Hello everyone! Chinese New Year is almost upon us – I wish all my readers a happy Chinese new year, and if you’re fortunate enough not to be married yet (like me), a lot of angbao money 🙂
Speaking of which, a friend recently asked me: What watch would you buy with your Angbao money? Of course, I have plenty of grail watches in mind – JLC Reverso Duoface, Rolex Cellini Time, A Lange & Sohne Saxonia Annual calendar, etc. However, these watches are out of the reach for the average person (including me at the moment). I’m not a character out of Crazy Rich Asians – my Angbao money isn’t that much! With my lack of financial resources in mind, my response was: the Swatch Sistem 51 Hodinkee Vintage 84. The reason is simple – the watch is a game-changer, and represents a revolution with regards to mechanics, design, and accessibility. Watch the video announcement below:
First of all, the Sistem 51 is revolutionary in terms of it’s mechanics. The Swatch Sistem 51 is the world’s first mechanical movement that’s entirely automated. A mechanical movement being made solely by machines – there’s something poetic about that. Furthermore, it has only 51 components (therefore the name). To me, that represents an incredible leap in mechanical efficiency. The average mechanical (automatic) movements has hundreds of components – Swatch managed to reduce the components required I believe, through the use of a central screw. In addition, the Sistem 51 boasts a whooping 90 hours power reserve, more than doubling their much more expensive (and established) ETA or Sellita movements counterparts. It’s nothing short of an engineering feat, one that in my opinion eclipse any innovations from more revered Swatch Group brands such as Omega or Blancpain. It’s something that I think many people were surprised coming out from Swatch – but they shouldn’t be.
Nowadays, Swatch tend to be invariably linked to vibrantly colored (some might say childish), inexpensive, quartz watches – it certainly isn’t a brand held in high regard even by the masses. However, I think that most people overlook the instrumental role that Swatch played during the quartz crisis to help buoy the Swiss watch industry. In the 1970s where it looked like cheap quartz models from Asia were going to put the Swiss watch industry out of business, the profits generated by the sales of the now iconic Swatch quartz watches helped tide the Swiss watchmaking industry over those turbulent times. Indeed, Swatch can be said in many ways to have paved the way for the revival in popularity of it’s more esteemed Swatch group brands, such as Hamilton, Tissot and Longines. Make no mistake, Swatch is an important watch manufacturer. As such, I always felt that Swatch should produce a mechanical piece – and with the Sistem 51, my hopes have come true.
Furthermore, the Sistem 51 Hodinkee Vintage 84 is also revolutionary in terms of its design. As aforementioned, Swatch designs tend to be bright, colorful, fun – the initial models of the Sistem 51 were designed as such too. Not here though. In this edition, Hodinkee has managed something unprecedented – to infuse vintage styling into a Swatch watch. Hodinkee took the inspiration from a model from Swatch’s Spring 1984 lineup (thus the year 84 in the name), but modified the look for a more modern, forward-looking time. I love the look – it’s a perfect balance of style and minimalism. With the translucent black plastic case (that gives off different color tones in differing lighting), they somehow managed to elevate the Sistem 51 watch while still sticking to Swatch’s roots. The brushed aluminium dial (a first for the Sistem 51) gives off a sleekness typical of Hodinkee, while the presence of the 6 red dots on the dial (which corresponds to the position of the jewels in the movement underneath) – a Sistem 51 signature – is carried over here as well. Combined with the black plastic strap and case, the watch somehow feels Swatch Sistem 51 and Hodinkee in equal parts. To me, this really is a perfect marriage.
In addition, I simply love the fact that Hodinkee collaborated on a $150 watch! More often than not, Hodinkee tends to cover ultra-luxury pieces, from Patek’s perpetual calendars to discussing Rolex and Vacheron pieces in their highly popular Talking Watches series. I don’t think that they even cover $150 watches (the original Sistem 51 excluded, of course) in their articles. So the fact that they actually went ahead and collaborated with Swatch to make a watch at that price point, with nothing fancy (like rare metal or exquisite leather) involved, really appeal to me. There’s a sort of honesty there that I like, and appreciate.
To top it off, the Sistem 51 Hodinkee Vintage 84 is priced at a mere $150 USD (~$200 SGD) – an incredibly affordable offering. The fact that you can own an automatic Swiss-made watch, with a movement as special as the Sistem 51, for the price of a Daniel Wellington is incredible. What’s even more amazing is that this “special” Hodinkee edition carries no price premium over existing Sistem 51 offerings, unlike other collaborations (say, Timex and J.Crew) where there exists a steep price differential. $200 for a Swiss-made automatic watch, and Hodinkee styling cues? An absolute steal. At the point of writing however, all pieces appeared to have been sold out. Second-hand models can still be found on sites like Ebay though.
When the Sistem 51 first came out in 2015, Slate magazine called it “The Timepiece that will change everything”. Somehow, Hodinkee has managed to help Swatch out-revolutionize itself. For me, I’m attracted to timepieces that means and stands for something. The Swatch Sistem 51 Hodinkee Vintage 84 stands for a lot. Without a doubt, this would be the watch that I’ll buy with my Ang Bao money.
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- Model: Sistem51 HODINKEE Vintage 84
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, quick-set date
- Material: Translucent black plastic
- Dimensions: 42mm diameter; 14mm thickness
- Caseback: Transparent display back
- Dial: Brushed aluminum
- Lume: Yes, hour markers and hands
- Caliber: Sistem51, automatic with 51 total components and 19 jewels
- Power Reserve: 90 hours
- Water Resistance: 30 meters
- Strap: Black silicone rubber with plastic pin buckle
- Manufactured: Switzerland