Review: Swatch Automatic Chronograph ... - Seiko & Citizen Watch Forum – Japanese Watch Reviews, Discussion & Trading
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Old 07-06-2010, 07:46 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Review: Swatch Automatic Chronograph ...

Lots of pics in there, too. An interesting watch.

Review: Swatch Automatic Chronograph




UPDATES: Traded the Blue Chrono for the black model! ;-)

Thanks VERY much to Ariel Adams I recently found out that I won this Swatch Auto Chrono via a contest he ran as part of the Luxist blog. Officially, I think Swatch Calls it the Right Track Blue Chronograph. Sure enough, a few days after I heard from Ariel the FedEx man arrived with the watch.

[see what Ariel said about these watches]

So what do I think of it? Let's have a look.

[Updates: the case back looks to be snap-in, and the automatic system is unidirectional, winds CCW like the Lemania 5100]

The story (some of this my be apocryphal, I'm not sure) is that Swatch/ETA/Tissot decided to see if they could make an automatic chronograph movement that was cheaper to produce than the 7750 and its variants. They then looked to the historically robust but utilitarian Lemania 5100 (plain in design, but has a loyal following) as a potential starting point. The 5100 was known for three things: reliability, generous use of nylon/plastic parts, and a centrally-mounted minute counter for the chrono. This new movement does away with the central minutes counter, it likely has a healthy does of plastic parts, and we don't yet know about the reliability. See what Jorge from TZ posted about the movement's background.




The chronograph minutes register moves slowly along with the seconds counter. It is not instantaneous, or even "semi-instantaneous" as some movements are (e.g. the manual wind chrono in my Speedy Pro).




Right of the bat it's kind of a fun watch, affordable. I can't imagine you'll find an automatic Swiss chronograph for under $400 from anywhere else. Heck, you can find these in various flavors at Amazon for well under $300 (also here and here)! You can find some Chinese and perhaps Russian chronos near these prices, but in my experience the quality is not quite the same and there' a great variability from each to the next.

Well... remember the Omega Hour Vision that was introduced a couple of years ago? It's a high-end DeVille series and uses sapphire crystal as the sides of the case. It's a nice idea and a beautiful watch. I've read that the sapphire case pieces are tough and expensive to manufacture. The SS versions of the Omega start around USD $6500 and rise quickly from there as you move from SS to gold. It almost feels like Swatch had a board meeting during which some executive said, "How can we make something like the Omega Hour Vision, but sell it profitably for under USD $400?" That could have been the conception of the semi-opaque case and movement in these new Swatch chronos. ;-)






The pushers for the chrono are slightly mushy, particularly on stopping the chrono. But they do work reliably and in some ways I prefer that to the "crunch" sensation that you get on some mechanical chronos that often makes me cringe, even expensive Swiss models.

Pluses:
  • Affordable
    Sapphire crystal on the front
    Very light
    Different
    Plastic case
Minuses:
  • Plastic case
    Strap integrated into case
    Dial and hands not particularly legible in this color scheme
    Minute hand may be a tad short for some
I did find it an odd pairing that Swatch uses a plastic case while at the same time fitting the front with a sapphire crystal.




The plastic semi-opaque case is interesting and makes the watch VERY light to wear, but I still would have much preferred metal. It would seem easy to get a good gouge in the case's plastic hitting a door jamb. It's odd to have a watch for which I'm much more concerned about scratching the case than the crystal ;-)

The chronograph uses the very common 6-9-12 layout, as we see on the Valjoux 7750, along with a date indicator. At 6 is the hour register, at 9 is the constant running seconds hand, and at 12 is the minute register (30 mins at a time).




The movement has 184 parts, 15 jewels, and a "synthetic escapement." That's definitely a low part count for an automatic chronograph, and most would have at least 17-19 jewels if not more. Maybe the gratuitous use of plastic parts reduces the need for a few of the jewels? It's also not quite clear to me if the use of plastic parts and a synthetic escapement (whatever that may be) will give the movement more longevity or less. I suspect that it will be more, with the trade-off being a less elegant look. At this price point it's quite unlikely that it would be worth spending $250 to have the movement serviced down the road. Back to the Lemania 5100 comparison, the Swatch's balance bridge and winding reverser wheel look identical to that of the 5100. My ear tells me that this movement beats at 6bps, but I could certainly be mistaken.




The watch's display back appears to be pressed-in rather than screwed, and is largely semi-opaque like the case. The exception is two completely clear nearly overlapping circles. They show the balance wheel and what I think is a reverser wheel that's part of the auto-winding system. As an aside, I'm not sure if this movement winds in both directions or not. Does anyone know?

(pic courtesy of A. Adams)



Interestingly, the chronograph only counts up to 6 hours. I don't think this is much of a problem as the vast majority of things I time are far less than that.

[Swatch claims that this mechanical automatic watch has a battery life of two years?!]

As you can see from the pictures, this watch uses an integrated case and strap. I'm not a big fan of integrated straps and bracelets. I think designers like them as they make for a more sleek look, but I don't like the fact that I can't just pop any strap I want on the watch. I guess if I want another Strap I'll have to get it directly from Swatch and be limited to their offerings and prices.

The bottom line? A fun watch for the summer or any other time you'd like an affordable mechanical watch, particularly Swiss that's a bit off the beaten path. If you're sick of the same choice and want to try something different, this might be it.



On the movement (ETA / Tissot C01.211):
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Old 07-15-2010, 08:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Review: Swatch Automatic Chronograph ...

Just updated the review with a couple new pics, traded it for the black model.
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