Swatch recently introduced a line of inexpensive mechanical chronographs. Previously, any Swiss watch with the ubiquitous ETA/Valjoux 7750 was typically $700 or more. The new line (pictured at right) starts at $360!
Movement is the ETA C01.211, about which information is a bit scarce. It seems to only be available to the Swatch group, which is a bummer. As with the movement in the Irony skeleton, they've cut costs by using some plastic parts, but the result is inexpensive and still durable.
Swatch has several color and case schemes available, as you'd expect. Kudos for bringing chronographs out at mass-market prices.
By Paul Hubbard
One watch brand that needs no introduction on Watch Report is Swatch. Their PR just contacted us to let us know that their new lineup for Fall/Winter is online at their store. Pictured at right is a chronograph that caught my eye as a nice design.
As always, Swatches are very inexpensive and most often quartz movements and mineral or plastic crystals. The new line has over 100 watches; there's probably something there to catch your eye, and for $100 to $175 or so, why not? Not every watch needs to be an heirloom, after all.
We're typically focused on men's watches, but of course there's quite a few women's models here as well. There's a lot to like about inexpensive, well-made watches that keep time well, are durable, and have an enormous style palette available. Swatch has both avant-garde as well as traditional designs, which is something unique to the brand.
By Paul Hubbard
As an engineer, it's always interesting to me to think about what a watch is designed for. In some ways, it's easy to make "The World's Finest Watch" if cost and time are no consideration. It's much harder, on the other hand, to make a world-class watch for the masses for under, say, $200. Engineering both low-cost and style into a mechanical watch is not a simple task.
Today I'm reviewing a watch that tries for just that. Say hello to the Swatch Irony Automatic "Body and Soul". It's a skeletonized mechanical watch where both front and back are clear to allow an unobstructed view of the ticking heart inside. The movement is an ETA 2841 which is a modified version of the hugely popular 2824-2. Beating at 21,600 VPH, it simply displays hours, minutes and seconds. (VPH stands for "vibrations per hour." 21,600 means that the second hand moves five times per second — a medium rate.)
Swatch made a number of innovative modifications to the 2824-2 to lower costs and reduce part count. The beat was slowed, the date removed, the plates of the watch were integrated into the case, and the ability to "hack" (have the second hand stop when you pull the crown all the way out so you can set the time precisely) removed as well. Of course, you probably don't need a hacking movement in a watch without markings on the dial — this is not a watch for the obsessively precise timekeeper!
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In the 80′s, where I went to elementary school, the more Swatches you owned, and the more you wore simultaneously, the cooler you were. I wasn’t very cool because I only had one, but the one I had was, and still is, an undisputed Swatch classic: the Jelly Fish.
I don’t remember what happened to my Jelly Fish, but I always loved that watch, and I’ve often wished that I’d kept it. In fact, about a month ago, while in a particularly nostalgic mood, I decided to see if I could find a used Jelly Fish to add to my collection. Not only was I lucky enough to find a brand new Swatch Jelly Fish, but amazingly, the one I found was automatic.
My new Automatic Swatch Jelly Fish is by far the rarest watch I own (which doesn’t translate into the most valuable, mind you). Swatch never made an automatic Jelly Fish, so I imagine there are only a few of these in existence. It was pieced together by someone in Belgium, and he did an excellent job. I think the band is new (meaning not original), but the case, hands, and the dial are all original 1985 Swatch Jelly Fish in perfect condition. The Swatch automatic movement also appears to be brand new, and works flawlessly. Through the clear plastic back, you can see the words “Swatch Automatic,” “Swiss,” and “23 JEWELS” etched into the rotor. I think I’m just as excited about my new Swatch Jelly Fish as I was about the original my mom bought me from Macy 20 years ago for $35. And this time, I’m keeping it.
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I came across an interesting site recently called timeanddate.com which has answers to pretty much any and all time/date related questions. Among their many articles and resources, I found an extremely thorough explanation of Swatch Internet Time, including a tool for converting Internet Time to "standard" time in about 130 different time zones.
I wrote about Internet Time in my review of the Swatch Paparazzi (watch pictured at right). Internet Time is to time what the metric system is to measurement. It was invented by Swatch, and as far as I know, isn't much more than a marketing gimmick at this point, although I personally think it's a pretty interesting concept. Internet Time does away with time zones, and with the basically arbitrary units of 60 and 24. The day is divided into 1000 "beats" with each beat equaling 1 minute and 26.4 seconds. Since there are no time zones in Internet Time, the time is the same all over the world with the reference point being Biel, Switzerland, the location of Swatch Group's headquarters. This "new meridian" is referred to as BMT, or Biel Mean Time. Internet Time is expressed by the number of beats proceeded by an "at" (@) symbol. For instance, 2:27 PM in San Francisco is expressed as @997.
I really like the concept of Internet Time for two primary reasons:
- It has the same kind of intuitive logic as the metric system.
- You don't have to worry about time zones. I often work with people all over the world, and doing the conversions can be a pain.
Of course, time zones do serve a very valuable purpose. They allow us to relate more easily to other parts of the world. For instance, if I schedule a meeting at @997, and I'm expecting people from all over the world to join, I have no way of knowing if @997 is in the middle of the night, early in the morning, or right smack in the middle of the day for the other attendees. Time zones, on the other hand, allow me to get a relative sense of time so I can schedule meetings at times that are convenient for all parties.
Check out the article on timeanddate.com for a much more thorough analysis of Internet Time.
