That time I fell in love with the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Up/Down (ref. 221.025)

Lange 1815 Movement Feature

Watch shows can feel a bit like a meat market. Everything you are told is rare, precious, etc. somehow appears under one roof. Watches are traded, bought, and sold for business. There is no marketing or sentimentality. For many the experience can be intimidating and disenchanting. Admittedly, even after attending several of them, I am still the former. What I love about the shows is the ability to experience so many different watches without all the pretention, a pushy salesperson, or a PR guy with white gloves telling you what’s so special about a particular watch.

Usually I spend the first hour or so meandering around trying to find some pieces to work on and write about. After that I park my self behind the booth of one of the most trusted and prominent dealers in the vintage world where I know I will get to see some of the most interesting pieces coming and going. Matthew Bain has spent decades building one of the most solid reputations in the business. He is unquestionably one of the most knowledgeable individuals on vintage pieces, but most importantly (for me at least) he has a true passion for what he does from six and seven figure Pateks to the four figure wacky pieces from the 70s. He can appreciate a watch regardless of the price. The best metaphor I can think of is he is like an exotic car dealer who is also smitten by a Wood-Paneled Wagoneer. More important than any of that is that he is a nice guy who is willing to share his knowledge. A very close childhood friend of mine is his right-hand man Morgan (which probably has a lot to do with why Matt puts up my loitering and endless questions), which is how I got introduced to Matt’s operation and the watch shows.

Now that I have set the scene at some length, its time to get to the watch I fell in love with. While talking to my friend another dealer handed him a non-descript clear plastic envelope. Inside it there were two watches. One instantly caught my eye so I asked if I could pull it out and take a closer look. It turned out to be a classic A. Lange & Sohne 1815 with an up/down wind indicator. It is such a clean simple and perfectly executed watch. The dial side contains two sub-dials; one for the seconds at 4 and one for the power reserve at 8. As a big fan of tasteful standard bucking, I love the placement of the sub-second dial. The two-tiered dial is beautiful and reminiscent of old top grade pocket watches. The hands for me are perfection. They are so dead simple and classic. Their incredibly narrow sharp points give an ever so subtle air of precision. The different hands on the sub-dials are also a great touch.

Lange 1815 Dial

On the movement side, I think it is fair to say there are few watches that can show so little and be so strikingly beautiful. Their movements are made from untreated German silver that takes on an amazing patina over time. The finishing is impeccable (as one would expect.) When it comes to exhibition backs, one can clearly see the divide between the Swiss and the Germans. The Germans reveal relatively little about the movement, but what they do show is an attention to aesthetic and detail that lets you know that what you don’t see is just fine away from your prying eyes. The hand engraved balance cock combined with the silver plate does well to indicate that what lies beneath is what one would expect from German attention to detail and precision. The more recent versions of the 1815 reveal a bit more, but I personally prefer this movement. This one remains ever so slightly truer to the German style. For a comparison see the link:

Lange 1815 Movement

Finally and most importantly is how the watch fits. Like everything else on the watch it just seems to fit perfectly. I was really sad to have to take it off and hand it back. It sits on the wrist like it belongs. At 36mm it is small by most standards, but its just right on the wrist. The Platinum gives it just enough heft to let you know something special is there, but it’s for you to know and appreciate, not for everyone else. After my experience with this watch I can definitely say one will be in my collection one day. In the meantime, I will return to the pictures on this post, and remember the time I became enamored with the 1815. I can only hope that this piece goes to an owner who will appreciate its beauty the way I did when I had the opportunity to handle it.

Lange 1815 Side

This piece is currently for sale by Matthew Bain and can be found at:–down-platinum–id2878784.htm

1972 Omega f300 Electronic Constellation (Reference 198.002)

Omega f300 Feature

A few months back I wrote about the famous Bulova Accutron and the bitter rivalry between Bulova and Omega. What I love so much about this watch is that it is a piece of historical irony on your wrist. After their bitter rivalry, Omega went on to use the very technology they fought against in the Horological Space Race. It is more or less an Accutron in Omega clothing. If nothing else, it really speaks to the advanced technological feat that Bulova achieved with their tuning fork movements. Omega swallowed their pride and put a Bulova movement in their Chronometers. To be fair it was not technically a Bulova movement but was a movement made by ESA with technology licensed from Bulova. It is in tiny wording on the inside of the case back, but Omega did pay homage to the Accutron movement and its creator in the way any Swiss watch company would (secretly and in a way that most customers wouldn’t know they borrowed the technology from an American company.)

