Buying Guide: The Best Swatch Watches From The 2000s
We like to talk about vintage watches a lot within the Fratello team. Though most of what we write about is largely focused on the most recent releases and developments, for many of us, a lot of the fun can be found in the sometimes weird and often wonderful world of vintage watches. It’s a world full of history, remarkable watches, incredible stories, and quirky details. It inspired us to come up with a series of articles focusing on the best watches per decade from a select group of brands. Some of them are priceless, some of them are still affordable. In this installment, we will take a look at the best Swatch watches from the 2000s.
By the turn of the millennium, Switzerland had proudly reclaimed its title as the watchmaking capital of the world. The 2000s, in many ways, formed the blueprint for the watch industry as we know it today. By the time the 2000s came around, mechanical watches were incredibly popular. Instead of just selling instruments that told the time, the major brands became cornerstones in the world of luxury goods, and the watch industry was thriving.
We saw brands being bought by conglomerates that turned into the luxury powerhouses they are today. But the 2000s was also the decade that saw the rise of independent brands alongside the industry’s big players. Small brands made it their goal to push the envelope of watchmaking in terms of design and technological developments. In the early 2000s, we also saw watches increase in size like never before. Panerai, Audemars Piguet, Hublot, and IWC enjoyed a great rise in popularity with their oversized watches. They will all be part of the best watches of the 2000s.
Swatch in the 2000s
In the 2000s, Swatch continued to release many watches in its different lines. In the 1990s, the brand introduced new collections, as I mentioned in the article about the best Swatch watches from the 1990s. With the introduction of the Swatch Irony, Pop Swatch, Swatch Chrono, Swatch Skin, Swatch Maxi, Swatch Automatic, and Swatch Solar collections, the brand laid the foundation for a great number of new releases in the different model families.
But it’s not like Swatch to sit still. In the 2000s, the brand added a string of new product lines, including the Chrono Plastic, the Automatic Chronograph, the Diaphane collection, the Fun Scuba, the first smartwatch together with Microsoft with the Swatch Paparazzi, and the list goes on. As we all know, the stream of limited editions was unlimited. From local special editions to global limited-edition runs of the brand’s iconic pieces, Swatch was unstoppable. Picking five Swatch models from a decade is completely mad. But as we like a little madness, I have picked five watches for this list of the most remarkable Swatch models from the 2000s.
The Entry Point — Swatch Diaphane Oscillation ref. SVDK1000
Let’s start this list off with the Swatch Diaphane line that was introduced in 2002. At the introduction in Athens, Greece, Swatch presented four different styles of watches — the Diaphane Automatic, Diaphane Chrono, Diaphane Olympic, and Diaphane Navigator. The concept behind the Diaphane watches was to produce transparent plastic cases with metal bezels. Of course, mechanical watch fans were mostly drawn to the Diaphane Automatic watches. I actually looked multiple times into buying one of the first models but somehow never pulled the trigger during the many Swatch Store The Hague visits.
For this list, I picked the first reference that was part of three introductory models. This one is known as the Diaphane Oscillation ref. SVDK1000, the second was the Diaphane Gravitation ref. SVDK1001 and the third was the Diaphane Gyrotempus ref. SVDK1002. The Oscillation was different than the other two because it had an open dial that showed the front of the movement. Swatch used a 41.5mm transparent plastic case with a height of 11.3mm and a lug-to-lug of 48.7mm. It’s the perfect size for a great variety of wrist sizes.
The automatic ETA Caliber 2841-1
If you turned the watch around, you could see the back of the movement. The movement Swatch used was the automatic ETA 2841-1. These cheap automatic movements operate at 21,600vph, have 21 jewels, and come with a 48-hour power reserve. For this watch, Swatch used the skeletonized version of the movement. The ETA 2841-1 movements found in Swatch watches used plastic parts for the escapement for cheaper production costs. It perfectly fits the concept of Swatch, although it was far from new. Tissot also used plastic parts for its movement back in the 1970s.
