Swatch Watches: A Comprehensive Brand Review

Swatch, founded in the 1980s, is undoubtedly one of today’s biggest Swiss brands. Not only does it produce relatively affordable timepieces but it’s also home for various artist collaborations. The company significantly rose through the ranks despite being only around for less than 40 years. However, history proves that Swatch watches are revolutionary in its own right. Swatch succeeded in marrying affordability together with accuracy and precision. But is any of it worth it? What makes these timepieces so affordable and stylish while remaining accurate?

How Swatch Watches Revived Swiss Watchmaking

Swatch’s history traces as far back as the late ’70s. During the Quartz Crisis, the Swiss watchmaking industry significantly deflated in market value. The production rate of Swiss products generally fell from 45% to less than 15%. These events altogether put the Swiss watchmaking industry behind Hong Kong and Japan. The ultimate challenge for Swiss watchmakers explicitly presented itself. They had to make affordable watches to beat the Japanese. This was a challenge that ETA SA — the largest manufacturer of Swiss watch movements in the world — took on. Not only did they aim to create an affordable watch but also an extremely thin timepiece — no thicker than 2mm.

ETA SA CEO, Dr. Ernst Thomke, together with other engineers crafted the Delirium Tremens in 1979. The Delirium Tremens had very few components, therefore, making the watch thin itself. This is possible by creating a case that’s chiefly made with one single piece. So, in effect, the caseback also serves as the bottom plate. Through the top part, the movement fitted, then the sapphire crystal placed last. To this day, Swatch watches also have the sapphire crystals placed last as a nod to the Delirium watch.

But the challenge didn’t stop there. The engineers at ETA SA took the Delirium Tremens as a reference to create a high-quality watch in plastic. Thus, the Delirium Vulgare. These watches became the basis of the Swatch watches we know today.

The Swatch Group

In the 1980s, with the success of the Delirium watches, the Swatch brand name came to be. As the Swatch brand became more known to the public, a merger was setting itself in motion. Lebanese-Swiss businessman Nicolas G. Hayek oversaw the liquidation of both ASUAG (mother company of ETA SA) and SSIH. This led to the formation of Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie or SMH that would later be known as The Swatch Group. With Dr Thomke’s invention, he was made the first president of the new conglomerate. In 1985, Hayek and his group of investors took on the major shareholding of the company.

Under Hayek’s leadership and with the Swatch watches, the company overall flourished. Aside from less mechanical components, the timepieces also have outer synthetic parts for cases and straps. But what made the watches stand out most were the designs that ranged from simple to quirky. In other words, there was a Swatch for everybody. Moreover, collaborations with various artists and brands assured marketability of each watch. To this day, these watches, indeed, are collector’s items.

What’s in a Name: Origin of ‘Swatch’

You’ll find various theories about the name Swatch and where it came from. A lot of people assume that it was from the contraction of the words “Swiss-Made Watch”. While this is relatively possible, it’s never confirmed that this was the etymology of the word. However, another theory circulates on the Internet. It’s also widely believed that Swatch actually means “The Second Watch”. This describes a significantly new concept for watches that were usually expensive. With the Swatch watches, timepieces have become more casual and fun as well as relatively disposable. Wherever the brand name came from, it’s undeniably catchy and ultimately bound for success.

Everything Great About Swatch Watches

Swatch Kiki Picasso Watch
Swatch Kiki Picasso Watch | Photo from The Strait Times

Now that we’ve learned how Swatch ultimately saved the Swiss watchmaking industry, it’s time to break down a Swatch into parts. What makes Swatch watches so good that even to this day, they remain superior in the industry. While The Swatch Group has many various brands under its name, we are only going to focus on watches that are branded as Swatch. And when we say Swatch, we talk about its affordability, stylishness, as well as collectibility.


The brand’s watches were greatly popular right when it was launched. Compared to its sister brands such as Longines and Omega, Swatch leans on the lower end of the scale. The prices for its brand-new watches range from about $40 to more or less $200. This is possible due to the fewer compartments of the watch as well as the materials used for it. Most of these timepieces are plastic from its case to its strap. This ultimately became one of the reasons people loved every bit of Swatch timepieces. They can buy more than one and alternate straps whenever they want to. Moreover, if a watch or some parts gets broken, it wouldn’t be too painful to replace or dispose of.


As aforementioned, timepieces from Swatch ultimately became fashion statements for the middle class. More and more people leaned on the fashionable watches that were also affordable. When Swatch drops a collaboration with a brand or an artist, it ultimately becomes an instant hit. People would buy more than one and flaunt their watches in various ways. Today, patrons also have the ability to customize their own Swatch watch, which makes it easier for anyone to express themselves.


Swatch has various collaborations that got the world on a high. There are times when timepieces become art objects rather than just watches. Among their many collaborators include artists such as Keith Haring, Vivienne Westwood, as well as Damien Hirst. These are just a few of many that stood out among the list. Other brands also collaborated with Swatch and ultimately became hits. For example, the brand collaborated with BAPE and the Lourve in 2019. These watches ultimately proved to be timeless. There are also a lot of collectors dedicated to collecting only Swatch timepieces. In fact, a collection of Swatch watches was once sold in an auction for about $65,000.

Best Swatch Watches

Today, Swatch has various families of different styles and functions. These include Originals, Irony, Skin, Bijoux, Beat, Sistem51, and a whole lot more. But among these, some stand out for many reasons. Let’s dive deeper into the best Swatch families in the market today.

