Watches

Swatch Goes Streetwear

It’s a Friday night in Tokyo, and the line outside 1 Oak is thick with designer sneakers and vape smoke. Recent guests here have included Future, A$AP Rocky, and Tyga, but tonight’s headliner isn’t a celebrity DJ or a rapper, it’s a watch. In the current era of fashion, any new release can live and die according to the hype surrounding its drop, and the speed with which a collection is snapped up by rabid fans. To this end, Swatch has organized events at half-a-dozen venues around Tokyo for tonight’s launch: a line of watches co-designed by Japanese streetwear brand A Bathing Ape (or BAPE, as it’s commonly known). After moving through a British manor where diamond-encrusted BAPE pendants sit under glass like crown jewels, a French chateau complete with burlesque dancers, and an NYC-style pizza joint blasting ’80s hip-hop, a fashionably eclectic mix of guests from around the world have converged on 1 Oak for the grand reveal.

Collabs may be de rigeur in streetwear, but they’re still an anomaly in the world of Swiss watches. Swatch, however, has never been one to follow the herd, and collaboration has been in its DNA ever since it tapped American pop artist Keith Haring to design a collection in 1985.  The latest in this longstanding tradition are six fashion-forward watches blending Swatch’s signature colourful quirkiness with BAPE’s unique streetwear sensibility. An extension of Swatch’s new BIG BOLD line, these oversized 47mm timepieces pay tribute to five global cities — London, Paris, Bern, Tokyo and New York —with the sixth, a global edition, emblazoned with a world map across its face. Featuring BAPE’s trademark camo print in a range of colours, and its Planet of the Apes-inspired logo on the tip of the hour hand, this is a watch made with hypebeasts in mind.

Swatch launched its inaugural collection in 1983, a full decade before A Bathing Ape opened its first store in Tokyo. Both brands, however, were ahead of their time. Swatch was the first watchmaker to see a future in stylish, collectible quartz watches, and their ever-changing designs have won them legions of loyal fans around the world. BAPE, meanwhile, was a key player in the Harajuku street style scene of the 1990s and early aughts, whose wild interpretations of fashion and youth culture continue to influence designers today. BAPE’s unmistakable camo t-shirts and full-zip shark hoodies quickly spread beyond Tokyo, earning a loyal following among rappers like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. Countless limited-edition drops followed in collaboration with brands and artists from Adidas to Def Jam to Coca Cola and, most recently, Swatch.

With the years 1993 and 1983 emblazoned on each watch’s silicone strap, BAPE x Swatch pays tribute to both brands’ pioneering legacies while suggesting still bigger things still to come. Perhaps the first true streetwear watch to come out of Switzerland, these watches will pave the way for more collaborations with more brands, and more limited-edition drops. That’s a good thing for fans of streetwear and watches because, naturally, by the time you read this they might already be sold out.

BAPE x SWATCH drops globally on June 15th, 2019