May 20, 2021
by Ariel Adams
“Bioceramic” is the latest term added to the Swatch brand’s large repository of materials, styles, products, and technology. In this instance, Bioceramic refers to a novel ceramic material formulation currently reserved for the exclusive use of Swatch, within the larger Swatch Group. Swatch debuted it (virtually) in a fun video presentation that far exceeded the production level of most other digital watch release events over the last year (so, kudos to them on that). Delving deeper into the story, we learn that Bioceramic is a mixture of castor bean oil and traditional zirconium oxide. Blended forms of ceramic composites are by no means new. Castor bean oil is a natural compound derived from plants and has been used for a large variety of medical and industrial uses over the years. Castor bean oil can be used to produce a form of plastic, which, when combined with ceramics, makes Swatch Bioceramic. And I expect to see Swatch experiment heavily with this new material in its products for some years to come.
Given that castor bean oil can be grown, it is sometimes referred to as a sustainable material which, in combination with its organic origins, yields the “bio” part of the Bioceramic name. Note that in places such as Europe, “bio” is also a way of expressing the term “organic,” as it is used in the United States. Swatch hopes that this new material will have visual and tactile appeal for wearers and that its story will help create relevance between Swatch products and popular interest in environmentalism. Swatch probably loves the concept of Bioceramic so much because it comes with both the ability to tout an exclusive material and to connect a wristwatch product experience with a topic of importance in popular conversation.
Bioceramic debuts in a new collection of pieces in the larger Swatch Big Bold collection. There are nice models, to begin with, and with nearly as many Bioceramic case colors including black, white, gray, pink, and blue. The material itself very much feels like a synthesis between plastic and ceramic. That means it is highly color-stable but also smooth to the touch. Swatch has not spoken much about its durability, but my guess is that it gives Swatch the manufacturing flexibility of plastic with the added hardness and wear resistance of ceramic. This is important to note because it’s not all of the time that a new watch case material is an improvement on what came before it. Today, there are a lot of relatively fragile materials in watch cases — because they are hip or have interesting colors and patterns. The sign of a truly innovative new watch case material is one that offers excellent wear resistance, as well as a new color or visual aesthetic that can attract the eye.
The Swatch Big Bold collection is an XL-sized watch that is 47mm-wide and 11.75mm-thick. It is very comfortable and wears elegantly thanks to its light weight and wrist-wrapping case and strap design. The large visual proportions and bowl-like design make it feel both friendly and contemporary. The case is water-resistant to 30 meters and has a plastic crystal over the dial. This particular Big Bold Bioceramic watch is the reference SBO3B100 C-Black in all-black tone. It is actually not the best piece, in my opinion, to show off Bioceramic because black is a color that isn’t particularly uncommon in watch cases. The black-on-black look of this reference is stealthy and manly, but it is probably among the less legible iterations of the Swatch Big Bold Bioceramic. I happen to like a black and orange piece in the collection known as the reference SBO3M104 Big Bold Bioceramic Orack.
Inside the watch is a Swiss Made Swatch quartz three-hand movement. I really like how these look in skeletonized format, which, in one way or another, is a feature of all of the Big Bold Bioceramic models. The movement is, however, simple, and does have an audible ticking sound to it. What is very helpful is that there is a battery compartment door on the rear of the case, which makes new battery swaps decidedly easy.
Swatch also claims that the watch strap uses a “bio-sourced” material for its construction. It feels a lot like silicone to me, but it makes sense that Swatch wants to create the most cohesive “bio” theme possible for these watches. While the Big Bold collection from Swatch might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Bioceramic, as a material, should be on watch hobbyists’ radar as it makes its way into additional products. Price for the Swatch Big Bold Bioceramic C-Black is $125 USD. Learn more or order at the Swatch website here.