Revisiting my childhood

Yesterday morning I needed my checkbook. I pulled it out of my desk drawer and set it on my chair for safekeeping. Then something else crossed my mind for a minute, distracting me. Then I remembered I needed my checkbook. I turned back to my open desk drawer, dug around for it, and got frustrated. Where else could my checkbook be?
I proceeded to do an archaelogical dig through that desk drawer. Beneath the mending kit I’d torn my apartment apart looking for a few months ago and a big unopened box of staples, I found a St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports section dated Sept. 18, 1988. Yeah, I know.

I also found my Swatch.

Swatch watch
Swatch is still around. The 1980s Swatch watches we wore were more garish than this one. I would have liked this one in the ’80s but it wouldn’t have made me cool.

Yeah, a Swatch. Remember those? Bright-colored plastic Swiss-made watches. I remembered their slogan: The New Wave in Swiss Watches. Well, my Swatch certainly looks New Wave. With its bright red plastic band and black body, with doses of blue and yellow tossed in, it could have come straight off the cover of a pop album of the time.

I’d forgotten I ever even had one of the things. But of course I had one. Everyone did. I told my buddy Sean about my find after church. “Oh yeah! I used to wear three of ’em at once!” He raised his arm and drew an imaginery line with his other hand, grinning. He was cooler than me in the ’80s, I see. Then another GenXer piped in, talking about her Swatches, while a couple of bemused Millennials tried to figure out what we were talking about. Next thing we knew, we were talking about Atari and Smurfs and everything else imaginable. I think they thought we were weird.

Just between you and me, I don’t think I blame them. It seems silly now the big deal we made about these things. It wasn’t enough to just have the watch, after all. No, you had to outfit it with guards and other stuff. We told our parents it was to keep the watch from getting scratched. But secretly, we all knew the idea was to make sure your Swatch didn’t look anything at all like anyone else’s.

The original Swatch Guard was this molded rubber thing, brightly-colored of course, that blocked your view of the time. This was a brilliant maneuver on the part of the company, because you’d shove the guard out of the way so you could read the time, and before long, it would snap and you were off to the store to pay another $3.50 or whatever for another molded rubber band. Then there was the Guard Too (at least that’s what mine says on it), which covered the outside rim and actually did afford some protection. A lot of people would outfit their Swatch with a Guard Too, then they’d buy several of the original guards, in different colors of course, and twist them together. The additional bright colors made you visible from another mile or so away and definitely made you look cooler, but then you never knew what time it was.

I seem to recall other companies realized they could mold rubber bands just as easily, undercut the price of the real thing, and still turn a nifty profit. Knowing myself, I’ll bet my guard was a cheap third-party imitation.

I also noticed it doesn’t work anymore. The battery probably died well over a decade ago. Not that it matters much. Swatches were never about knowing what time it was anyway.

Then I turned around and saw my checkbook lying on the chair.

12 thoughts on “Revisiting my childhood

  • September 3, 2001 at 11:42 am
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    I still wear my Swatch. It’s all black and has little grey numbers. I’ve had it since 1990. It is pretty tame, I still wear it to business meetings and no one notices. Best watch I’ve ever owned.

    I also have a 60’s Timex that gets more attention than the Swatch.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  • September 3, 2001 at 12:21 pm
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    An all-black one, or black-and-grey one, would be cool. And timeless. But then again, I like black.

  • September 4, 2001 at 9:59 am
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    It is Black, but on the face the numbers and little aviation marks are in dark grey. The black plastic band broke a while back, but the local mall’s watch shop had a nice new leather Swatch band that works well.

  • September 5, 2001 at 11:49 am
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    Pop swatch here. It came in two parts — a shell that you put on the back of your shirt or pants, and then the watch part which snapped into it through your clothes. It looked like a badge or a broach. Darned thing about it was that both the watch face and the hands were white.

    Now I’m on my third olive drab timex that soldiers wear. It’s not uniform but it might as well be. Timex used to make them with quartz movements — no batteries –which makes sense for their clientele, but now the same watch comes with a battery. It wears out after a year.

  • November 10, 2001 at 11:34 pm
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    Swatches are great! I am a collector of rare ones from the 80s! I have the red Swatch guard as well. I have 6 in total. I have the 1989 "Color Window" which is all black and has a window that revolves during the day! It is cool! I wear that one sometimes, but the one I wear everyday is different. The one I wear is a 1986 "Tonga" Swatch and adds a splash of color to my arm. WIth it’s lime green case and lighting design, it is one of my favourites!

    I am looking for some rare Swatches at the moment. Sorry, I do not accept offers over the net! I look in places like Goodwill nad Value Village (Those are the best places) Mostly, I leave the store Swatchless and dissipointed, but oh well! I know I will find more!!!