Omega f300 Caseback

The more detailed story behind the movement in this piece is that in 1970 an ex-Bulova developer named Max Hetzel licensed the tuning for technology from Bulova and improved it to make it more robust and reliable. Nicknamed the Mosaba (Montres Sans Balanciers) the ESA tuning fork movement improved on the positional fix of the tuning forks allowing for little to no deviation in time keeping due to slight positional errors. Additionally, they greatly decreased the length of the index finger (which anyone who has ever worked on an Accutron can tell you is a blessing.) This fragile tendril on an Accutron could easily be knocked out of alignment by a shock making them particularly fragile.

Omega f300 Movement 1 Omega f300 movement 2

The f300 tuning for Omegas are fantastic pieces that provide the great styling of a 70s Omega with the seductive hum of an Accutron. It’s a perfect watch for someone who wants the innovation of the Accutron with the name of an Omega.

I got this watch in relatively rough external shape and was unsure of its running ability. The gasket was melted, and the crystal was incredibly scratched and unoriginal, but I knew that with enough care it could be a great looking 70s showpiece. That it was on the original band was a huge bonus. I figured that if I could get the right parts and clean it up enough I would have a great complete and original piece.

Sure enough with a cleaning, a genuine Omega crystal, and a fresh battery this chronometer is humming once again. It has a few scratches, but is in unpolished condition, and is a fantastic piece of Constellation history.

A great source for more information about this movement can be found at:

Omega f300 Leaned Omega f300 Band  Omega f300 Front

Omega f300 Side


3D Printed Horology (The 1000% Tourbillon)

NM Tourbillon Feature 2

Horology and 3D printing share one of the same common misconceptions: neither of these activities is as easy as they may appear from the surface. We are led to believe that all you need is a 3D printer and your child will never need a new toy. The reality, like the gears or electronics behind the watch dial, is far more complex. 3D printing does however come with very significant advantages. Bottom up manufacturing means that once the hugely time consuming design and manufacturing phase is complete, you transfer the file over to your printer and the rest is no-waste, automated manufacturing requiring little to no human intervention.

Given the amazing ingenuity of watch and clock mechanics it was only a matter of time until someone took the time to engineer and reproduce watch complications in huge magnification so that their innovation can be fully appreciated. Huge tourbillions for educational purposes are ironically much more rare than the actual tourbillions in breathtakingly expensive watches, and are a sight usually seen only in watch schools after hours upon hours upon hours of hard and precise manual labor. Someone finally took the time to combine two difficult skills and is now making 3D printed horological models has shattered this status quo of hard to obtain educational/entertainment models for horology.

To explain what a tourbillon does is far easier than explaining how. It is not a far-fetched claim to say many people who buy them do not fully comprehend the mechanical intricacy of the complication that is on their wrist. For one thing, it’s incredibly hard to see in its entirety by virtue of its size. Fortunately, with scale, complexity becomes understandable, it just took someone with the skills to put it all together; an engineer/watchmaker.

Nicholas Manousos has used 3D printing to create the awe-inspiring Tourbillon 1000% model. More than just any tourbillon he has created a Daniel’s (co-axial) Symmetrical Tourbillon. It is truly a sight to behold. Seeing a Tourbillon at 1000% scale in motion really puts into perspective the complication involved with horological innovation and fabrication.

Originally educated as an engineer, Nick decided to take the plunge and go to Watchmaking School. After that, he dropped his tweezers, metal movements, and bench and started his lab where he now devotes his full time to designing and building 3D printed complications.

