By Amelia Tan
Hands up if you own a Swatch watch – well, if you’re a millennial, you probably do, no question. It’s the watch we used to beg our parents to buy, the ones we envied our cooler friends for, maybe even the first timepiece you wore on your wrist. Still, in a world of Apple watches and VR technology, it might seem that Swatch hasn’t quite moved on, but we beg to differ – there’s always an enduring design philosophy that still makes them relevant today, as captivating as it is universal.
And here you have it, the new Swatch SKIN, an update on “the world’s thinnest plastic watch”. The line now comes in 11 minimalist styles and two case sizes, the 40mm and 36.8mm; turn it over to its side and you’ll notice a two-tone wave pattern, an innovation possible due to an advanced double injection technique – still, the watches are as sleek as ever. As always, there’s a myriad of designs: a subtle nude, a monochromatic piece, a refreshing light blue, some with a stainless steel bracelet, or a red piece that showcases the mesmerising movement within.
One morning in London, we also sat down with Carlo Giordanetti, the brand’s creative director, to discuss exactly what makes their watches, well, tick, and ended up diving deep into the philosophical aspects of the SKIN series – how its lightness inspires a sense of freedom, what the true value of luxury is – but never once were we intimidated, not when Giordanetti’s light charm put us so at ease. It makes sense, then, that he’s talking about a watch brand that does the same; Swatch, mainly because of its price point, is accessible, and in fact, one of the most wallet-friendly timepieces around.
It’s a Swiss brand that takes its watchmaking seriously, yet presents us with a multitude of fun, quirky designs – known most for its analog timepieces that aren’t dipped in gold, but crafted in plain plastic. “[Nicolas] Hayek has this vision: if you want to conquer the world, it has to be inexpensive, beautiful, and something that everybody can wear all the time,” shares Giordanetti. “In the past, the real estate of the wrist was occupied by objects you have to take off in order to shower, or go in the sea. This, this you can wear 24 hours a day – it was a revolution – and that made plastic acceptable.” Here, he tells us more.
Swatch SKIN goes against the grain of today’s over-the-top trend – with its very minimalism.
“If you look at the accessories market today, it’s very over-the-top, it’s a very loud market, you want to be known, and sometimes we feel that it’s good for people to have accessories that are a bit more subdued. Then, you’re becoming the message, and not the accessory.
We’re following the DNA of the SKIN series – very minimal, subdued, very thin, very light; with new elements, and some sophisticated elements. We’re also very democratic in terms of price, especially when you look at the amount of detail that we put in the work that we do.”
Despite how it looks, a lot of effort went into designing the product.
“We had to develop different densities for the two kinds of plastic, and an injection method, to create this curve that’s a signature of the line. It was also very tricky for a SKIN watch to be transparent because the movement was not very beautiful, it was very functional, and so we gave the engineers a challenge, to design a movement that’s also a beautiful display. And they came up with this [points at the SKINAMOUR] – the movement here, the little heart… It seems like a normal thing, but from a technical standpoint, it’s a huge achievement.”
The idea of SKIN goes beyond the watch – it strikes a balance between a strong sense of self, and the feeling of lightness.
“We live in a moment where everything goes, you can express yourself freely, and we want the SKIN to convey this: a strong personality, but also a weightlessness, which then becomes meaningful.
Feeling light is a good thing – you feel a sense of freedom, of not carrying weight, and this translates into the #YOURMOVE slogan. We believe that we can inspire people, and especially for younger people, it’s a call to action. If you don’t carry so much weight, you are empowered to be dynamic; as a young person, you can make a difference if you move, or create a movement.”
The brand isn’t ignoring the smart watch market – it’s just aiming to rethink it.
“[Before the Sistem51], everyone was expecting us to come up with a smart watch, one that you can make pizza and brew coffee with, and we came up with a mechanical watch, the most traditional concept. First of all, philosophically, we’re against the concept of a smart watch. It’s people that are smart, not objects. My smart phone is not smart at all. Because I only use it to make calls and reply emails, it’s a dumb smart phone. I’m joking, of course!
I still think that the world of connected objects is an interesting one, and we are exploring different ways to enter it. We believe we have a heritage and DNA of a watchmaking group, so we don’t become something else because of that.”
That’s because the philosophy of Swatch lies in its profound simplicity.
“For Swatch, one of the most important things is simplicity. In an ideal world, we would like to only have products with no instruction manual. We have to be talking to you here [points at the heart] not here [points at the head] – there’s a saying from the founder of Swatch: if it’s something that a child cannot understand, it’s not Swatch. It has to be intuitive and simple.”
Therefore, Swatch understands luxury, not by the price of its goods, but by the emotion they convey.
“For me, luxury is about emotions. If you feel an emotion, or a product in front of you that mirrors an emotion, it’s a luxury product. In the luxury goods industry, the contribution of man against that of machines is important. Even if our Swatch watches are produced in a production line, it’s still a watchmaker at the beginning of the line and the end of line, there’s a designer, a watchmaker, there’s a crazy Italian creative director developing the stories… these things are channeled into the product, that’s what makes luxury, not the price.”
Swatch SKIN collection, $155 to $188, available at all Swatch stores. swatch.com