Swatch continues to impress me with watches that are not only fun and affordable, but useful. First, I was won over by the Swatch Paparazzi, and now, as a recreational diver, the Swatch Fun Scuba.
The Swatch Fun Scuba comes in seven distinct styles, all but one (the black "Moray's Bite"), predictably wild. Although Swatch's site warns that the Fun Scuba is not a scuba-diving watch, and that it is meant to be used in parallel with a professional dive computer, it looks like a fun and suitable companion for recreational diving excursions.
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The Swatch Paparazzi is a refreshing and welcome addition to the existing line of MSN Direct watches. It’s not that the existing models from Suunto, Fossil and Tissot are lacking — in fact, I think they range from good (Fossil) to better (Suunto) to amazing (Tissot) — but the Swatch Paparazzi brings a hipper and more urban feel to a line of watches which thus far tend to be associated with, at best, business men, but more typically, geeks. Plus, the Paparazzi has put Swatch back on my radar screen from which it has been conspicuously absent since about middle school. Not only am I wearing the Swatch Paparazzi on my wrist right now as I type, but I’m loving it, and not looking forward to the inevitable moment when I must put it away and move on.
Before I continue with the review, I want to mention that I had initially planned to review the watch and the MSN Direct service separately, however I have since decided to combine the reviews into one since, as is the case with any well integrated hardware and software, the two are largely inextricable. Still, I will dedicated a section of this review wholly to the MSD Direct service which should be relevant to any MSN Direct watch.
Features of the Swatch Paparazzi include:
- Customizable watch faces. As with all MSN Direct watches, choose the face that best suites your mood or situation. Try pressing the enter button (middle button on the right-hand side) while viewing your favorite watch face. While arbitrarily pushing buttons to see what might happen, I discovered that some of faces can have a couple of different modes. If the face does not support multiple modes, it will let you know by beeping at you.
- Stopwatch (chronograph). I discovered that the Paparazzi supports up to 99 splits. Although hundredth of seconds are not displayed after the first ten seconds (to preserve battery life, I assume), they are recorded and displayed once time has been stopped. I found the stopwatch will go up to 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds before flipping.
- Two fully customizable alarms. By fully customizable, I mean either alarm can be configured to sound every day, on one specific day of the week (every Monday, for instance, to make sure you remember to go back to work), or on any specified date. I love this feature, and find it extremely useful. It’s a great way to remind yourself of something without bothering with your PDA. The backlight flashes in addition to the audible alarm, in case you turned the sound on your watch off in order to avoid being rude in a movie or at a wedding (though if you did, you need to get your priorities straight!).
- Countdown timer. No digital watch is fully complete without one, in my opinion. The range is from one second to 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Backlight flashes in addition to audible alarm.
- Calendar. Of course you get the date, but the Paparazzi (along with all MSN Direct watches) also gives you a full calendar. This is another feature I absolutely love. Check out the Paparazzi photo gallery to see it in action, but basically, you get a full seven-column calendar which you can scroll backward and forward. No more counting on your fingers and toes trying to figure out whether your birthday falls on a weekend this year.
- Wireless time calibration. All MSN Direct watches are calibrated through the MSN Direct network (via FM radio signal), whether you have subscribed to the MSN Direct service or not. If you’re the type of person who is perpetually late, don’t worry — you can even configure a +5, +10, or +15 minute offset to make sure you’re always on time or a tad early.
- Free wireless content. The Swatch Paparazzi receives a limited amount of content from the MSN Direct network even if you don’t active the watch. Free content includes entertainment news (specific to your current geographic region), general news headlines, and local weather conditions. You will find the Paparazzi to be fairly feature-rich before ever giving Microsoft your credit card number.
- MSN Direct Service. The MSN Direct service takes your wireless content to the next level. Although it’s a very decent watch without the service, adding MSN Direct gets you the ability to install new watch faces, synchronize appointments with Outlook, and to receive surprisingly detailed news, messages, weather information, stock quotes, sports scores, horoscopes, movie information, “diversions,” and lottery numbers. (More on the MSN Direct service, and each individual channel, below.)
- Internet Time. Internet Time is to time what the metric system is to measurement. The downside is that it only seems to be supported by Swatch. More on Internet Time below.
- Water resistant. Only to 3 ATM, though (3 BAR, 30 meters, or 100 feet). My recommendation would be to try to keep this watch as dry as possible. Don’t worry about getting caught in a rain storm, but don’t wear it while swimming the English Channel or diving for sunken treasure, either.
- Rechargeable battery. Don’t panic. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. If you’re as much of a gadget freak as I am, right now you’re thinking that you need another charger in your life like you need a tax audit, but it’s really not that bad. It’s small, light, portable, and after a two hour charge, your watch will be good to go for between four and five days, depending on its configuration. I think I could actually squeeze six days out of it if I really wanted to, but there’s no sense in trying to set a world record, especially if it could mean having to be disconnected until you can get back to home base. I know a watch charger is just one more thing you have to remember to pack (and re-pack after the security personnel at the airport remove it from your bag), but it’s better than keeping a hefty supply of hearing aid batteries on hand (remember the Timex Messengers?).
- Separate power for radio receiver. That’s the most elegant way I could think of to say that you can toggle the watch’s ability to receive FM signals independent of the watch’s main power, making it kosher for in-flight use.
- Settings. I’m not sure this qualifies as an actual feature, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The Paparazzi (and all MSN Direct watches) have a very cool settings/configuration screen more reminiscent of a PDA than a watch.
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