Who didn’t own a Swatch in the 80’s? Mine was a jelly – you could see all the way through the plastic, the coloured cogs and dials to my adolescent wrist.
Swatch changed the Swiss watch industry forever. A huge success in the 1980s the brand used new technologies – ABS, a durable thermoplastic and injection molding – to cut the price of an accurate timepiece from hundreds of dollars to 20, reinvigorating the market for analogue watches after the digital/ quartz crisis of the 1970s.
Designers Marlyse Schmid and Bernard Muller aligned themselves with fashion and art, producing a watch with universal appeal that could be changed with your outfit or even your mood.
Realising the importance of their 30 year archive they wanted to pass the baton on and we were asked to design an exhibition to showcase the collection in Geneva as part of Sotheby’s November Important Watches Sale.
The collection contains more than 4,000 pieces, of which around 1,000 are watches including some 380 prototypes, technical plans, drawings and collages, as well as numerous fascinating letters. That’s not to mention the hundreds of watch cases, faces and other parts.
Our challenge was to exhibit the affordable watches in a way that demonstrated their importance and value.
Each watch was displayed in its own box with associated items – for example a prototype watch, design drawings, original artwork and correspondence between designer and artist.
We created banks of 30 tiered and angled display cases making an exhibition environment that reflected the engineered nature of the watches – plastic with metal fittings.
The cases curved out from the wall surrounding the viewer in the Swatch world of quality design, engineering, pop art and fun fashion.
Real contemporary history. Now, I wonder if I’ve still got that jelly somewhere?