SWATCH X is simple. You choose a pattern and a color for the mechanical movement. You drag a rendering of a clear SWATCH over the pattern. You release the mouse, add some text to the back of the watch, send SWATCH $125 and wait by your mailbox. Alvin Toffler, your mass customized watch is here! Along with a few interesting questions . . .
Let’s start with a philosophical one: is SWATCH X’s “art for the masses” watchmaking app art or commerce masquerading as art? The electronic watchmaker app certainly gives buyers the impression that they’re engaged in artistic expression. But all the creativity on offer is within SWATCH-provided palettes. Is limited artistic freedom still freedom?
SWATCH X’s walled garden is not a very interesting place. The templates currently on offer – Street Stories, Power Nature, Proteam Specials, Chinese New Year, Geometry Madness, Japan Edition and Louvre Limited Edition – are bold, a bit kooky and totally PC. All well within SWATCH’s relentlessly cheerful branding. All about as intellectually challenging as Thomas Kinkade.
Should SWATCH let customers upload their own backgrounds for a truly custom SWATCH? Under U.S. law, as long as a watch is a one-off, copyright isn’t an issue. Imagine the possibilities! SWATCH did, and it’s no way Abelard. The Swiss money machine’s not about to lose control of their branding and spend time and money defending copyright infringement lawsuits.
At the same time, the watchmaker’s execs must have been aware of an even bigger problem: controversy. Specifically, pornography, “hate speech” and upsetting images. Not to put too fine a point on it, SWATCH doesn’t want some guy’s penis, a Confederate flag or a picture of an aborted fetus on their trademarked watch.
Even the palette restricted SWATCH X app forces the company to confront uncomfortable creativity. Check out the Mr. Bill message on the caseback widget. That after building a drink-related watch built from an innocent cartoon background.
Or was it? An alcoholic could easily find the pattern at the top of this post offensive – depicting a devastating disease as “fun.” Pink elephants on parade? You try and find the humor in cirrhosis of the liver. See how a “real” art watch could be financially dangerous?
SWATCH designs, makes and sell thousands of “safe” watches (e.g., the Big Bold Jellyfish). SWATCH X will never be cutting edge. Still, you can feel SWATCH X’s designers chafing at the artistic bit – sense their suppressed desire to let the gen pop boldly go where no SWATCH has gone before.
For the designs that are too out of this world to describe, we have created the ‘Specials’ section in our Swatch X You online lab. Designed with Proteam Athletes or making fun of hot topics and pop culture, these patterns are only around for a short time.
The “extreme” patterns and satirical images or text SWATCH promises will no doubt lack anything visually jarring or politically challenging.
Aspiring echt artists need not worry. The same technology SWATCH perfected for mass customized manufacturing is bound to show up on an avant-garde website without the same corporate constraints. As Toffler’s chidren like to say, you can’t stop the signal.
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