I had the chance to have coffee with Nicholas to talk about his perspective on horology, 3D printing, and to see the model in person. All three were fascinating. It took him 3 years of design, prototyping, and improvements to land where he is today, but he still sees it as an ever-evolving innovative process. The advantage of 3D printing is that you modify, print, try, and repeat until its right. I am pretty sure that since we had coffee he has made several tweaks to the design. The result is a stunning model that very quickly rekindled the mechanical fascination that got me into watchmaking in the first place. Rarely does one think of such beautiful innovations coming in plastic, but it is truly awe-inspiring.

Because of its size and construction, I was able to disassemble it (at Nick’s encouragement) easily and look at the various components, and reassemble it. It seems strange, but it was easier to assemble the 1000% Tourbillon than it is to assemble many simple clocks. It seems so simple, but there was so much that went into it. One can only imagine what Nick’s graveyard of gears must look like this far into his work. Fortunately, unlike physical fabrication, the reproducibility of 3D printed objects is far easier, and all one has to do is print. Therein lies the promise of this combination of technology with horology, but it is a double-edged sword.

NM Tourbillon Screws NM Tourbillon Balance NM Tourbillon Escape Wheel NM Tourbillon Escape wheel Close UP

What makes complicated watches so expensive is a combination of marketing, rarity, and difficulty of manufacture and assembly. Mechanical innovations come at very steep prices (think about the GP Constant Force Escapement or the Patek Philippe Advanced Research pieces.) The reproducibility of pieces like Grande Complications are very difficult and each new one must start from pieces of metal that are shaped by incredible machines and more incredible humans. Design and prototyping takes a very long time because after something is conceptualized, it must be fabricated by machine and hand and tested. Finally, rarity is maintained because of the various different set of expertise involved with creating these masterpieces. 3D printing jumps over these manufacturing steps and potentially allows for anyone with a printer to manufacture their own (or someone else’s) creations with some plastic and the push of a button and for just the cost of the polymer and whatever extras there may be. While the technology is still very far from being able to let people print even the simplest wristwatch, it should not be too long. It will take a huge increase in the resolution of the printer, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Given the speed of the rendering relative to the old-school manufacturing process, one can easily reproduce and improve on designs. The improvements that may be recognized by this process and by being able to have a nearly infinite amount of horologists and engineers print, analyze, and improve designs. Unfortunately this means that the dollar value of innovation is drastically decreased, and the value of being a first-mover can be nil. Nick is acutely aware of the potential and the dilemma he is creating by being able to prototype, build, and share his innovation so rapidly and at such a large scale.

At the end of the day to really make a difference will require more people like Nick, who have the skills to push the bounds of horology with this new method of manufacture, and a nurturing group of experts to help would be innovators over the steep learning curves of both horology and 3D printing expertise.

In the meantime, I am fully content to watch Nicholas’ tourbillon oscillate while I wait for his next creation.

(I am also getting a printer…….)

I encourage you to visit his site to see more about his process and his lab at and if you are interested, drop him a line about purchasing one.

NM Tourbillon Cased NM Tourbillon Printer NM Tourbillon Printing NM Tourbillon Case

1964 Rolex Tru-Beat (Caliber 1040)

Rolex Tru-Beat Side-Angle

One of the best things about watchmaking is that when people realize it is something you do, they always have a watch that needs fixing. Usually it’s a non-working sentimental heirloom piece that has sat in a drawer for years. Unfortunately, the world of watch repair can be so opaque that many people are scared to approach it unless they know someone. It’s not hard to either get taken advantage of or to wind up with a bill that far outstrips the value of the piece. Furthermore, watchmakers usually can’t give a price until they have put in a significant amount of work, making it very hard to back out. All of these issues make people very comfortable with coming to me with a watch that needs fixing. Most of the time it is a relatively simple watch, but occasionally it is an unbelievable rarity, and a privilege to work on. This Rolex Tru-Beat was certainly one of the most exceptional rarities I have yet had the pleasure to work on.

