SWATCH is a brand for which we have a clear and well-known appreciation. After all, we’ve been working closely with them for the past three years to bring you annual special editions designed in collaboration between SWATCH and the HODINKEE team (you can check those out here, here, and here). Those watches have become one of our most anticipated projects every year, and a key part of the process that goes into their production is exploring SWATCH’s vast archive. In doing so, our understanding and admiration for the brand have grown exponentially.
One detail we’ve found to be quite remarkable is the wide variety of audiences SWATCH is able to reach. A simple SWATCH can mean so many different things to so many different types of people, from all walks of life. If you work in the contemporary Swiss watch industry, for example, SWATCH is a name to be revered, as its success helped preserve the country’s watch business during one of its leanest periods. If you consider yourself a general watch admirer or enthusiast, however, SWATCH’s significance will be far simpler, but just as personal: It’s the colorful, plastic timepiece that may have kickstarted your interest in watches (as it did for members of the HODINKEE team and countless collectors, like the artist Wes Lang, as profiled in HODINKEE Magazine, Vol. 6). And for many, many more, a SWATCH is a wrist-born accessory and fashion statement that also happens to tell the time.
Wearing a SWATCH today is more than just owning another watch; it’s having a piece of Swiss watch industry history on your wrist. The brand’s widespread popularity in the 1980s and ’90s helped preserve the idea of Switzerland as a center of watchmaking know-how, during a time when the rest of the world was gravitating toward the quartz watches coming out of Asia. SWATCH’s influence can also be felt in the personal collections of contemporary watch lovers everywhere, because – for the most part – the idea of owning more than one or two watches simply didn’t exist for most people until SWATCH established a substantial following of individuals willing to purchase each and every one of its new releases.
SWATCH changed the narrative surrounding not only Swiss watches, but also watches as a whole. The brand was a breath of fresh air that pointed to the future of both watchmaking and design upon its 1983 debut, and all of that remains true to this day. That’s why we’re excited to announce the HODINKEE Shop as an Authorized Retailer for a curated selection of SWATCH watches. Read on to learn more about each of these watches, or discover them for yourself, right here.
Another detail we’ve come to realize over the past few years working with SWATCH is just how much character goes into the individual design process. Because of the wide array of SWATCH watches available, and how frequently the brand updates its catalog, finding a SWATCH that fits in with your lifestyle is a huge part of the brand’s appeal. You can pick up a brand-new quartz SWATCH in a plastic case for a little over $ 50; at the same time, you can purchase a fully automatic SWATCH made of stainless steel for under $ 250. It’s all about selecting a watch that reflects your personality, something that will make you smile whenever you glance at your wrist.
If you look at the current SWATCH catalog, you can divide the collection into two separate categories, with a number of smaller sub-collections within them. There are the classic SWATCH watches, which utilize a quartz movement and are cased in plastic, and then you have the SISTEM51 watches, which utilize a proprietary automatic movement developed by SWATCH that was introduced at Baselworld 2013. HODINKEE was the first publication to go Hands-On with the SISTEM51 when it was announced, and our opinion on the watch hasn’t changed much since then. We still believe it is one of the most significant and groundbreaking watches of the 21st century. Seven years have passed since its landmark debut, and we can’t think of a single development that has surpassed it purely from a mechanical innovation standpoint.
The SISTEM51 is, at its simplest, a fairly basic automatic movement that comprises 51 parts (the same number of components found in the original 1983 SWATCH), separated into five modules, and held together by a single central screw. What makes it different from every other automatic movement on the market, however, is that it is assembled and regulated entirely through an automated process, with no human touch. This is fully integrated, high-tech watchmaking at its very best, and it’s entirely made in Switzerland. With a 90-hour power reserve, accuracy rated to within -5/+15 seconds per day, and a price tag that rarely goes above $ 250, the SISTEM51 has effectively democratized the ownership of Swiss-made mechanical timepieces.
We’re starting our collection of SWATCH watches in the HODINKEE Shop with nine different models – five from the SISTEM51 line and four quartz-powered watches. All retain the visual interest and charming form factor that has defined the brand for the past 37 years, and all feature a distinctive take on the classic SWATCH aesthetic.
SWATCH Once Again GB743
The Once Again is a reissue of one of the very first SWATCH watches ever made, dating back to 1983 (GB001). This was one of the most popular SWATCH watches ever built, and it was also one of the simplest. It consisted of a black plastic case, a black strap, a clean white dial with black Arabic numerals and minute track, and a quartz movement – that’s it. While SWATCH soon ventured into more colorful designs, this watch helped define the brand in the popular imagination. SWATCH introduced the Once Again in 2000 to pay homage to the original GB001, with the lone functional addition of a day/date indicator with an applied magnifying lens at three o’clock. The Once Again offers an inexpensive take ($ 55!) on a historically important design that will function perfectly as a daily wearer at home or in the office. SWATCH has continued to offer the Once Again in its core collection for the past 20 years, and we knew we had to include it when assembling our selection.
