Swatch is no doubt a watch brand that has stood the test of time, especially given the dominance of the market by its luxury relatives like Rolex and Patek Philippe.
(Photography Credit: Vibhu Prasad)
From the design, elegance, and simplicity, Swatch watches borrow a big leaf from the watchmaker’s rich, colourful, and storied history that kicked off back in the early 1980s.
In this article, we’re going to take a quick review of Swatch watches with one frequently asked question in mind: are they any good?
Background to Swatch: A Brand That Saved the Swiss Watchmaking Industry
Today, swatch watches are so popular and loved that you’d think the watchmaker is an old Swiss classic. Well, it’s a well-established household brand, but can’t compare to other Swiss watchmakers like Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Rolex when it comes to age.
Swatch is the brainchild of the late Nicolas Hayek, a Swiss businessman who founded the watch company in 1983. He stayed as the company’s Chairman and CEO from its inception in the early 1980s to his passing in 2010.
The rise of Swatch as an affordable watch brand was partly thanks to the quartz crisis of the 1970s and the 1980s. It was a timely response to save the iconic Swiss watchmaking industry that was seeing an onslaught of cut-throat competition from mainly Japanese companies like Seiko, Citizen, and Casio.
Because foreign watchmakers were mass-producing cheap watches with new and innovative quartz technologies, Swiss counterparts suffered a great deal. That’s because they stuck to their guns, choosing to focus on their iconic mechanical watches.
Something had to be done fast, and it’s Nicolas Hayek that rose to the occasion. He helped merge struggling Swiss watchmakers -- SSIH and ASUAG-- to help them weather the imposing quartz movement. After its launch in 1983, Swatch went from strength to strength powered by ingenious young engineers and watchmaking experts.
The company hinged its survival and progress on innovative strategies and a minimalistic approach. Swatch designs were known for using fewer components and leveraging redesigned manufacturing techniques. Its engineers were also quick to devise new and cost-saving ideas.
Over the years, Swatch has wowed the world with some of the most iconic watches. One particular model is its timeless swatch NASA watch set sporting an outstanding display case with mesmerising Flik Flak shooting stars.
Swatch made it through the storm and it emerged as a big winner in the affordable watch range. Swatch watches have become synonymous with artistic affordability with their creative, playful, and casual designs. That doesn’t come much as a surprise considering that the name Swatch is a diminutive of the phrase “second watch.”
Swatch is now famous for collaborating with well-known brands, artists, and personalities. That has helped the brand establish itself as a symbol of popular culture. Did you know that Swatch is partly responsible for the watch wardrobing craze?
(Photography Credit: Ecem Ünal)
Iconic Swatch Watches
- Swatch Irony Automatic Body and Soul
Irony Automatic Body and Soul is Swatch’s classic and a symbol of its ingenuity. It’s an automatic masterpiece featuring the brand’s signature metal case. That makes it a casual classic for hard-core Swatch fans and watch collectors alike.
- Swatch NASA
Swatch NASA is a collection of five space-inspired watches that include Swatch Big Bold Jumpsuit, Swatch Big Bold Chrono Launch, and Swatch Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular. The other two are Space Race and Take Me to the Moon. They all pair futuristic cases with cheery space-themed silicone straps to create something truly out of this world.
- Swatch Uhren Double Dot YKS4001
This is a movement in and of itself. It’s a line of aluminium-cased quartz that stole the internet in its formative years. The double-dot watch is a collectors’ favourite, too.
- Swatch Tone In Blue SLK100
If there’s one iconic musical watch to rule them all, it would be this one. The series brings some of the oddest swatch watches ever seen. They feature jingly tunes played by singer Jean Michel Jarre and marks Swatch’s first use of Microsoft’s now discontinued SPOT technology.
- Swatch Serpent GZ102 Keith Haring Watch
Swatch proved with Serpent GZ102 Keith Haring Watch that watchmakers can collaborate with artists in a delightful way. This iconic swatch watch was designed by artist Keith Haring.
- The Golden Jelly
The Jelly takes the cake as Swatch’s oldest and most iconic watch. Its transparent design awed fans, along with the odd styling and playful lines.
Other honorary mentions include Swatch Right Track, Sistem51, Piste Noir SUSW407, Pop Diva PWBB106, and Asetra GK137.
(Photography Credit: Balachandar Radhakrishnan)
Swatch watches are the true definition of affordable quality. They bear the Swiss-made label, which speaks volumes of their attention to detail and dedication to quality. While some collectors look down on the watches’ plastic/silicone construction, the design excellence, quality, and use of precise quartz movements certainly steal the show.
The brand may not use precious stones like yellow gold or platinum, but its watches stand out for being durable, well-designed, and uniquely made. Of course, we can’t forget to mention its signature stainless steel Irony watches.
The iconic designs of Swatch watches were first hatched in design labs in Milan, a hub known for its fashion, style, and creative industries. That aside, swatch watches do feature an array of playful, witty, and casual designs. Their dials come in various beautiful colours and designs, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Some designs are pretty basic, focusing on minimalism over luxury materials. After all, most Swatch watches were designed with affordability in mind. Even so, the majority of watch designs are creative, unique, and pay homage to legendary artists, brands, and landmarks. Don’t forget their movements are Swiss-made and designed, as well.
Why You Should Buy One
(Photography Credit: Studio Curve)
Affordable Meets Fashion: Perhaps the biggest appeal of swatch watches is their fashionable affordability. They’re pocket-friendly, yet they don’t sacrifice style and elegance.
Swiss Quality: Swatch watches carry a Swiss-made label. That means they’re designed and most parts, if not everything is Swiss made. More importantly, they feature highly accurate movements that Swiss luxury watches have come to be known for.
Fairly Collectible: Swatch has and continues to collaborate with top-tier designers and artists to produce limited-edition pieces. These timepieces hold some collectable potential.
Creative & Unique Designs: Swatch designs have remained playful and unique since the brand’s launch in the 1980s. The designs are functional yet stylishly unique. It helps that the brand offers its watches in unisex styling.