I was handed this watch in non-running condition and although it needed a huge amount of work, it was worth every bit of it. I am personally a bit wary of the Rolex collector market for several reasons. One of the major reasons being that what seems to determine the value of the pieces is not mechanical but purely aesthetic. It’s all about the dial, or the bezel, or the crown. To me that’s all well and good, but I like interesting content not a $60,000 price tag for a bake-lite bezel. This fact in Rolex collecting also makes it much easier to fake things (change a dial and the price goes up 10x.) This makes it all the more important that you go to a trusted vintage dealer like Matthew Bain, etc. For evidence of just how big the sums can be, see the current lawsuit between John Mayer and vintage dealer Bob Maron.

The Tru-Beat is a little different than typical Rolex, and that is what I love about it. It has a dead-second complication, meaning the second hand “ticks” rather than flows. It was only produced for a very short period, and it is rare for its guts more than its dial (the dial however is nice too.) The caliber is a 1040. This is based off of a 1030 but has some additional height issues to accommodate the delicate and beautiful dead-second components. Watching it in motion it amazing. Fortunately for me (and more so for its owner) the dead-second components were totally fine and functional, so getting parts from a 1030 would be no problem. The only 1040-specific part I needed was the higher transfer wheel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Rolex Tru-Beat Movement 2 Rolex Tru-Beat Movement 3

After a thorough cleaning and inspection I found the things that were in dire need of replacement. Years of sitting in a box and running without oil undoubtedly cause wear. In the end I needed a new mainspring, transfer wheel, escape wheel, and automatic gear train. Even if an automatic watch doesn’t run, the rotor still does. Fortunately, all these parts were obtainable and the final repair bill was less than just about any modern Rolex service. Additionally I put a new crystal on it do the near perfect condition of the dial and hands could be fully showcased.

Back together, the “tick” of the dead-second is incredible to see. It was a pleasure to work on. I continue to be amazed by the phenomenal variety of pieces people bring to me and that I get to work on, but this one was Tru-ly special.

Rolex Tru-Beat Feature Rolex Tru-Beat Side 2 Rolex Tru-Beat Side

1970s Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Caliber 916

JLC Memovox Feature

Most of the time, watches can be brought back to near perfect vintage condition with some care, the right parts, and lots of time. You might need a part here, a part there, and maybe a new crown and crystal, and some other casework. Then there are some watches that can only be brought back to a point that is near to perfect, but just not quite there no matter how much you may try. There are just certain unattainable parts that prevent a watch from reaching its prior perfection. This Memovox is a great example of the latter. While its flaws represent a slight detraction in overall value, it presents a fantastic buy opportunity for those with the patience to wait for the one perfect part to show up. As can be seen in the pictures, this piece is one original crown away from near perfection.

From where it was to where it is today is a true story of restoration. I got it in non-running condition, with a broken alarm, scratched to hell, and with a crystal so cloudy that you could barely read the time or see the alarm indicator. Additionally, the alarm stem was not the right stem, the crown tube was crushed, and it did not have an original crown. After a torturously long restoration that involved some of the hardest parts to find, I was able to remedy everything except the non-original crown and some of the scratches on the case back. I do not know why improper case opening is so common. It is not hard to do it right and it is beyond me as to why so many people not only do it wrong, but after damaging the back, they persist. Get a good opener or don’t touch the back.

JLC Memovox Broken and Proper Alarm Mechanism JLC Memovox Movement without Rotor JLC Memovox Movement JLC Memovox Case Back

Introduced by Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1950 the Memovox is the slightly less revered, but the more rugged, sportier younger brother of the Reverso. In 1956 Jaeger-LeCoultre surprised the world with their invention of first self-winding alarm wristwatch. The 70s then saw this movement redesigned into the stunning Caliber 916 contained within this watch. It is an intricate and very well engineered piece and most certainly a pleasure to work on.

Although they were not the first to invent this complication, they certainly are the most well know for it as they have continuously produced alarm models since their inception. The second most famous maker is Vulcain who introduced their Cricket (which I hope to get my hands on soon) in 1947 becoming the first to introduce this complication into the wristwatch market.