Swatch Irony

Irony, as the name suggests, is a collection of metal-cased Swatch watches. With the quintessential Swatch made with plastic, Irony takes it a notch higher with a different casing. Irony watches are either quartz or automatic mechanical. These watches also sit at the higher end of the Swatch price range but still very affordable for their features. One of the best watches from this collection is the Night Flight.

The Night Flight looks more like your classic stainless steel chronograph with a black dial. It features three sub-dials as well as Super-Luminova hands. The watch functions with a quartz movement with water-resistance of up to 30 meters. It also has a tachometer as one of its sub-dials.


  • Width: 43mm
  • Thickness: 12.67mm
  • Height: 49mm
  • Functions: Chrono, Date, Tachometer
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel

Swatch Skin

Skin is a family of watches that not only speaks for itself but also proves to be as functional. It has various subfamilies such as Original Skin and Skin Irony. The Orginal Skin is a thinner version of the original Swatch watch. It stands at only 3.9 mm tall. In essence, Skin has watches that are weightless and comfortable to wear. Thus, its name. As one of the achievements of the watch, the Guinness Book of World Records lists Skin as the world’s thinnest plastic watch. And while Skin innovated through the years, its classic designs still remain to be its best offering.

In fact, the Skinthrough has to be the best Skin Swatch out there. It stands out more than the others for its minimalist aesthetic and sleek design. It has a silver-coloured dial within a 40mm double-injection case. The case is also split along a curved line with a semi-transparent matte black plastic front and solid matte dark grey plastic back. Its distinguishing feature is the line that descends from the very top to the bottom of the watch through the strap. It creates a subtle stylishness to it while embracing the true Skin spirit.


  • Width: 40 mm
  • Thickness: 5.70mm
  • Height: 45.60mm
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Case Material: Plastic

Bau Swatch

To celebrate the Bauhaus movement’s 100th anniversary, Swatch comes up with designs inspired by the revolutionary movement. Some of the characters that define a Bauhaus design include a focus on linear and geometrical forms. Mostly, line, shape and colour are the focal points of their designs. Moreover, they have to be plain and straightforward in simplicity. These are just some of the characteristics that Swatch applied to this collection. The best watch in the collection that embraced these principles has to be the Elementary.

The Swatch Elementary takes its form in a simple, refined design. It focuses on primary colours as well as the sturdiness of a contrasting white and black. For the dial, you’ll find a blue hour hand as well as a red minute hand. The second hand is in yellow, which is also a primary colour. The watch, indeed, envokes an imaginative sense that draws you into the detail rather than a fanciful design.


  • Width: 41mm
  • Thickness: 9.85mm
  • Height: 47.40mm
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Case Material: Plastic

Swatch Big Bold

A stand out not only for its name but also for its design, the Big Bold collection lives up to its genre. It’s big and bold as the name would tell you. It’s for bold personalities as well as people with particularly bigger wrists. It has a striking .47mm case and big arrows that make reading easier. The design draws inspiration from urban streetwear with an ergonomic strap. The Big Bold Jellyfish is a watch that makes sure you’re comfortable in style.

The 47mm dial of this Big Bold Swatch is fully transparent, while its silicone strap is semi-transparent. It’s like there’s nothing on your wrist with how comfortable it sits there. Not to mention, the transparency makes it look like you’re wearing a watch by just the movement of it. The flash hands in blue, red, and yellow make reading time easier, though. So, you shouldn’t worry about the readability on this one.

Big Bold JELLYFISH Swatch (SO27E100)

  • Width: 47mm
  • Thickness: 11.75mm
  • Height: 44.80mm
  • Movement: Quartz
  • Water Resistance: 30mm
  • Case Material: Plastic

Swatch Sistem 51

Swatch introduced this family in Baselworld 2013. According to the company, Sistem 51 is the world’s first mechanical movement with entirely automated assembly. This, of course, shook the industry with 51 components anchored to a central screw with automatic winding. The calibre allowed for a 90-hour power reserve. Moreover, it’s 100% Swiss-made through an automated assembly line without human intervention. With a sealed movement, the watch makes for a reliable one as it repels moisture, dust, and other foreign objects.

One of the best designs we’ve come across is the Sistem Damier. It has a black and grey checkerboard pattern on the textured silicone strap and dial. The caseback offers a view of the Sistem 51 automatic movement.

Swatch Sistem Damier SUTB406

  • Width: 42mm
  • Thickness: 13.90mm
  • Height: 50.60mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Functions: Automatic, Date, Glowing
  • Water Resistance: 30m
  • Case Material: Plastic

Final Thoughts

Swatch has truly marked itself as the brand that revived the Swiss watchmaking industry. It’s a reliable brand with a rich history. From the very beginning, Swatch has embraced the wearability of watches. They’ve become fashion statements with truly versatile designs. With its selling price, it’s not surprising not to find anything mindblowing with regard to its movements. However, Swatch lets you be an individual in a world full of status quo.

Swatch watches are the ultimate by-products of luminaries and game-changers of the industry and beyond. From its original designs to the collaborations that shaped history, the brand stands out through the uniqueness it brings and carries. Not to mention, Swatch offers limited-edition pieces with low quantities, which allows the brand to focus more on quality rather than quantity.


Looking for more in-depth reviews? Check out our comprehensive brand reviews of Casio and Timex watches.

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