Swatch is a brand that’s ubiquitous to Gen X-ers and Millennials; it’s practically the first watch everyone owns. And while the classic Swatch remains an icon (and one of my personal faves of the brand) and Sistem51 (the first mechanical watch fully made without manual labour) has proven it still has the ability to disrupt the world, Swatch Art and Swatch Skin are popular among the trendy and the cool, for the simple fact that the brand has always tried to offer itself a facelift.
Which is why when Carlo Giordanetti, creative director of the brand, first came back to Swatch, one of his first questions was why the brand wasn’t working on new Skin offerings. That was the second project he directly initiated since returning to Swatch, the first being the launch of Sistem51. “I’ve always loved the Skin collection and so we sat down to figure out how we could improve on it,” he explained.
The changes are not immediately obvious apart from the sizes. The new Skin comes in two sizes, 40mm and 36.8mm, in a multitude of colours and styles that he assures us will continue to refresh each season. It’s clear that this is designed to be a fashionable product. Swatch makes no claims to high watchmaking, even though it does have a couple of high watchmaking pieces in the Diaphane series (shout-out here to Diaphane lovers, a new one is on the way).
The watch is in fact “very slightly thicker”, according to Giordanetti. “It’s 0. something millimetres thicker. We had to adjust the thickness because we wanted a movement that could be shown off on the dial and that required working with the technical engineers to refine the quartz movements for Swatch to enhance the aesthetic qualities of the movement.” But he also points out that the case has a slightly curved back to make it sit better on the wrist as well. In fact, one of the ladies’ styled pieces has a partially exposed dial, to prove his point.
You don’t really imagine a Swatch collection requires that much effort but Giordanetti and his team spent two years working on the project, which was unveiled in London two weeks ago and will be released in Singapore this week. It’s also available online. They worked on everything from colours to dials, trying to find the right balance of cool classic Skin to trendy and funky that’s sure to excite the younger crowd. And they’ll keep adding to it.
“The product is still along the criteria of the Skin: very minimal, very subdued, very thin, very light, but with a new language and shape,” he explained. “When you can see the amount of detail that we put into the product, you’ll understand the amount of research that we do and that it’s not a main street product even if its price is very democratic. We had to develop two different plastics of different densities because when you mould plastic it can meld together, so we had to invent a new injection system for this as well.”
“That’s how the name of the campaign started: because this curve from the case and the style of the Skin collection really moulds to your skin, so it moves with you,” he pointed out. “Hence we decided to call it Your Move, because the watch is about lightness, movement and making a product part of your style, rather than wearing a bold design piece in which you become its display, rather than the other way round.”
The launch event, held in The Strand in London, featured a dramatic dance performance and various social media friendly setups including a responsive projection where guests could interact with it and capture it on camera. But Giordanetti also casually dropped the possibility that a Bluetooth chip that The Swatch Group recently invented, the smallest in the world, might well make its way into Swatch watches. He’s not telling us when, though. “We’re not looking to compete with smart devices and smart objects. That’s not what we are about. But we definitely do have that capacity and know-how, and we are looking at how we can possibly create a product that will still encapsulate the qualities of the brand and deliver something interesting to a new audience. We have created a digital payment Swatch before and it’s an extremely easy and intuitive product to use. That’s one of the things that our founder, the late Mr Nicholas Hayek always used to say, that if a 10 year-old child could not know how to use it without having to read a manual, then it’s not Swatch. So what we make has to be intuitive. Effortless.”