An Automatic for the Rest of Us
The Tissot Swissmatic Revolutionizes the Swiss-Made Mechanical Movement
Back in 2013, Swatch Group made an achievement that remains unmatched today: it produced a Swiss-made automatic watch movement entirely through an automated assembly process. It did so by pairing down the number of parts used (only 51 in this case, compared to well over one hundred for pretty much any other automatic) and combining them all with a single screw. Concessions had to be made — like using synthetic materials in place of metal, forgoing any decoration and accepting an inherent dispensableness once the movement fails — but it was one of the biggest innovations the watch industry had seen in years.
Now, four years later, no one is really talking about it. Part of the problem, it would seem, is its lack of ubiquity — the movement has only been available in the Swatch Sistem51, which up until last year only came in a plastic case — hardly a game changer. A steel version eventually came out but it still felt more like a novelty than an everyday watch. However, given Swatch Group’s large swatch of brands, packaging up the movement into a more wearable, everyday package from another brand in the conglomerate’s portfolio could bring the revolutionary movement further into the mainstream.
Tissot’s Everytime Swissmatic is the group’s first attempt at that strategy. Coming in at just $395, it’s Tissot’s most entry-level automatic. While Tissot’s offerings typically make up the bulk of Swatch Group’s entry-level offerings, it does undercut the next most affordable automatic in Tissot’s range by a solid $155. Generally speaking, getting your hands on a Swiss automatic means spending over $500, but this new movement puts the Swissmatic squarely in the range of automatic watches from Japanese watchmakers like Seiko, or the myriad of indie and internet-based watch brands using Miyota or ETA-based movements.
Aside from its unorthodox method of assembly, there’s a lot to love about the movement inside — it turns out automation makes a pretty mechanically-sound movement. Tissot claims the Swissmatic’s movement has a power reserve of 70 hours (compared to 90 hours in Swatch’s equivalent Sistem51) and a guaranteed accuracy of around +/-10 seconds a day, “with a potential for higher accuracy,” according to a Tissot spokesperson. (A test by Europa Star managed -4 and +2.5 seconds a day.) That’s bordering on chronometer-level accuracy, and regarding both its precision and its power reserve, it’s hard to think of another mechanical movement at its price point that can match it.
The Everytime’s case features a transparent case back which provides the wearer with a revealing look at the unique engine underneath. As you’d expect it’s utilitarian: the bridges are made out of black synthetic plastic (as opposed to the more playful patterns on the Swatch equivalent) and the metal rotor is decidedly ho-hum. There’s not much in the way of any visual embellishments, and while that might irk traditionalists, it does provide a minimal, distilled illustration of how mechanical watchmaking works. That on its own could prove to be valuable in tempting newbie or reluctant watch enthusiasts to dive further down the mechanical watchmaking rabbit hole.
The case back is also removable, which rectifies a sticking point with the plastic Swatch Sistem51 that debuted a few years ago — this one can be serviced. That said, given that most of the movement is soldered together, a service would likely require replacing the entire movement. According to a Tissot, such a service “would not exceed $150,” if out of warranty.
On the outside, the Everytime Swissmatic takes on a similarly minimalist bent with a Bauhaus look that’s become de rigueur with many watches produced by indie watchmakers at the same price point. It packs up its movement inside a slim, rounded case that’s 11.2mm thick and wears flat against the wrist. It has a thin bezel that allows the pared-down dial to stretch across nearly the whole of the watch’s 40mm width.
Overall, the design is a handsome one — one that would jive well with the casual and business attire worn by the young men and women likely to buy it — albeit one that gets dangerously close to being generic. If there’s a grievance to have with the Everytime Swissmatic that’d be it. A good minimalist watch is deceivingly difficult to make, but usually, some attention to finishing or graphic design helps assuage the austerity. The Swissmatic just lacks that. The white dial feels flat, and the printed numerals and logo feel a little “meh.” It seems like a silly grievance to have, but when Seiko is making a brilliant guilloche masterpiece at the same price, and Tissot’s corporate cousin Swatch is using a near-identical movement in a steel watch that costs half as much, you’d hope for a couple special finishing touches.
That said, the Everytime Swissmatic is still a solid entry-level watch. Tissot confirmed it has more models using the Swissmatic movement in the pipeline (it currently also uses it in the Gentleman Swissmatic) while it’s possible that other brands from Swatch Group might make use of the Swismatic’s bones in future models. We could hopefully see a swath of watches from using this movement — field watches, dress watches, divers, etc. — offering a plethora of options for buyers at a bargain price. Now that’d be a revolution.