One of my favorite accessories these days is a colorful watch from Swatch – the Swiss manufacturer of playful timepieces that covered nearly every wrist in the 1980s. Anyone who grew up during that decade remembers them. The watches were fun, affordable, and nearly ubiquitous. They added joy to people’s lives, as well as served the practical purpose of telling time (admittedly less useful today when everyone carries a nano-second-accurate smartphone).
As a style accessory, however, wearing a Swatch today feels perfect. Like Timex watches, which have been popular in menswear forever, these are reasonably affordable – running just under $100, with battery replacements being free if you stop by a local Swatch store. Unlike Timex, however, these wholeheartedly embrace their “cheapness.” The straps are made from plastic, instead of leather or metal. The watch faces have a pop art sensibility that’s reminiscent of those old “I Want My MTV” commercials. Instead of trying to look like something they’re not, Swatch timepieces are all about wearing something cheap and fun. They show a bit of playfulness – with the added bonus of lending color to any outfit.
One of my favorite lines from the company is the Rebel series, a collection of minimalist looking timepieces that comes in basic colors. I wear the black one above with black leather jackets and black jeans, while the blue one gets paired with indigo-dyed workwear ensembles. Then there’s the grey glen plaid, which is mostly reserved for navy and grey suits. It’s sold out at the moment in the US, but you can sometimes find it floating around eBay for roughly $70. Just do a search for “Swatch watch Prince of Wales.”
The one I wear the most, however, is the translucent watch you see at the far right – popularly known as Swatch’s jellyfish model. The design is so far out there that it goes with nothing, which also means it goes with everything. Rugged workwear, tailored clothing, contemporary casualwear. It originally came out in the 1980s, but there are have been a few iterations since. Mine above was bought on eBay from a seller who retrofits old cases with mechanical movements (this guy is selling something similar). Just be careful, as vintage models with translucent straps or cases can sometimes be yellowed from time.
Some other notables: Swatch’s Sistem51, which is the world’s first line of mechanical wristwatches made using automated assembly (see Hodinkee’s article about them here). I also love those vintage models made with Keith Haring’s artwork. Being collectors’ pieces, however, the prices have skyrocketed past what I’m willing to pay for a fun accessory. For something more affordable, just get something in a bold color, such as green or yellow. Do they look a little silly? Absolutely, which is what makes them great.