The Standard Gent from 1983 is basically still the same watch as it is today. But technically quite a few changes have been made. Many of those we will never be able to see, but the case from 1983/1984 does have some clearly visible changes to the case from 1985 and up. On this picture we show you two major changes:
In 1983 and 1984 the battery hatches didn’t have a plus on the hatch. This plus was added to make clear to the jewelers how to put the battery inside the watch.
The Fachhandel logo was used only for a short period of time. It was designed to distinguish those Swatchwatches destined for sale through selected Swiss watch and jewelry shops from those sold in “supermarkets”. Fachhandel logo’s were printed on the dial in 1983. From 1984 till 1986 the logo can be found on the strap. Of the 1983 Fachhandellogo watches only 20,000 pieces in total were produced.
A prototype is a hand made (non-working mock-up) or a machine made (working or non-working (dummy)) pre-production piece. Either it is a design prototype, where colors or shapes of the cases, dials and hands are visualized (in connection with different case colors or strap types) or it is a technical prototype, where techniques to produce dials (photodials, laser etched dials etc. , hands, cases (marbled cases, cases of different material etc.) are examined.
Prototypes never have country codes, but they can feature production codes. A stamped ‘P’ where the country code is normally placed does not mean, that the watch is a prototype, but that the watch has been sold in the factory shop to Swatch employees. The ‘P’ stands for ‘Personal’ or employee in German. The main criteria however is, that the design, the engineering and potential production codes MUST be anterior to the market model. If one of the features or the production code points to a later manufacture it is either a Hybrid, a Newseum model (no codes, or production codes for 1987) or a reproduction.
Sometimes designers want to see what an already completely designed dial would look like with different combinations of cases and hands. All elements (cases, dials, hands) correspond to the definitive market model, just the combination of these elements can vary. A Swatch with a differently colored case or different hands is NOT a prototype (exception: if the case type or the hands themselves are prototypes, as in the picture of the ‘Rotor’ model, then it is considered a prototype). Depending on what cases the designers had access to, they also can have all codes (country + production), just one of both codes or rarely no codes). Models with slight variations in dial-color (paler, darker, blurry etc.) are also considered variants (‘Bar Oriental’ on the right).
Most watches circulating for sale on the net are hybrids. These factory made watches are mostly unique pieces made by Swatch engineers either for their amusement, their personal use (gifts for family and friends) or to be submitted at a factory competition for the quest for new models to produce. They can have all codes (country + production), just one of both codes or no codes). ALL of these watches are machine made, with ultrasound welded crystals, some however feature reused cases. Latter feature the word ‘mutat’ on the back, which identifies them as ‘mutated’ watches from market model to hybrid. Most hybrids were made in the late 1980ies but some are still made today! A scarce amount of Hybrids are known from before 1985, so most of them feature the large battery hatch ring an the “ETA” Inscription on the back (watches before 1985 have a thin battery hatch rings and are inscribed with “ESA” on the back. Some exceptions exist with large battery hatch rings and the “ESA” inscription. These few transitional models have been mostly made mid 1984.
A very special group of Swatches, which sits in between the variant and the prototype are, what we call the Proto-Variants. These pieces are variants of already existing models, but are at the same time prototypes of a possible later re-issue.
This ‘Don’t Be Too Late’ which was originally issued in 1984, has been made in early 1985 to test different case colors (red, blue, green, white) for a possible re-issue in a differently colored case. That way Swatch would be able to put very successful models back on the market, but with slight modifications in order to keep the public interested and motivated to buy a ‘new’ fashionable color.
This very intelligent marketing move would have saved time and material as compared to the development of completely new models. Also the risk of a possible non acceptance of the public for such completely newly designed models would be minimized. This marketing strategy has not been applyed for the models of 1983 or 1984, but for the models of 1985 and later. The ‘Jelly Fish’ of 1985 is the best example of a slightly modified re-issue (large hands) for 1986 and 1990. Finally Swatch re-issued some models even more than once which is visible if thinking of the enormous amounts of ‘Jelly’ models issued in the 1990ies and also very recently.