Some of the Memovoxes like the Polaris model have the funky 70s look to them, but this one is much more plain and elegant. The blue inner dial with the arrow functions as the alarm indicator. Encased in a simple circular case the watch very well bridges the gap between sport and dress.

JLC Memovox Dial

The restore required two new mainsprings (one for the alarm and one for the main power), a new stem, a new alarm mechanism, two new crown tubes, and a new crystal. This was neither short nor easy, but now that it’s done, it is an absolutely beautiful piece with the one major blemish being the non-original crown and the more minor but very noticeable off the wrist case back scratches. Other than these constant reminders of its sordid past, I am hugely pleased with the outcome, and while the crown is an irking detail, with enough time and patience, I am sure that either its potential new owner or I can track down the proper crown and bring this piece to its full glory.

JLC Memovox Crowns

Other than this imperfection, the watch is a great historical piece now in phenomenal internal condition, and definitely a check off my list of pieces I have wanted to work on.

JLC Memovox Hanging JLC Memovox Side 1

1950s Universal Geneve Genta Polerouter (Cal. 218-2)

Genta Polerouter Feature

In the world of the Universal Geneve Polerouter there is one variation that all collectors have a particular affinity for: the Genta Polerouter.

Gerald Genta is a name all collectors know but few outside the collector’s circle do. He was a watch designer who created some of the most immortal and unique pieces. Today these pieces are the foundation of some watch brands. He designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Phillipe Nautillus, and the Cartier Pasha among others, but before these incredibly avante garde and iconic pieces was one of his first: the Universal Geneve Polerouter. At the age of 23 he created this beautiful, and insanely reasonably priced collectors piece.

The raised chapter ring gives the watch a sense of depth, which is a feat given how thin this was is for an automatic. The trapezoidal date window is another element Genta added to make this watch ever so slightly different from everything else on the market. It is very important to note should you be a stickler for all original, that the best way to know is to look at the crystal. Universal Geneve made crystals with specially shaped date magnifiers for these watches. They are impossible to find and so finding one with its original crystal is a huge plus. This piece unfortunately is without that crystal (but I am just getting into one with the original which will be photographed and posted soon.) Finally, the subtle sunburst streaks on the dial that radiate out from the center creates radiant streaks that sync up with the chapter ring and make this watch catch light different than most others.

Genta Polerouter Angle Genta Polerouter Side Genta Polerouter Date Window

My work on this piece consisted of a usual full service but no major repair work. When I got it I noticed a slight rattle in the automatic works which is totally normal with these pieces. The rotor wearing or the axle breaking is quite common. What I found however was significantly (and pleasantly) more minor. There are two screws that fix the automatic works to the mainplate. One of those screws was missing. Once that was in the piece worked and wound like a charm.

Genta Polerouter Offset Date Wheel Genta Polerouter Sans Rotor

While I generally have a strong preference for black bands, this watch just looked better with brown. While a black band can provide a very prominent contrast to help highlight some of a watch’s subtle details, this watch needs no such contrast and looks perfectly at home on its band.

All together this is a fantastic collector’s piece. It is an amazing design and considering that at the time Genta was in his early 20s, and it was most certainly a brilliant first step in the legacy of the watch world’s most revered designer. Its price point makes it one of the best deals in watch collecting. If you haven’t added one to your collection, I would very seriously consider it.

Genta Polerouter Front Genta Polerouter Movement Genta Polerouter Movement 2

Caveat Emptor (Caliber: Made-Up Ulysse Nardin)

Fake Ulysse Nardin Side

Occasionally in the course of my work, I wind up in a situation where I have a massive waiting time for parts to come in for the various projects and I find myself unable to complete a project really worth writing about (or i give it back to my customer before remembering to photograph it.) Given the amount of things awaiting completion on the bench I am confident that I will return to watchmaking adventures soon. In the meantime (and given a recent experience with a guy I do a lot of vintage work for) I think it is important to start writing about one of the most pervasive elements in collecting and one of the things that really keeps a lot of people out of this great world; forgeries. The vintage watch world is unfortunately rife with dishonesty, and there are many tricks people pull to make a buck. Some of these are incredibly obvious to spot like re-dials, and some are entirely unintentional mistakes like over-polishing, or not noticing a crown difference, but some can be crafty and downright sinister.