SWATCH Blue Ben GN254
SWATCH is well known for paying tribute to different cultural landmarks in its designs, and this model provides a new, blue spin on one of the world’s best-known striking clocks: London’s Big Ben. There’s a lot to like here, from the attractive navy tone of the dial, plastic case, and silicone strap to the Roman numerals and sword-style, tapered handset. Best of all, for those who dread the ticking seconds hand found on most quartz watches, the Blue Ben only features an hour and minute hand, meaning you’ll have a relatively smooth timekeeping experience. Released in 2018, the Blue Ben is a more subdued, yet no less charismatic, take on the typical SWATCH charm.
SWATCH Charcolazing SUOB404
If you’ve spent any amount of time on HODINKEE, you know that grey-dialed watches hold a particularly close place to our heart, and this recently released SWATCH has a grey tone that is unlike pretty much any other watch. It leans on a cool charcoal color, but there’s a hint of brown in the metallic dial and case that provides some added warmth to the look. To top it off, SWATCH paired it with bright yellow dial accents and the brand’s proprietary “Solar Spectrum Glass,” which has a polarized effect that will reduce glare and refract different colors of light onto the dial itself.
SWATCH Metal Knit SFM118M
The Metal Knit is part of the SWATCH Skin family, which is one of the brand’s modern classics. These paper-thin and lightweight watches manage to capture all the character that SWATCH watches are known for, but are executed in a case profile that measures under 4mm tall. Watches from the Skin family epitomize the considered but carefree design ethos that governs SWATCH, and are yet another example of how the brand is able to offer incredible value for money. With the SWATCH Metal Knit, you receive an ultra-thin Swiss watch in an attractive semi-transparent package paired with a steel Milanese bracelet for just $ 125.
Is it any wonder HODINKEE named the Skin a Value Proposition last summer?
SWATCH SISTEM51 Kamu SUTB407
One of the key attributes to appreciating any SWATCH watch is understanding the brand’s tongue-in-cheek humor, which is irreverent, quirky, and totally unique in the Swiss watch industry. Nowhere is that more clear than in the brand’s unorthodox naming conventions, illustrated here with the SISTEM51 Kamu. Its silver-colored camouflage dial (camo = kamu – get it?) is made from a metalized microstructure, providing a modern twist on the classic military fatigue motif. The watch’s black silicone strap features an attractive hobnail pattern, and the mainplate and bridges of the automatic movement are decorated in a familiar green camo print.
SWATCH SISTEM51 Gentleman SUTF400
The SISTEM51 Gentleman might look like a fairly typical SWATCH at first glance, but it’s host to a number of details that help it stand out among the brand’s other offerings. Starting with the dial, you can see it’s been executed with a fine sunburst finish that contrasts rather nicely with the clean white Arabic numerals and characteristic SISTEM51 red dots. The dark grey case is actually somewhat transparent, and it’s completed by a matte black bezel with a white chapter ring and black silicone strap. The Gentleman offers a classic look with a twist, making it a perfect fit under the SWATCH SISTEM51 banner.
SWATCH SISTEM51 Knight YIM401
The SISTEM51 Knight has a bold stainless steel case coated in gunmetal PVD that is brought to life by a sunburst grey dial. The use of a metal case (rather than plastic), makes it part of SWATCH’s Irony collection. SWATCH launched the Irony collection within the SISTEM51 family in 2016, a few years after the original SISTEM51 debuted, as a way to bring more premium materials into the collection. Other details worth noting include the attractive dial design, which seamlessly fits a date window at three o’clock, and the fixed 60-minute bezel. With the Knight, SWATCH has created a muted yet visually distinctive take on the SISTEM51 design language.
SWATCH SISTEM51 Petite Seconde
Introduced at the beginning of 2020, the SISTEM51 Petite Seconde is the first serious mechanical evolution of the SISTEM51 movement. While the modification from a central seconds hand to a small seconds display at six o’clock might seem minimal, it nonetheless required adjusting the SISTEM51 movement architecture without changing the case diameter. SWATCH has outfitted the inaugural Petite Seconde models with polished stainless steel cases and placed them within the Irony collection. The Petite Seconde is available in two colorways, both priced equally at $ 215. The blue design (SY23S403) is a tad dressier, with an interplay of dark and light blue tones and sunburst and snailed dial finishes, while the black variation (SY23S400) offers a bit of a sportier look, with the addition of red accents on the small seconds display. Both watches are completed by lume-filled appliques, a color-matched date aperture at three o’clock, and leather straps.
Discover Your New Favorite SWATCH In The HODINKEE Shop
We’ve been looking forward to expanding our relationship with SWATCH for quite some time. The brand brings a lighthearted and approachable perspective to watchmaking that resonates deeply with us, and with the SISTEM51 in its arsenal, SWATCH is no slouch when it comes to mechanical innovation either. There’s a reason SWATCH is considered to be a legitimate icon in the Swiss watch industry, and you can find out why in the HODINKEE Shop, right here.