Is Swatch still good?

Swatch saved the Swiss Watch Industry, but now with the rise of the Smart Watch, they are almost close to facing their demise. While the Swatch Group is still one of the largest Swiss watch conglomerates, the affordable watch industry has been a little rocky and the times have changed, plastic colorful watches aren’t what people want anymore. Inflation has only made things worse, buying a Swatch just doesn’t feel as fun anymore because the prices are a gettng scarier and scarier relative to the rest of the market. And the Moonswatch only temporarily brought Swatch back into the mainstream. So what happened, is Swatch actually worse today, or do we just have rose tinted glasses?

First things first, Swatches were always designed to be the second watch, this article from Mental Floss explains the thinking of Swatch, comparing these cheap watches more to a necktie or a bracelet, where the idea is to get as many as possible to go with every outfit you own. When the first Swatch was released in 1983 it was possible to buy one for $30, nowadays that same Swatch would cost $80, A bit of a hard sell when most people don’t want an analog watch anymore or the people who do care could buy a mechanical metal watch for around the same price, while it may be difficult in 2023, it’s possible and that’s all that matters to most enthusiast’s.

That leads to the generational aspect of Swatch, In the late 70s Swiss watchmaking still held that crown but people didn’t want to pay those prices anymore when they could get a much cheaper, much more accurate digital Japanese watch, back then telling the time was stilll important, unlike today where we are surrounded by atomic clocks. Further, this generation grew up around stuffy mechanical watches because of their parents so obviously they wanted to break away from that, or at least that’s what my dad always tells me. Another important factor is the movements used. The movements used in these Swatches used to be much better, its all too easy to find vintage examples of Swatches that still work absolutely perfectly, compared to todays Swatches which fail much easier, and due to their welded case can’t be fixed easily. All of this makes the Moonswatch much sadder.

Okay let’s talk about the Moonswatch. In order to boost sales of Swatches and the Moonwatch from Omega, Swatch released the moonswatch, around a year ago now, and I just got mine a few weeks ago (review pending). And the strategy worked, the Moonswatch replicated all the hype of those first Swatches, with colorful desirable designs that demanded cues around the block, but it didn’t last, as of July 12th Swatch and Omega have released three versions of the Moonswatch with a gold second hand to celebrate the full moons. The Moonswatch didn’t hold up to many people’s expectations, most of the hype was and continues to be from the scalpers. Spoiler alert I like it, but it’s not what I would consider a good watch. 

I don’t think Swatch will ever return to its former glory, the landscape of the watch industry is so different today, and Swatches haven’t exactly increased in quality. The smart watch kind of took over the fashionable watch scene for most people and smart watches can tell you important things like your heart rate semi accurately. I very much have rose tinted glasses for a time I wasn’t alive, that affects how I view Swatch today, and maybe they haven’t really gotten that much worse but if they haven’t improved it’s hard to appreciate that today.