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Swatch releases new watch collection with Japanese streetwear brand BAPE

We were invited by Swatch to go to Tokyo, Japan for the release of SwatchXBAPE: their new collection in collab with Japanese streetwear brand BAPE. Together they are releasing six watches, inspired by the world and five global cities: Tokyo (the birthplace of BAPE), Bern (the capital city of Swatch's home country), London, New York and Paris. Here's what went down at the release event in Tokyo:

Text and pictures by Helena Verheye

Swatch is a Swiss watch brand founded in 1983 with the goal of bringing the Swiss watch industry back on track after a manufacturing shift to Japan. Swatch often collaborates with artists from all over the world (such as Damien Hirst and Keith Haring), but this was their first collaboration with a streetwear fashion brand. The SwatchXBAPE collection is part of the new Swatch Big Bold family, which has a 47mm wide and 11,5 mm thick centre-piece. In other words: pretty damn big.

BAPE or A Bathing Ape (in Lukewarm Water) is a Japanese streetwear brand founded by Tomoaki Nagao or Nigo in 1993. Back in the days, BAPE took its inspiration from Western urban fashion and combined it with the playful Japanese Harajuku style. Nigo was one of the first streetwear designers who decided to create scarcity around his brand by offering a supply way smaller than the demand. Since BAPE was sold to a Hong Kong conglomerate in 2011, the brand often collaborates with other brands.


The SwatchXBAPE watches all have a limited edition of 1993 pieces each (the year BAPE was founded). This except for the Swiss watch which has a limited edition of 1983 (the year Swatch was founded). The World edition is less limited and therefore will be the easiest for the general public to get their hands on. All of the watches feature an original take on the classic BAPE camouflage print, pimped with characteristic elements of their corresponding cities. During the Tokyo release event, the six watches were presented on four different locations, each in the theme of the city that inspired the watch. Ready for a ride?

The six SwatchXBAPE watches

First up, we went to Roppongi Hills in Tokyo, where the World, Tokyo and Bern watches were officially released. The World watch actually was revealed a few days before the official event by Swiss-based architect, sportsman and fashion influencer André Paca. The Tokyo watch has a similar aesthetic feel as the World watch but instead features a full-on camouflage print. Word goes that the blue lines on the Bern watch represent the Swiss alp glaciers!


Next up on our tour was a fancy English castle, in which the London watch with the red backdrop was presented, inspired by the garment of the English Queen's guard. There was also an exhibition of five original BAPE chains from back in the days, which are rarely on display. On this location, we had a chance to talk to Swatch Vice President and COO Gonzales de Cevallos about the new collection:

"We started our collaboration 12 months ago and both our creative teams really had fun working together. The challenge was to transmit the DNA of both brands into the collection. In the end, we combined the quality Swiss watchmaking of Swatch with the Japanese urban identity of BAPE. Whereas what Switzerland brought to the table in this collaboration can be seen more inside of the case, the Japanese design can be seen more on the outside. The goal was to bring forth a product that is a positive provocation from both Japan and Switzerland, and I think we succeeded. We both learned a lot from this collaboration and especially how things can also be done in a different way."


After our stop at the English castle, we went to New York-themed pizzeria "Pizza Slice". On this location, there was a huge mural by New York-based graffiti artist Splash. The New York watch has a gold coloured plate and was inspired by hip-hop culture. The last location, which was the Paris one, was Moulin Rouge themed. The print on the Paris watch has a lot of colours and was inspired by the city's burlesque shows.

After visiting the four locations, we ended the night at 1 OAK Tokyo for some local hip-hop acts by Hiroshi Kawanabe, Youth Juvenile and S.L.A.C.K. and an afterparty. On this location, a limited edition box featuring all six SwatchXBAPE watches was presented. Whereas Swatch originated as an affordable Swiss answer to the Japanese watch manufacturing boom in the 1970s. The story now has come full circle, with the SwatchXBAPE collection as a common ground.

The SwatchXBAPE collection was pre-released in Tokyo on the 1st of June. The global release is on Saturday the 15th of June. In Belgium, the World edition of the SwatchXBAPE collection will go on sale, for 135 euro a piece.

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