Swatch: Imaginative Watches With Cult Status
Swatch's creative watches have enjoyed a sterling reputation on the world stage for over 40 years. Their products inject color and artistic flair into the Swiss watch industry. The recent MoonSwatch collab even united Swatch and Omega enthusiasts.
A Playful Take on "Swiss Made"
Most people associate Swatch with colorful, eclectic, and affordable watches. The company was founded in 1983 in an attempt to strengthen the crumbling Swiss watch industry during the quartz crisis. Their portfolio of simple and inexpensive quartz watches offered fantastic alternatives to reigning Japanese companies like Seiko and Citizen.
Co-founder and business mogul Nicolas G. Hayek quickly brought success to the company, as even early models like the Swatch GB 101 proved to be very popular in the home market. Countless variants – often with colorful and creative designs – were subsequently launched, and many still enjoy cult status today. Swatch has a number of product lines, such as the Irony, Big Bold, and Swatch x Peanuts collections.
In 2014, Swatch's portfolio expanded to include mechanical watches using the Sistem51 caliber, an automatic in-house movement. As the name implies, this caliber consists of 51 components. It can be found inside the Sistem Petite Seconde, Sistem Bling, and Sistem Fly Swatches, among others.
More recently, in spring 2022, Swatch collaborated with luxury watchmaker Omega and released 11 quartz chronographs. These models revisit and reinterpret the design of the legendary Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch. What's more, they are made of Swatch's proprietary Bioceramic and only cost a fraction of what their role model demands on the secondary market.
Many were shocked to learn that Swatch and Omega were collaborating, especially since they operate in completely different price segments. However, considering the fact that Omega has been part of the Swatch Group since the 1980s, this is less surprising. The group also owns other luxury brands including Blancpain, Longines, Tissot and the children's brand Flik Flak.
Reasons to Buy a Swatch Watch
- Affordable entry to Swiss Made watches
- Extremely diverse product range
- Automatic or quartz movements
- 11 MoonSwatch models
- In-house caliber Sistem51
Prices for Swatch Watches
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Material, diameter, movement|
|Tresor Magique, SAZ101||2,300 USD||Platinum, 36 mm, automatic|
|Grand Prix, SCJ101||530 USD||Plastic, 37 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to the Moon," SO33M100||460 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to Mercury," SO33A100||460 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to Uranus," SO33L100||380 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission on Earth," SO33G100||380 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to Jupiter," SO33C100||365 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to Pluto," SO33M101||365 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to the Sun," SO33J100||365 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|MoonSwatch "Mission to Saturn," SO33T100||370 USD||Bioceramic, 42 mm, quartz|
|Flash Arrow Chrono, SCL100||265 USD||Plastic, 37 mm, quartz|
|Sistem Boreal, YIS401G||175 USD||Stainless steel, 42 mm, automatic|
|Big Bold Planets Second Home, SB01N101||160 USD||Plastic, 47 mm, quartz|
|X Peanuts Hee Hee Hee, SO29Z106||115 USD||Plastic, 41 mm, quartz|
|Captain Nemo Scuba, SDB101||100 USD||Plastic, 38 mm, quartz|
How much do Swatch watches cost?
You can buy a pre-owned Swatch watch on Chrono24 for less than 20 USD. Standard watches with quartz movements run between about 100 and 325 USD in mint condition. Models from the MoonSwatch collection can cost anywhere between 370 and 460 USD, depending on the model you choose. Particularly rare models, such as the platinum Tresor Magique from 1993, pushes 2,300 USD. Limited-edition watch sets are also significantly more expensive than regular models. The Dragon Ball Z set of seven watches, for example, which was limited to 997 units, changes hands for between 4,000 and 8,300 USD.
Quartz-Powered Swatch Watches
You can find a large selection of Swatch watches with quartz movements in the Irony collection, which dates back to the mid-1990s. Unlike most of Swatch's other watch series, which are made of plastic, the manufacturer crafts the Irony watch cases from either stainless steel or aluminum. As a result, these timepieces are much more robust and scratch-proof than many alternatives.
The Irony product line is home to a diverse range of chronographs and three-hand watches. The color pallet is virtually endless: You can choose between cases in rose gold, yellow gold, copper, silver, or black. As for the dials, you can take your pick from models with more traditional hues like black, white, and gray, as well as more modern colors such as blue, green, and brown. Most watches are paired with leather straps, rubber straps, or stainless steel bracelets, which, in true Swatch fashion, also come in an array of different colors.
The Dark Irony ref. YVS487G is a 43-mm stainless steel chronograph. The black dial hosts three subdials for the stopwatch function. The case comes on a stainless steel bracelet with a butterfly clasp.
You can buy this reference in mint condition for roughly 215 USD. The ref. YVS499G is a similar model, but features a burgundy dial. Plan to spend around 200 USD for a new copy.
If you're looking for a sophisticated three-hand watch with a quartz movement, take a look at the Irony Big Will ref. YWS101. This stainless steel timepiece measures 42 mm across and sports a white dial with black Arabic numerals. The watch is mounted on a brown leather strap and costs around 100 USD. The InkWell ref. YWS102 is very similar to the Big Will in terms of design and price, but has a black dial with white Arabic numerals.
James Bond Irony Model
There's also something for James Bond fans in the Irony collection. The 2Q ref. SS07Z102 pays tribute to Q, head of the fictional research and development division of the British Secret Service. Swatch released this quartz watch in 2020 when "No Time To Die" hit the silver screen. This Bond watch is made of stainless steel and has a 42-mm diameter. The silver and red dial is skeletonized, meaning you can view the movement at work inside. The hour markers are blue line indices, with the exception of a Q at 6 o'clock. The watch is worn on a brown leather strap with a waffle pattern.
