) that are a bit more refined than their plastic counterparts. Swatch also outfitted the Sistem51 Irony with both leather strap and steel bracelet options. But inside each watch is the same movement from the original: the 51-part, 3Hz, automatic mechanical caliber with a 90-hour power reserve. Even with the higher-end case material, prices haven’t surged much from the Sistem51’s price tag: the watch starts at $195, with versions fitted with the stainless steel bracelet going for $235.

For budding watch lovers and collectors with more austere tastes, this new stainless steel Swatch should be a fantastic new option, though it may have to do battle in the affordable watch sector with the long-time, low-budget darling Seiko 5 when it goes on sale September this year.

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