I bought my first Swatch watch in the late 80s – a kaleidoscope of colour timepiece, which rarely came off my wrist. I have no idea where that watch is today but the first Swatch watches were revolutionary in concept, creative design and affordability.
By 1990 people were collecting Swatch watches, which fueled the start of The Swatch Club. The movement started in Switzerland with the ‘Swatch Collectors of Swatch’ club, before local versions of the club started emerging the world over. I owned three at one stage but since the 90s, it’s not a brand that I’ve paid much attention to, so a recent invitation from Swatch brought some wonderful memories flooding back as well as a new appreciation for how this brand has continued to innovate.
I travelled to Trieste in Italy for the International Talent Support (ITS), a visionary showcase for young designers from around the world, invited to compete in four areas: fashion, jewelry, accessories and artwork. Swatch created, in partnership with ITS, the ITS Artwork category, focusing on pure artistic creativity. Ten finalists were challenged by Swatch to make a work of art expressing their personal vision of artistic utopia, and to use colorful Swatch components in their work such as the watch heads, straps, buckles, and dials. The standard was quite extraordinary.
This year’s winner was Marco Baitella, from Italy who received €10,000 and the opportunity to exhibit a special project at ITS 2017. Carlo Giordanetti, Creative Director Swatch International, told me: “Marco’s artwork is about his personal story – past, present and future. The piece is emotive, yet executed in a very clean and contemporary style. His next challenge is to come back next year and blow our minds with the next generation of his art.”
The winner of the Swatch Award was Jana Zornik, from Slovenia for her exquisite piece about introspection, incorporating broken segments of the Swatch watchcases. She received €10,000 and a coveted 6-month paid internship at the Swatch Creative Lab in Zurich, Switzerland. As the talent was unprecedented, for the second year running, Swatch decided to award a third prize to Japanese artist Hazuki Katagai for her wonderfully humourous and unique ‘Weapons of Love’ installation, which earned her a three-month art residency at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. My own personal favourite was from Karan Torani for his spinning 1,000 petal lotus flower representing the crown chakra.
In between observing some, at times, astonishing creativity, I had the chance to explore the city of Trieste – the coffee drinking capital of Italy. The inhabitants of Trieste are said to drink twice as much coffee as elsewhere in Italy and I can understand why. The pungent aroma of freshly brewed coffee swirls in the air as you enter Caffè San Marco, the city’s oldest café, which played host to Irish novelist and poet James Joyce during his 10-year residency in Trieste, where he penned The Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Sipping a perfectly made cappuccino on the cobbled streets outside Caffè San Marco; with a new Swatch watch on my wrist and new Swatch sunglasses shading my eyes from the glorious Italian sunshine, wrapped up a weekend filled with visionary talent, colourful characters and a welcome reacquaintance with a brand from my youth.
For more information on Swatch & Art click here