At introduction, the Swatch Diaphane Oscillation ref. SVDK1000 was available for 180 Swiss Francs. Twenty years later, you can find the watch for a price that’s roughly between €100 and €150. Next to the Diaphane Oscillation, plenty of other models were also worth checking out. Looking back at the many visits I paid the Swatch Store; I should have probably bought one of these because twenty years later, they still look like cool watches that you could easily put on your wrist once in a while.
My choice — Swatch Automatic Chronograph ref. SVGK403
My pick for this list comes from a series of Swatch Automatic Chronograph watches that was introduced in 2009. Swatch introduced five models that featured different designs, dial colors, and strap materials. The watches were part of the Swatch Irony line and featured a 42mm plastic case with stainless steel parts like the bezel, pushers, and crown. My pick is the white Automatic Chronograph SVGK403. I picked it because it would be a perfect summer watch with its overall white presence. On top of that, some of the other models look too much like classic timepieces that we know.
Inside the 42mm case, Swatch used the ETA C01.211 automatic mechanical chronograph caliber based on the classic Lemania 5100 movement. The movement was developed when Tissot asked ETA to produce an affordable mechanical chronograph for its watches. It consists of 184 parts, operates at 21,600vph, and has a 46-hour power reserve. The movement displayed the time date and had a 6-hour chronograph. The dial layout under the sapphire crystal is what we have come to know as the “7750 layout” after Valjoux’s legendary chronograph movement.
A remarkable case back design
Turning the watch around, you will find a semi-opaque crystal case back with two clear areas. You can watch one of the gears and the escapement in action through them. As you can see through the semi-opaque crystal, the movement features a big rotor that covers more than half of the back of the movement. It’s an interesting approach to designing a case back, but it fits the Swatch brand identity perfectly.
Overall, I love the look of this watch, and as I said, I could easily see myself wearing this watch during the summer months. The only downside to white straps is discoloration. As you can see, the watch was available with a white rubber strap or a white leather strap. Both look very nice but will become dirty over time. It’s why you will see these pieces pre-owned often with discolored straps. But worry not because aftermarket replacements are available that will keep it looking as crisp as it did in 2009. At the time of introduction, the watch was €285. Expect to see roughly the same price for a pre-owned one nowadays. You will get a great watch with a reliable automatic chronograph movement from Swatch for that money.
Money is no object #1 — Swatch James Bond 40th Anniversary Box Set
We all know that Omega is James Bond’s watch of choice. But over the years, we have also seen a lot of 007-tribute watches from Swatch. I assume it is an all-in deal that the Swatch Group has with the Bond franchise. As part of the collaboration, Swatch released a special box set to celebrate 40 years of James Bond movies in 2002. The special Bond briefcase came with 20 watches for all 20 films released up to that point. To give you an idea of where we would be, the set was released when Pierce Brosnan played Bond for the last time in Die Another Day.
I love this box set because the watches are very different. There is a different theme fitting the specific Bond film, but it didn’t end there. There are all kinds of different case shapes and sizes and a mix of men’s and women’s models. If you go through the different watches, you will see a great variety of pieces that fit the 20 films perfectly. For me, some standout pieces are the Dr. No, the Goldfinger, the Octopussy, and the Moonraker. Seeing the watches makes me want to see the films all over again.
Only 280 pieces
Swatch produced 280 sets that came in a 007-embossed leather case. In good Bond fashion, the combination to open the suitcase is 007. Inside, you would not only find the 20 watches but accompanying plaques for every watch as well. As you can see, the Octopussy model has a different place in the suitcase because of the special bracelet.
Overall, it’s great to see this special Bond box set. It reminds me of the James Bond Villain box sets that have been released. But as you would have guessed, these box sets are not easy to find. They sometimes show up during auctions, and prices differ greatly. Currently, there is a set for sale on Chrono24 for a little over €7K. Recent auction results show prices roughly between €4.5 and €7K. Either way, these special box sets do not come cheap. Seeing how well-executed they are and considering their collectible value, that only makes sense.
Money is no object #2 — Swatch Diaphane One ref. SVAK1001
As some of you might know, Swatch did not shy away from releasing some seriously technically impressive timepieces over the years. While these watches would always maintain the Swatch aesthetic, they could be equipped with some seriously impressive movements. One of the best examples is the Swatch Diaphane One ref. SVAK1001. This special watch was released in 2001 in a limited run of 2,222 pieces. A small number of 222 pieces debuted as a separate limited release for the Swatch Place Vendôme store in Paris that was opened a year earlier in 2000.
