I have heard a lot spoken about Swatch over the past few weeks on podcasts and thought I would spend some time in a store to see what all of the fuss is about. Swatch to me has historically been a cheap brand that is for children and those who like overt colours on their wrists, and I have largely dismissed it as a novelty from the past.
Obviously this opinion is subjective and born from no real experience and so I decided to visit a store to see what the range was like for myself. Some of the people I have heard speak so positively about Swatch are respected watch people and so there must be more to the brand that what I had presumed previously, surely there must?
The Swatch Club seems to be a thing that people enjoy and there are some benefits to being a member. For example, they advertise the following-
• Exclusive local & international events
• Meet artists, athletes & other celebrities
• Invite a friend to join the experience
• Receive insider news and exclusive stories
• Enjoy VIP treatment in the Swatch stores
• Discover limited/numbered watches firsthand*
• Get a glimpse of the Swatch world
All of that sounds good doesn’t it, but within the context of what the watches actually are it’s all kind of superfluous.
As I walked around the store, with no other customers in there as usual (Swatch store are always empty in the UK, I saw colourful models of varying designs and sizes, but they all seemed to have one thing in common. They looked and felt generic in the most generic of ways.
No matter how hard I tried, and I did spend some time trying, I couldn’t see anything more than plastic watches that offered little depth and much interest aside from potentially matching a particular set of clothes, if you happen to wear very colourful clothes.
Maybe I am being ignorant here,and I am happy to be proven wrong, but Swatch changed the world back in the day and there is genuine history in the brand. My questions are-
What do the watches offer besides the novelty of collecting the latest model?
What do they specifically offer as watches that other brands do not?
Final note- I like the SISTEM51 movement, but have not found a Swatch model I like enough to purchase one yet. Any recommendations?
UPDATE: I think this was the perfect reply to the article from CarbonSitars on reddit–
I think the question is what does a Swatch offer from a practical standpoint that other watches do not have. Nothing. They are watches, tell time, and some might offer other basic functions.
In the early 80s, Swatch was able to do two things that transformed it into the largest watch group in the world: reduce the amount of parts in the movement to 51 components, and put them into a low-cost watch that was still Swiss-made. Additionally, it has been able to capture the zeitgeist of the latest fashion trends, and in the case of the 1980s, set trends.
In general, watch collectors are fairly condescending towards Swatches, and yet there is a community of people, usually separate from the watch collecting community, who love them. I think there is an intangible quality to the designs that appeals to some people.
At this point, there are thousands upon thousands of models. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, puzzling, outlandish, conservative, clever, or remarkable. Many fall to the wayside of fashion history, while others have become classics which are highly collectable.
In my case, I love mostly the designs from the 80s. I don’t love all of them; only the ones I love. When I wear one out, people notice them and compliment me on them. Some are older folks who remember them back in their heyday, while others are young people who really get a kick out of funky 80s fashion. Watch snobs might have something snarky to say, but who really wants to be around people like that? I don’t. They make me happy every time I look at them, and that’s enough for me.