The Ulysse Nardin that this guy bought started off on the wrong foot. The watch he received was clearly not the watch pictured (it is also worth noting that this seller then listed another watch with the same picture.)

While this seller has often changed username and relisted the same watch, the original listing can be found here:


Fake Ulysse Nardin Bottom Dial Fake Ulysse Nardin Top Dial Fake Ulysse Nardin Flat

The dial was a bit more roughed up. When he showed it to me I was immediately suspect. It just didn’t feel right. Sometimes its easy to spot fakes because not everything is properly signed. In this instance however, the watch did fit all of the first general criteria: signed movement, signed case, and signed dial. Turns out however that this was an intentional and misleading tactic. The case didn’t match the movement condition. The case was in phenomenal shape but the dial and movement had seen better days. Generally the opposite is the case. This was some clear evidence that something was up.

Fake Ulysse Nardin Case Fake Ulysse Nardin Movement Bridge

Stylistically, the dial did not match the bezel. I have never before seen a watch that has a redundant tachymeter. It was more likely mounted in a more plain case as was common at that time. A professional opinion on the piece confirmed my suspicions that this was a “franken-watch” and while it is all technically Ulysse Nardin components (possibly) it is not a Ulysse Nardin as they had intended it and thus not an original piece, and has no value as a Ulysse Nardin.

Fake Ulysse Nardin Tach Close up

If you are in doubt, walk away. In my experience if it either looks too good to be true (like a perfect dial from the 50s), or something seems just a little off, it’s generally not a collectible piece.

The best advice I can ever give is: educate, educate, educate, and consult a collector or professional. Most of all, find a dealer and a watchmaker you can trust.



Glycine Airman Special (Cal. AS 1700/01)

Glycine Airman Feature

Within military watches there are two sub-divisions. There are military specification and then there are watches that were common among G.I.s, SEALs, pilots, etc. This Glycine, like the Zodiac Sea Wolf, belongs in the latter category, but you wouldn’t know it from the design and build. The 24-hour dial is unmistakably military, and the bezel and hands fit perfectly on the wrist of a pilot, and that is exactly where these gained their popularity during the Vietnam War.

According to Hans Brechbuler, the managing director of the company (and its purchaser in 1984) the Airman evolved based on feedback directly from pilots. According to him, US fighter pilots were very active in providing feedback on their needs from a timepiece in the cockpit. While this watch gained significant popularity between its introduction in 1953 and the 70s, like so many others on this blog, it came to a very abrupt drop-off when quartz hit the market. Things got so bad for the company that they where whittled down to a skeleton staff, and eventually purchased by their current owner. Fortunately, our fascination with mechanical pieces has picked up drastically, and modern Glycine watches are still available and can be found at a very reasonable price/quality ratio.

Glycine built a a hack function around the movement making it a somewhat unique mechanism. Unlike other hack functions this one stopped the hand only at 0 (or 24 or 12 depending on your perspective.) The idea being that like with other hack functions, squadrons could precisely coordinate time. Unlike most hack mechanisms Glycine built their function into the case rather than the movement.  Because of this there is no way to get the necessary part should something go wrong. This has led to an unfortunately large amount of these fantastic watches to not have a working hack function. This watch came without it, but that didn’t stop me from restoring or appreciating it. In addition to the hack function, they also built a locking bezel and a small GMT spike off the back of the hour hand to coordinate with the bezel.

Glycine used two different base calibers. One from AS and one from Felsa. The one here is an AS 1700/01 movement with the slight modification of the motion works (the gears where the hands are attached) which makes it revolve only once every 24 hours. Although it is slightly odd at first, once you are used to the dial it is fantastic, and its look really does have a style befitting a cockpit (see the Hamilton 37500 for reference.)