You can buy a new Irony 2Q on Chrono24 for around 280 USD.
Swatch offers a collection of battery-powered quartz watches outitted with their SwatchPAY! technology. This means that you use an encrypted NFC chip embedded in the watch to make contactless payments in eligible countries. The technology is certified by Mastercard and Visa, and supports many of the major credit and debit cards. Swatch has not yet announced when the technology will be introduced in the USA.
As of December 2022, there were almost 40 different SwatchPAY! models, ranging from 34 to 37 mm in diameter. You can choose between Bioceramic or plastic cases. The compatible watches are easily recognizable with names such as "Ocean PAY!", "PAY! By Day", and "BluedazePAY!"
Retail prices begin at around 90 USD. This amount will get you the 34-mm WinePAY! model in plastic. The 47-mm Night Trip PAY! belongs to the Big Bold series and is made of Bioceramic. The MSRP is around 155 USD.
Sistem51: Automatic Swatch Watches
In 2014, Swatch achieved something that many experts considered impossible. The brand succeeded in developing an automatic movement with only 51 components and fully automated assembly. The caliber, the Sistem51, exclusively uses components produced by Swatch Group companies. For example, Nivarox manufactures the escapement system, i.e., the balance, balance spring, pallet, and escape wheel. Assembly takes place in the production facilities of movement manufacturer ETA, which also belongs to the Swatch Group.
The Sistem51 is protected by 17 patents. The movement's 51 components are spread over five modules, connected by a single screw. The movement is maintenance-free and offers a remarkable 90-hour power reserve. The balance oscillates at 21,600 vibrations per hour (A/h).
The Sistem51 Hodinkee Stoplight Neon Remix ref. SO30Z402 is a limited-edition Swatch created in collaboration with Hodinkee, a New York-based watch blog. This reference features a matte blue plastic case measuring 42 mm across. An unusual feature of this watch is the date display, which uses a neon yellow square moving around a track to indicate the corresponding date. The second hand is also neon yellow. The strap is made of plastic and matches the color of the case.
You can buy this watch for around 175 USD.
Petite Seconde Black & Blue: Small Seconds
Swatches powered by the Sistem51 caliber are also available with a small seconds subdial at 6 o'clock. Swatch offers two such models, namely the "Petite Seconde" in blue and in black. The blue version bears the reference number SY23S403, while you can find the black version under the ref. SY23S400.
Both watches were given a 42-mm stainless steel case with a display case back, meaning you can flip it over and take a look at the Sistem51 ticking away inside. The dials have a sunburst finish, giving them a certain depth that shimmers brilliantly depending on the lighting. In addition to the small seconds, the movement also has a date complication at 3 o'clock. As for the hour markers, the Swiss giant decided on short, double bar indices. Both versions come on a leather strap matching the respective case color and retail for 230 USD.
Other watches with a small seconds include the Unavoidable, Magnificent Irony, and Orange en Cage models. Plan to spend between 230 and 250 USD on one of these Swatches in mint condition.
Sistem Bling: Two-Tone Design
If you're looking for a model that is both elegant and eye-catching, then check out the Sistem51 Bling ref. YIS429G from the Irony series. The case and bracelet are in a brilliant two-tone design: The bezel, crown, indices, and hands of the 42-mm watch have a yellow PVD coating, as do the center links of the three-piece link bracelet. The champagne dial boasts an elegant sunburst finish. Alongside the standard time display, the Sistem51 also provides a date at 3 o'clock. What's more, the Bling has a display case back. Swatch lists the Sistem51 Bling for 260 USD.
Omega x Swatch MoonSwatch
Luxury watch manufacturer Omega and its umbrella brand Swatch introduced the MoonSwatch in spring 2022 to tremendous success. The name is a combination of Moonwatch and Swatch, paying tribute to the Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch that went down in history as the first watch on the Moon. While an Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch now costs well into the four-figure range and is thus geared towards seasoned luxury watch collectors, the MoonSwatch caters to a younger demographic looking for more manageable prices. The initial list price was 260 USD; however, due to the buzz the watch created, prices on the secondary market reached dizzying heights. By the end of 2022, the hype surrounding the MoonSwatch had cooled down significantly, but some sellers are still charging astronomical prices for certain versions.
The design of the eleven different versions of the MoonSwatch draws heavily on the legendary Omega model. In fact, the case has the exact same dimensions as the Moonwatch, and features the same twisted lugs. You'll also find a tachymeter bezel with the "Dot over 90" and three subdials found on the Moonwatch.
However, there are fundamental differences in terms of materials and technology. While the Omega Moonwatch is made of stainless steel, Swatch manufactures the MoonSwatch from their proprietary Bioceramic. This ceramic blend combines ceramic with a synthetic material derived from castor oil, and is particularly lightweight. Another key difference is the movement. The MoonSwatch models use a quartz caliber from ETA. Technically, therefore, the subdials are located at 2, 6, and 10 o'clock, and not at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock like on the Moonwatch.
Each of the eleven MoonSwatch variants is a different color and dedicated to a planetary body in our Solar System: Neptune, Saturn, Jupiter, Pluto, Uranus, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Sun, the Earth, and the Moon. Each model comes on a color-coordinated strap with a Velco fastener.
Reasons to Buy a MoonSwatch
- Models pay tribute to the legendary Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch
- Innovative Bioceramic case
- 11 versions to choose from
- Precise, low maintenance quartz caliber