Back in 2013, Swatch replica watches UK made a huge announcement at Baselworld that they would be producing and selling a new type of Swiss mechanical watch for a new low price. The watch would be known as the Swatch Sistem 51, be priced at around $150, and use a new type of robotically-produced mechanical movement made from just 51 parts.
While the Japanese and other Asian manufacturers have been producing mechanical watches for much cheaper for a long time, the fact that a Swiss watch maker was entering the “budget mechanical fake watch” market was very interesting. The best way of explaining the purpose of the Swatch Sistem 51 for me was as a means for Swatch to help young people enter the world of mechanical watches with an attractive and budget-priced watch that would allow them to later “graduate” into more expensive and luxurious mechanical watches. Allow me to remind you that watch brands such as Hamilton, Longines, Omega, and Breguet are all under the larger Swatch Group umbrella.
Perhaps the irony of Swatch’s high-volume production mechanical watches produced by robots was that they experienced production delays that led to a slower-than-anticipated rollout of Swatch Sistem 51 watches around the world. It was not until late 2014 that the Swatch Sistem 51 collection was officially available for sale in the USA.
One of the best things you can say about the Swatch Sistem 51 collection is that budget watch lovers could finally have a timepiece that was both inexpensive and fun, while also suitable as a timepiece to get a nod from watch snobs. I used that exact language when featuring the Swatch Sistem 51 watch in our Top 10 Affordable Watches That Get A Nod From Watch Snobs article. So even though there are lower-priced Asian mechanical watches, the “Swiss nature” of the Swatch Sistem 51 allowed for it to live a bit closer to the world of luxury timepieces that helped spawn it. Actually, in truth, the sales success of Swatch is more beneficial to the luxury watch world than vice versa.
The two-day Heuer Collectors Summit was held this past Monday, September 12th, 2016, at TAG Heuer’s headquarters in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland. It was the second edition of a similar summit held in 2013, with the idea to invite a handful of collectors to exchange ideas, experiences, and above all, share their pre-1985 beauties. Only this time, the enthusiastic collectors were joined by members of the press. Why? Well, you might have noticed that under Jean-Claude Biver’s leadership the TAG Heuer replica watch brand is changing. One arm of the historic watchmaker will be positioned in the past with a continued focus on heritage models, and the other will be duly focused on today with a focus on modern culture. In other words, the brand intends on serving its existing fans while at the same time attracting new ones.
The summit included a visit to the manufacture in La Chaux de Fonds, the case factory in Cornol, and the movement factory in Chevenez. During our tour of the main manufacture, we saw the different stages of watch assembly, which are becoming more and more mechanized (efficient). In this particular segment of watchmaking, I personally don’t miss the “manual labor” aspect, nor do I consider automation as a “B category” of “real” watchmaking. Quite the contrary, in fact: the more industrialized the process, the cheaper it is to build, and the more precise are the final products. In other words, when done well, it means higher quality with higher volume. The outcome is cheaper prices and a better perception on behalf of the end client. That goal is very doable, in my opinion.
The Heuer Collectors Summit was also an opportunity to try on some watches prior to the Biver era with models like the Carrera Mikropendulum and Carrera Mikrograph, watches which were responsible for deviating the brand from its target audience but which were great developments in their own right – and for the most part, abandoned. It has been reported that haute horology is dead at TAG Heuer. While there is less focus, this is not wholly true. Don’t forget the new Carrera Heuer-02T Tourbillon watch, after all.