Glycine Airman Movement 1 Glycine Airman Movement 2

As with all military watches, I put a canvas band on this one as well, but thought black was better than the green.  Also, as this is the most valuable military wristwatch I have worked on, I opted for the padded rather than plain. Unlike the other military pieces, this one combines history with utility. It is sized and wears on the wrist like a modern piece.

Glycine Airman Side Angle

While I am not positive, I believe this is probably one of the last really famous mechanical military wristwatches before they all switched to quartz. Back together it is one of the most wearable military timepieces I have worked on. It will be a tough call whether to sell this one or add it to the personal collection….

Glycine Airman Bezel 2 Glycine Airman Side Glycine Airman Side Angle Glycine Airman Dial

Review: Swatch Sistem51

Sistem51 Black Front  Sistem51 Red Flat

After a few weeks with the Sistem51 I am ready to write my final opinion on the piece. As a fan of innovative mechanics, I was incredibly anxious to get this watch on my wrist. Fortunately I have some wonderful family in Geneva who helped me out in this quest. While we unfortunately live in a world where people don’t get excited too excited over reasonably priced watches, and “innovation” usually comes with a price tag of over $20,000, it is refreshing to be able to write (positively) about a new piece that every watch lover can (and should) enjoy.

At first glance these watches, packaging and all, are indistinguishable from regular Swatches. Initially I expected more, but then again, most people don’t really care for the innovation, they just want an automatic Swatch. Only nerds like me really care about the movement inside. I will first cover the nerdy parts and then delve into hands on experience of the watch. Should you not care for the engineering part you can go right down to the section titled “On The Wrist.”

For those who do not know the details, the Sistem51 is the first mechanical watch assembled entirely by machine. In this day and age that sounds like an odd concept, but when one sees the intricacy of mechanical watches, it becomes clear just how tough of a feat this was to accomplish. Watchmaking is one of the few industries where people are absolutely necessary for the very fine and iterative micromechanical movements needed to assemble a watch. Wheels and pinions need to be precisely aligned, the balance wheel needs to be lined up perfectly in the pallet fork, and several tiny compound movements are required to assemble and properly fit mechanisms. Because all the parts are dynamic no two assemblies are exactly the same, making the process nearly impossible to automatize. What is further impressive is that Swatch included a date function on the watch, meaning that there were several functions back and front to be assembled by a machine. All of these components are held together by a single screw visible on the back. This whole package is then hermetically sealed. There is no way into the watch for service. It is expected to run for 20 years without intervention.

Sistem51 Red Rotor Sistem51 Black Rotor 2

Engineering aside, this movement solves a growing problem for the Swiss watch industry. As price points for mechanical movements decline mostly due to the low costs of labor in Asia, Swiss manufacturers find themselves in a market where they cannot compete for mass quantity cheap mechanical movements. In a world where cost has won out over quality, the Swiss have found themselves in a losing battle, but this new low-cost, high-quality mechanical movement that allows a fashion watch to say “Swiss Made” has the potential to change the market entirely. Because the movements are made without human hands, they can achieve scale without offshoring or needing to up labor costs drastically. While this is total speculation, this is my hypothesis for why this movement was finally made. As there is no more valuable single attribute to a watch, the Swiss are banking on their name and some innovative manufacturing to recapture a market in which they have lost ground. As Swatch CEO Nicholas Hayek said in an interview with watch insider (found here: controlling the lower market segment allows for a better command of the middle and upper segments (as well as making your business much healthier.) As the most dominant force in all market segments, he clearly understands the importance of his company’s creation. The Sistem51 will hopefully allow them to truly recapture this segment from further international encroachment and give consumers a confidence in the quality of lower cost automatic watches. The precision and quality of Swiss manufacturing has been the gold standard for centuries, and the more that that quality can be brought to the broader market, and accessible to all, the better.

On The Wrist

When I first got this watch the first thing I did was to check all the functions. The manual wind spins in the opposite direction one would expect but there is nothing bad about that, it just takes some getting used to.  The quickset date is always a great function and works perfectly. The only thing I noticed that was consistently off (I got three watches) was when the date changed. The date flipped more than one hour and 40 minutes late. This was a frustrating thing to be so off. The movement is entirely sealed there is no way to change this problem. Looking past this however there is plenty to like about this watch.

