SCZ 103 UNlimited chronograph special watch. Designed by YA/YA (Young Aspirations, Young Artists), manufactured by Swatch Group, 1995. Gift of William Drenttel. 2010-28-1.

A Watch To See

The ubiquitous Swatch watch is manufactured by the Swatch Group, a Swiss conglomerate whose name is a contraction of the words second and watch. The company introduced its first watches in 1983, at a time when digital timepieces were enjoying wide popularity. Intending to re-popularize the analog watch (which first appeared in the 17th century) Swatch developed a range of low-cost, high-tech, artistic and fun quartz-powered wristwatches in bold designs made of bright synthetic materials. Technical innovations included simplified gearing and a reduced number of components: Swatch was able to decrease the 90 or more components typical in an analog watch to just 51, with no loss in accuracy. Swatches appealed to consumers not only as reliable and low cost timepieces, but also as collectable fashion statements and design objects. By the late 1980s, the company was commissioning artists and designers to create individual watches or entire collections.

Swatch also began producing “Specials,” which are models with a specific theme created to mark an extraordinary person or event. These are produced in limited, numbered editions, and are never re-issued. This UNlimited chronograph is a “Special” that was produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1997. The typical form of the Swatch—a circular face, thin profile, and simple flat strap—is unchanged, but the design is enlivened with bold colors. Green and blue predominate, with splashes of red, yellow, black, and white. Imagery of clasped hands represents the idea of international solidarity. Swatch chose Young Aspirations/Young Artists (YA/YA), a New Orleans-based program that promotes the work of young artists, to design the watch.

Today is  United Nations Day.

Museum Number: 
2010-28-1