The Diaphane One is a skeleton watch that focuses on showing the watch’s inner workings. You can watch this very special movement in action through the sapphire crystals used for the front and the back. Inside the case, you will find a movement developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre. People have been calling this watch a Tourbillon, Karusel, and Carousel Tourbillon with its rotating movement. However, in reality, it’s none of the three.
A rotating movement
The movement is actually mounted on a plate that revolves twice per hour. Despite not being a tourbillon, it’s nevertheless an impressive technological piece. On top of that, the goal for these watches was also to show that Swatch could produce a watch with incredible levels of finishing. Combining the high-horology movement with the plastic case with aluminum details creates something spectacular that still has the Swatch signature. When the watch was first released in 2001, you could buy one for €3,330. It was a hefty price tag for a Swatch, but considering the movement and the finishing, it was not a great sum of money.
The Diaphane One sold out quickly because collectors immediately recognized this piece’s value. As a result, most pieces disappeared in safes all over the globe. For a period after, the prices of the watches skyrocketed. But in 2006, Swatch decided to release the Diaphane One Turning Gold with the same “Carousel” movement executed in rose gold. And two years after, we also saw the release of the Diaphane One Turn 2 Him and Diaphane One Turn 2 Her. All three came with an even bigger price tag due to the use of precious metals. Finding a Swatch Diaphane One ref. SVAK1001 is possible. Expect to see prices roughly between €3K and €4K if the watch is still new. It has kept its value pretty well over the past twenty years.
Money is no object #3 — Swatch Puzzle Motion Nicolas G. Hayek ref. SUPZ100
The last watch on this list is a funny one. The Swatch Nicolas G. Hayek Puzzle Motion was part of the brand’s Puzzle Motion Series. The series was available from 2007 to 2009. The watches in the collection had eye-catching dials with four discs that rotated fully in exactly one hour. The dials of most models featured colorful artworks with patterns that constantly changed as the discs rotated, essentially creating new artworks with the passing of time.
In late 2006, a Swiss newspaper reported about Swatch creating a watch with the face of Swatch founder Nicolas G. Hayek on the dial. They referred to Hayek’s artwork, but it took some time before there was a watch with his face on the dial. In late 2008, Swatch released the Swatch Puzzle Motion Nicolas G. Hayek ref. SUPZ100 in a limited run of 1,000 pieces. Over the years, these watches have become very popular with watch fans.
A puzzled face
Seeing the watch, I can understand why. On top of that, I must say that you can’t deny Mr. Hayek had a good sense of humor. As the watch was part of the Puzzle Motion Series, it would only show his face properly (or non-puzzled) for one minute of every hour. For the rest of the hour, you could see the picture deform, showing the puzzled variants of Hayek’s face. As you can see in the pictures, Mr. Hayek’s face was not just on the dial but also featured on the strap. Finding one of the 1,000 pieces is tough but not impossible. Expect to pay roughly between €75 and €150 depending on the condition. It will buy you one of the most fun Swatch watches ever created.
When it comes to this series of articles, I cannot stress enough to do your research. On top of being crucial in avoiding disappointment when buying a vintage watch, it can also be a lot of fun. Especially when it comes to Swatch, the fun of collecting is in the stories, the memories, and the appreciation of the brand and its impact on the world of watches. If you want to learn more about the brand, I recommend Swatch & Beyond and Masters In Time (formerly known as Squiggly). Also, try and get your hand on a copy of any of the Swatch-Clopedias released until 2008.
This series only highlights a small selection of the most important models from the 2000s. Tons more models deserve attention, but there is no time and space to get into all of them. As I mentioned, there is a whole library’s worth of information on all the different models. If you are in the market for vintage Swatch watches, there is a whole universe of information out there for you. Decades after they were first released, these Swatch pieces haven’t lost any of their impact.
Next up, we will take a look at some of the best Zenith watches from the 2000s. So keep an eye out for that article dropping next week. In the meantime, let us know what your favorite Swatch from the 2000s is in the comments section below!