Swatch's New Head-Turning Stainless Steel Timepiece

One of the most affordable — and coolest — mechanical watches on the market is now available in steel. The Swatch Sistem51 was first unveiled at Baselworld in 2013, and it was an instant collectible with high-end watch collectors and new watch lovers alike. Featuring a novel 51-component Swiss movement assembled through an entirely automated process, it charmed with its assortment of bright-colored offerings — not to mention the affordable $150 price tag.

Swatch has, nevertheless, decided to take things slightly upmarket with its new “Irony” collection in stainless steel, which is its first serious update to the beloved timepiece. Most importantly, the core of the Sistem51 remains unfettered: 51 parts anchored by a single central screw and the first 90-hour power reserve, 3Hz automatic caliber in watchmaking history untouched by the human hand.

While the power source, date indicator, and transparent case back remain unchanged, most everything else has been redesigned. The debut molded plastic case has been replaced by stainless steel. “Introducing metal cases, based on the exclusive MIM production technique (metal injection molding), was important for the growth of the Swatch world of reference, and a strategic move to expand the customer base in many markets around the world,” says Carlo Giordanetti, Swatch creative director.

In addition to the new metal cases, including one two-tone option, Swatch has outfitted the watches with six new dial designs (including a flight-friendly flieger dial) that are decidedly more elegant and refined than their plastic counterparts. They even boast names such as Boreal, Earth, Arrow, Fly, Soul, and Tux. The stainless steel cases are all polished, apart from the one style with rubber bracelet, where the steel case is brushed for a more sporty look. Add to that both leather strap and steel bracelet options.

“The six models are a mix of more elegant, classy, and discreet looks with a bit more contemporary edginess,” Giordanetti says. “Right now, a touch of vintage is definitely in the air, reflecting a need for reassurance and a warm sense of style.”

Swatch purists may be skeptical of their beloved plastic watch brand venturing outside its comfort zone, but these new pieces remain simple and straightforward (not to mention quartz powered). Those who like to customize their watches, however, won’t be able to mix and match straps due to Swatch’s proprietary lug system. Even with the more luxe upgrade, the watch starts at $195, with stainless steel bracelet versions going for $235. [shop.swatch.com]