The rotor is clear allowing for an unobstructed view of the mechanics. Swatch also made the rotation visually stunning by adding patters to the back of the movement and the perimeter of the rotor creating a very nice sight as the rotor moves. The constellation patters on the dial makes for a unique and eye catching front as well.

Sistem51 Black Rotor

Sistem51 Red Dial Close-up   Sistem51 Black Flat

The size of the watch is normal by today’s standards and is very well suited to both a man’s wrist or a woman who prefers timepieces on the larger side. Because of the plastic construction (Similar to the Tissot 2250) the weight is incredibly light. The slight downside to this low weight is that vibration is very easily detectable on the wrist and as a result you can occasionally hear and feel the rotor winding

Sistem51 Rotors

The band comes in either leather or on a silicone. The latter is unbelievably comfortable. As an everyday or a sports watch it wears lightly and comfortably. The slightly dressed up black version that comes on a leather band has a less pronounced constellation design on the front making it blend well in a more dressy setting.

Sistem51 Black Angle

The Sistem51 is the most wearable piece of horological innovation in a long time. If you don’t care for innovation, it is still an attractive and comfortable Swatch. While its not super fancy, its innovation definitely makes it a staple for any watch collection. With a price tag in the $200-300 range this watch is affordable on almost any watch budget.

Sistem51 Red Angle   Sistem51 Black Angle

1970s Tissot Astrolon (Caliber 2250)

Tissot 2250 Feature

Sometimes innovations do not succeed simply because they are ahead of their time. The Tissot 2250 is a great example of an innovation that was sabotaged due to poor marketing and timing. It came out right as Quartz was killing the middle and lower markets. Most of the technologically advanced pieces killed by quartz that I have written about to date dealt with transitional integration of electronics into timepieces. This watch used polymer technology to overcome one of the most long-standing and unavoidable problems of mechanical watches: lubrication. Also referred to as the SYTAL (Systeme Total d’Autolubrification) it was designed to never need to be oiled. This was as much of a benefit to watchmakers as it was to consumers. Not only is oiling a watch crucial to its proper function, but as with any task that requires a huge amount of diligence and care, some people look to take shortcuts or genuinely don’t care, and invariably screw it up. I cannot tell you how many watches I have opened up to find literally doused with oil, have oil where it shouldn’t be, or where the oil is improperly applied.

Taken out of its historical context, this is a fantastic piece of mechanical innovation, the likes of which would not reappear until just recently with the Swatch Sisteme51. This new innovation (soon to be reviewed here) is the first mechanical watch to be assembled entirely by machine. Additionally it is claimed that it will run for 20 years without need for service. Forgive my skepticism, but this is the same industry that has brought us the “Lifetime Mainspring” which as any watchmaker knows is one of the least true statements in watchmaking history. While somewhat cynical on claims based off of these types of innovations, this Tissot restores some of my faith in the next generation of technology as after more than 30 years it is still running strong and accurately which Is more than I can say about many of the quartz movements of the time that have crossed my bench.

I feel that there are two major problems with this watch, both of which are a result of the plastic construction. There is virtually no weight to the watch making it feel insignificant on the wrist. It is a hard sensation to describe, but it is similar to when you service a quartz movement. The weight just isn’t there to give it any feeling of significance. Additionally the plastic, while certainly innovative, makes the watch look a touch cheap. That being said it is still a fantastic piece and watching the escapement through the back, though it does not have the same significance of watching metal move, still remains a mesmerizing site.

While not all innovations (especially those in horology) become standard or successful even if they are indeed an improvement on the status quo it does not diminish the importance of this movement and the research that went into it. This is most certainly a great oddball piece to add to the collection right next to the electrics, electronics, and Accutrons.

Tissot 2250 Back Tissot 2250 Movement Tissot 2250 Angled Tissot 2250 Movement 2

Tissot 2250 Front