a Punctual Revolution with a Second Watch
Let us not get into any details but it was when Nicolas Hayek got hold of a Swiss company and renamed it to Swatch Group, something was about to happen. As the top Swiss watch brands were under heavy Japanese fire by the likes of Citizen and Seiko in the sixties and seventies, it was bold new styling, design and marketing that catapulted Swatch into the hemisphere of analog watches in 1983.
Nowadays some of the Collector Specials and Swatch Art pieces can collect huge sums of money. The 4 watches designed by Keith Haring recently fetched $ 3,400 at an New York auction house and a mint first one ever, the Jelly Fish, can fetch up to $ 20,000! Bear in mind, they all cost CHF 50 in their days.
I got my first Swatch back in 1987 and a second in 1989. The first one was a Nine to Six which was eventually replaced by a Shibuya. My older sister had a Maxi hanging on her wall and the youngest one at our family got a Flic Flac (part of Swatch Group). My older brother was never in a hurry so he never needed the time. If he did, I am sure he would have one as well.
Anyway, since then I have collected some pieces over the years and mostly wore them until it was time to be replaced. In the eighties, as I recall, it was Swatch everywhere you looked. It was all thanks to Franz Sprecher who transformed the brand into a trendy line of watches with a full brand identity and marketing concept—instead of developing just another watch collection, which could have soon been matched by its competition. The trend set upon the world by Hayek and Sprecher was followed very closely by all.
The first collection of twelve Swatch models was introduced on 1 March 1983 in Zürich, Switzerland. Initially the price ranged from CHF 39.90 to CHF 49.90 but was standardized to CHF 50.00 in autumn of the same year. Sales targets were set to one million watches for 1983 and 2.5 million the year after. With an aggressive marketing campaign and a very reasonable price for a Swiss-made watch, it gained instant popularity in its home market. Compared to conventional watches, a Swatch was 80% cheaper to produce by fully automating assembly and reducing the number of parts from the usual 91 or more to only 51 components!
Right from the start, Swatch connected with art. Swatch watches were inspired by popular culture and identity, and Swatch itself soon became a canvas for world famous artists—painters, sculptors, musicians and filmmakers. The first artist to collaborate with Swatch was Kiki Picasso in 1984, less than a year after the first Swatch watches made their appearance. American painter Keith Haring created a number of prototypes in the mid-1980s, and four Swatch watches with Haring’s designs were produced and launched in the United States, among them Milles Pattes (1986). Among the other many memorable works designed for Swatch are the watches by Jean-Michel Folon, Sam Francis, Nam June Paik, Not Vital, Akira Kurosawa, Spike Lee, Renzo Piano. But also the fashion world jumped right in with names such as Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and David LaChapelle.
There are some real collectors who try everything to acquire all the special and limited editions. This is by all means not an easy task because Swatch provides each store with watches on its own prerogative without giving stores the opportunity to ask for certain styles. So either you want to visit all the outlets and auctions or you have to order them directly from Switzerland (if they still are available of course). Swatch has its entire collection shaped within 5 families. Every family has its own subfamilies. You have the:
The Originals are plastic cased watches. These are the first watches to come out in the '80s and are available in various sizes, shapes and designs. The sub-families of the Originals are:
- Standard Collection (Standard Gents, Standard Ladies, Pop Swatch, Automatic Swatch)
- Chrono Watches
- Water Watches
- Ski/Access Watches
- Specials (of which we have a couple selected for you)
In 1994 Swatch launched the first collection of stainless steel gent and medium size Ironies in the USA. This line has a more classic feel, as opposed to the trendy quality of the original plastic line.
The skin family contains two sub families: Original Skin and Skin Chronograph. The original skin was introduced on October 6, 1997 as a thinner version of the original Swatch Watch. It is ultra thin, standing at 3.9 mm thin hence the name Swatch Skin. The Swatch Chronograph is the Swatch skin with a chronograph function. It has two additional buttons on the side of the watch.
The Beat family launched in 1998 and incorporated beat watches across the three existing families, adding twists and extra features. Swatch Beat is their digital line and integrates Internet Time.
And last but not least we have the Bijoux series. A jewelry line that Swatch released in the new millennium. It partnered with Swarovski to encrust their Bijoux line and watches.
All by all, Swatch became fashion and fashion became Swatch when early hipsters wore not one but multiple Swatches on one arm in the eighties and early nineties. And what about those rubber protection thingies and Swatches you could actually attach to your clothes! Over the years I guess I owned about 10 of them and still have a few at home. It was HUGE! And why not bring some of that magic back to our lives. Not only for collectors but also for wearers we have collected a few Special Swatches. Some of them you can also find elsewhere (when you know where to look), and others, well good luck on your quest. Some of our selected pieces were limited to 500 or 1,000 pieces per watch worldwide! But they are all in mint condition within their original packaging and have the requested numbering. They were collected over the years and have never been worn.
Before I will let you guys to it, let me give you a couple of tips to collect Swatches. First of all it is important to understand that any kind of watch is not only functional but most certainly fashionable. It says a lot of the person wearing it and makes a statements.
1 - Whether you just buy one or start a collection, you need to buy what you like and would love to wear. That may sound obvious to many but watches are still being bought just for status. And yes that says all about the person wearing it. When it comes to Swatch, fashion and functionality needs to be first on your priority list.
2 - When it is a collection you are after without looking at the potential money they will make in a decade or two do not automatically go for the early pieces. Swatches from the eighties and nineties will cost you these days, especially the Special editions. Stick to Tip 1 and buy those you really like. Swatches issues a couple of pieces every year, so you have got enough to choose from.
3 - When you are in it for the long run and buy them as an investment (yes that does happen with these beauties), go for the Specials, Club and Art Swatches. They are mostly limited in their editions and therefor scarce at some point. There are also pieces that where issued when opening Swatch stores around the world or even by big brands. Again, they were limited editions. Last but not least of course the first ones from the early eighties are the Holy Grail with collectors across the globe. They already fetch some good money as we speak, but still serve there purpose as investments.
4 - Always check before you buy. There are many sites that can give you all the details needed on every Swatch ever made.
5 - You can always start your collection with the fine selection we have put together for you on here.