The first watch I ever coveted as a slightly fey boy was a Swatch, strategically placed at infant height in the shop window. However, it wasn’t just a Swatch; it was a Swatch in collaboration with Cartoon Network’s The Powerpuff Girls. This union instantly tickled the fan boy senses, and once it was upon my little wrist, I wore it with pride—symbolising my veneration and emotions towards the hit ’90s show.
Over the last four decades, Swatch has teamed up with some of the most recognisable names, faces, establishments and designers across the world. Originally the watch was formed as retaliation against the “quartz crisis” of the 1970s and 1980s, when Asian-made digital watches gained popularity in the entry-level market over traditional European-made analogue watches. In order to revitalise their desirability as technology progressed, Swatch turned to fashion and pop culture to attract a new market.
Gonzalo De Cevallos, the Vice President of Swatch, explains: “We are not experts in fashion, we’re experts in design and watch-making”, turning artistic identities and philosophies into plastic-fantastic timepieces, trading on “sell[ing] emotions.” No other watchmaker has challenged the fundamental design of the portable clock with every partnership, from rendering Vivienne Westwood’s iconic orb or Jeremy Scott’s talaria wings into watch faces, translating a Keith Haring splash or a Rembrandt etching into a streamline strap. If it’s possible, Swatch has done it.
This year, the Swiss brand teams up with streetwear brand A Bathing Ape, releasing a series of limited edition watches inspired by concrete jungles across the globe. It’s no monkey business, as BAPE is one of the most recognisable fashion labels in the hype-sphere, with their signature camouflage prints, shark-head hoodies and perpetual primate logo. Founded in 1993 by ex-Popeye editor Nigo, its brainwave derived from his personal fascination with the legendary sci-fi classic Planet of The Apes. The name refers to the Japanese idiom ‘A bathing ape in lukewarm water’, celebrating the nation’s overindulgence in hot baths, and the opulence of its target audience.
BAPE has had a long history of collaborations, and so does Swatch. Since a ‘Bapex’ watch retails for over €600, it only makes sense that the brand offers a more budget-friendly style for its aspiring clients—and after all, Swatch is a contraction of “second watch”. Gonzalo stresses that Swatch is “working in order to bring millennials to the brand”, so what better way to tap into a flourishing market than the lucrative world of the Hypebeast? “We’re not like the sneakers world bringing out a collection every week.” However, Gonzalo confesses to producing over “365 watches a year… we have a lab permanently creating new things”.
Swatch’s latest addition to your clock-a-tory is the Big Bold. With dimensions of 47mm x 11mm x 15mm, it’s “revolutionary in watch design” according to Swatch’s Vice President. Inspired by the cities of London, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Bern, Swatch x BAPE is an accessible piece of renowned Swiss manufacturing and Japanese design that won’t break the bank or weigh down your wrists as you grind. Live, laugh and be your loud self.