Recently I’ve been seeing some very reasonably priced Swiss watches with the “Powermatic 80” movement. There are plenty of reviews on this movement out there on the internet, but I find this movement intriguing for a few reasons.
1. It’s a 3Hz, or 21,600 beats per hour movement. This is more common with entry level Japanese and Chinese movements like the Seiko 7S and 4R series, and Miyota 8200 series, or the famous/infamous “Chinese Standard Movement.” For many decades now the unofficial Swiss standard was 4Hz, or 28,000 beats per hour.
2. It’s use of automation to regulate the movement is a departure from normal Swiss movements which are regulated by hand, and instead regulated by a machine. One of the complaints levied against entry level Seiko movements is that they are machine regulated at the factory, and not by hand like a “true Swiss movement.”
3. The extended time reserve is the only feature that makes the Powermatic 80 functionally different from a cheap 30 dollar NH35A or Miyota 8215 for most watch users. It’s a nice feature to have, but not one that makes or breaks watch.
4. It is reported to be based on the ETA 2824-2 design. However there seems to be a heavy use of automation similar to the “System 51” automatic found in some Swatch watches (which has a 90 hour power reserve). The “System 51” watches are not designed to be user serviced, as they are regulated by a machine according to laser measurement. The Powermatic 80 movement has two screws to adjust regulation, and is not very user friendly according to what I’ve read about users who have attempted to adjust the regulation. So the Powermatic 80 is like a step between a “System 51” not serviceable movement and the ETA 2824-2 which is found on watches a price jump above those with the Powermatic 80.
So, to sum up, it’s everything good about a Japanese movement, with added power reserve, but with a less than user friendly regulation system. It’s the first real signal that the Swiss are willing to seriously compete in the midrange watch segment using manufacturing processes that aren’t traditional Swiss.
Now, what I don’t like. Unlike previous Swiss movements, this one seems “disposable” as it doesn’t seem to be designed to be serviced and regulated by a watch shop (although that is only my opinion). I also don’t really like the step down to 3Hz, as I would have loved a 60 hour reserve 28,000 bph movement way more than an 80 hour 21,600 bph movement. I own one watch with an ETA 2824 movement, and the smoothness of the second hand is a nice thing to see compared to the multitude of NH35 and 4R36 powered movements with the slightly choppier second hand.
Secondly, the Powermatic 80 line is still new enough that there is no real indicators yet whether the watches which use them will increase, hold, or decrease in value over time. The “Swiss Made” branding on watches still has less to do with retaining value than the actual brand equity of a given brand. ETA and Swatch do have premium brands like Omega, but the Powermatic 80 is generally found in Tissot or Certina rather than Omega. Tissot and Certina have definitely been put into a price point category by the Swatch group, and definitely don’t have the brand equity of Omega.
So, my final verdict? My best guess is that if you get a Tissot or Certina with a Powermatic 80 movement you will get a great watch. I’m also guessing that unless your particular watch is a model that becomes associated with some sort of famous event or film, it won’t really appreciate in value. But, it will be a genuine Swiss watch, and it will be something slightly different than a Seiko, Citizen, or Orient that you find in the same price category.