A rare collection of 1,000 original watches by Swatch were recently sold by Sotheby’s at a Geneva auction for CHF1.3 million ($1.3 million). The collection was comprised of the timepieces created in the brands most popular period in the 1980’s. The brand was so popular that it’s credited with saving the Swiss watchmaking industry.
The collected had been stored in an attic in canton Neuchâtel for years. It included 380 prototypes, as well as technical drawings, dials, sketches, and artwork spanning the 1981-1986 period. It belonged to the Swiss designers Bernard Müller and Marlyse Schmid, who were responsible for creating much of Swatch’s iconic visual identity in the early 1980s alongside Müller’s engineer brother Jacques.
The Schmid & Müller collection is a delight for collectors and appreciators. As Sotheby’s watches department manager Pedro Reiser explained,
It’s very rare to have such an extensive collection. This completely unique and historic selection of timepieces, components, and designs maps out the creative process during the fascinating early years of Swatch.”
Swatch was founded because it’s creators saw the need for a Swiss-made plastic watch that didn’t sacrifice quality while hitting an affordable price point. It’s development required technical innovation, with each watch only having 51 parts, as opposed to nearly 100 needed to make a traditional wristwatch. This reduction in parts allows it to be produced for 80% cheaper and assembled using a fully automated system.
For us the challenge was to establish plastic as a noble product,” said Müller. “Among the various components, the watch dial was the most expensive piece. This initially meant we were only able to use one or two colours at most. Swatch’s almost instant success allowed us free reign with our creativity, enabling us to change the look in an infinite number of ways following new fashions and trends.”
The Schmid & Müller collection contained a number of iconic pieces, including the original Jellyfish Swatch — the first transparent watch that started the trend of see-through watch movements. It was designed by Marlyse Schmid, and it was part of a 200 piece limited edition.
It also included original prototypes from the “Swatch Art Special” series, including the first model featuring artwork by “Kiki Picasso.” At the height Swatch’s popularity at the end of the 1990s, a single model sold for CHF60,000.
Another highlight was a series of models and artwork by US artist Keith Haring, who took two years to come up with his 1986 collection of six designs.
There’s been renewed interest in vintage watches as of late. Back in April, Sotheby’s auction house in Hong Kong sold one of the biggest private collections of Swatch watches in the world. The collected contained 5,800 timepieces that had been collected over a period of 25 years. It sold for $6 million.
Müller hopes that his collection is able to stay in one piece and enrich other Swatch collections.