    I want to be the biggest collector of 80s Swatches! From Tonga to Geoglo, X-Rated to Color Window, I want them all!!!!! I am a HUGE (And I mean huge) Swatch Fan!

  • November 10, 2001 at 11:35 pm
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    Swatches are great! I am a collector of rare ones from the 80s! I have the red Swatch guard as well. I have 6 in total. I have the 1989 "Color Window" which is all black and has a window that revolves during the day! It is cool! I wear that one sometimes, but the one I wear everyday is different. The one I wear is a 1986 "Tonga" Swatch and adds a splash of color to my arm. WIth it’s lime green case and lighting design, it is one of my favourites!

    I am looking for some rare Swatches at the moment. Sorry, I do not accept offers over the net! I look in places like Goodwill nad Value Village (Those are the best places) Mostly, I leave the store Swatchless and dissipointed, but oh well! I know I will find more!!!

    I want to be the biggest collector of 80s Swatches! From Tonga to Geoglo, X-Rated to Color Window, I want them all!!!!! I am a HUGE (And I mean huge) Swatch Fan!

  • November 10, 2001 at 11:37 pm
    Permalink

    Swatches are great! I am a collector of rare ones from the 80s! I have the red Swatch guard as well. I have 6 in total. I have the 1989 "Color Window" which is all black and has a window that revolves during the day! It is cool! I wear that one sometimes, but the one I wear everyday is different. The one I wear is a 1986 "Tonga" Swatch and adds a splash of color to my arm. WIth it’s lime green case and lighting design, it is one of my favourites!

    I am looking for some rare Swatches at the moment. Sorry, I do not accept offers over the net! I look in places like Goodwill nad Value Village (Those are the best places) Mostly, I leave the store Swatchless and dissipointed, but oh well! I know I will find more!!!

    I want to be the biggest collector of 80s Swatches! From Tonga to Geoglo, X-Rated to Color Window, I want them all!!!!! I am a HUGE (And I mean huge) Swatch Fan!

  • November 10, 2001 at 11:38 pm
    Permalink

    Swatches are great! I am a collector of rare ones from the 80s! I have the red Swatch guard as well. I have 6 in total. I have the 1989 "Color Window" which is all black and has a window that revolves during the day! It is cool! I wear that one sometimes, but the one I wear everyday is different. The one I wear is a 1986 "Tonga" Swatch and adds a splash of color to my arm. WIth it’s lime green case and lighting design, it is one of my favourites!

    I am looking for some rare Swatches at the moment. Sorry, I do not accept offers over the net! I look in places like Goodwill nad Value Village (Those are the best places) Mostly, I leave the store Swatchless and dissipointed, but oh well! I know I will find more!!!

    I want to be the biggest collector of 80s Swatches! From Tonga to Geoglo, X-Rated to Color Window, I want them all!!!!! I am a HUGE (And I mean huge) Swatch Fan!

  • March 29, 2002 at 2:54 pm
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    I’ve always loved swatches! In fact, I gave my fiance the "Happy Wedding" swatch set as a birthday gift for our wedding this summer. I’m wearing the guy’s half of the bride/groom set now…it’s awesome! 🙂

  • April 11, 2002 at 9:49 am
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    Hello, I want to sell my old jelly-fish swatch.All reasonable offers by e:mail please.

  • November 11, 2002 at 10:29 pm
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    I surfed in here from a search engine looking to buy a new band for my 1989 Swatch. I held out throughout the decade without buying a one of the over-priced things. Let’s face it, they were pretty much non-functional. Very few of them had numbers on the face and, well, if all I needed to know was the hour, I wouldn’t need a watch. …or a job.

    So I finally bought this really cool watch at the Swatch counter at Macy’s (yes, Macy’s had a dedicated counter just for Swatch) becasue it had all 12 Arabic numbers on it and looks like it came from the Soviet Pavillion at the ’39 World’s Fair.

    It was $50 which seemed like an obscene sum at the time. But, it was the LAST watch I ever bought. Let me tell you something about Swatch. Owning one was a good preparation for working in the IT industry in the warly 90’s. Everything about them is proprietary — you can only buy the bands from Swatch and the parts are almost exclusively plastic (whoever heard of a plastic watch buckle?) Tonight, I learned that a critical piece of the watch band is made out of mylar tape. So now I have to take a two hour train to ride to Manhattan or find another one online.

    If you’re in the market, this seems to be the only site which sells the damned things: http://shop.store.yahoo.com/legendsinc/swatchbands.html

  • August 11, 2003 at 7:50 pm
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    Hi friends !
    If you are interested in 80´SWATCH & GUARDs…I can help you: 5 diff Colors, POP Swatchs,POP Bands/Straps, and MAXIs Giants SWATCHs….
    Best regards form patagonia !!!

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