A dummy is simply a purposely, factory made non working Swatch. It can be a prototype, a test or a variant or just an exhibition piece for Swatch stores (in that case mostly a market model). Dummies can have movements, but then the connector to the battery is ripped off, or they can have no movement at all. It latter case there is just a special metal axle holding the hands in place, but then the hands can not be activated by turning the crown, which is glued in place.
A stamped ‘P’ where the country code is normally placed does not mean, that the watch is a prototype, but that the watch has been sold to Swatch employees. The ‘P’ stands for ‘Personal’ or employee in German. About once a year it was possible for the staff to buy certain models, which had the "P". The sale was normally for one or two hours in an internal meeting room, thus not in a shop.
The Swatch Newseum was a traveling exhibition which featured every Swatch ever produced. the problem was, that not even the Swatch company had examples of every piece they ever made, so they decided to reproduce the models they did’t have.
The première of the Swatch Newseum was during the 5th year anniversary of Swatch 1988 in Biel (Switzerland)
Sometimes one can spot small differences between the Newseum pieces and the original model, such as the size of the logo or other details. The most important difference can be observed when looking at the 1983-1984 Newseum models: They all have eight-hole straps. Not even Swatch had some 7 hole straps left!
The ultimate way to recognize Newseum pieces is to have a look at their back: Most of them have no production codes. Moreover you will find 1983-1984 models with large battery hatch rims which normally only appear during 1985. There are some exceptions: Some Newseum models have the year code for 1987, this shows how early Swatch began with the organization of the event. None of them has a country code!
Unfortunately a considerable amount of watches has apparently been stolen during the Newseum tour, among them also Newseum Swatches. Some Newseum watches are also known to be made to recreate prototypes. This GG 701 is one of these examples. To the contrary of market pieces this version has a large battery hatch ring and no codes.
Swatchissimo is a book released in 1991 by Antiquorum and written by Roland Carrera. This book was made with full cooperation of Swatch and is still considered a very important work for Swatch collectors.
The official name of the book is Swatch & Swatch modelli prototipi variant is released in 1991 by Electa. This book is certainly not complete, nor 100% correct, but it is still the best book on Swatch prototypes and variants. Many collectors have used this book to build their prototype collection.
When Swatch started to sell the watches were offered in the plastic boxes we still know and in the soft plastic packaging that could be hung on a counter display.
In this period a three digit code was used. The first digit stands for the month and the next two digits stand for the year of manufacturing. The months January to September were numbered 1-9 October till December with A-C.
In 1984 a 4 digit code was introduced and this type of coding is still being used today. In this code it is possible to date the watches to an exact day.
The first digit stands for the year, the next two digits stand for the week and the last digit for the day of the week. A Ltter “P” may appear behind the production date code. This “P” stands for Popularis Automatique, which is the name of the Swatch factory in Grenchen Switzerland.
From 1983 the lady watches have always had the same type of code. In the ladies code the 1st digit stands for the year and the second and third code stand for the week the watch is produced. From 1984 the letter S can be added to the code. This letter stands for Sion the town where the factory for ladies watches is situated.
Below the punchmark ESA or ETA the code of the country for which the watch was destined for sale is normally stamped. Sometimes the number is overstamped with a second code. This happened when a watch was returned to the factory and destined for a different country. Not all codes are known to us but here are some examples that can be seen a lot:
Swatch are meant to be worn. But now and again a very valuable watch for collectors was worn and collectors prefer a watch to be in the best possible condition. Just like a painting or a car a Swatch watch can be restored.
The first stage of refurbishing is to polish the case of the watch to remove scratches. This will make the case shiny. A good watch maker pays a lot of attention to the shape of the case. He prefers to leave a certain scratch when in order to keep the shape of the case intact.
After the polishing the case will be sandblasted to give the watch its matt finish again. Extra attention needs to be paid to make sure the crystal is not matted as well.
Sometimes dirt between the case and the crystal is very visible. This dirt can sometimes be removed, not always. A good watch maker will attempt to remove as much dirt as possible.
Ofcourse when possible a new strap will be fitted. Nowadays this becomes more and more difficult.