August 20, 2021
One of the most powerful and influential ideas to emerge from Hollywood in the last half-century is the concept of toyetic design. What toyetic design generally boils down to, in practice, is the creation of characters, set pieces, locations, and even entire movies or TV series designed to sell as much merchandise and as many toys as possible. Although the toyetic concept has dominated blockbuster filmmaking for decades, toyetic thinking extends far beyond the confines of entertainment. Whether intentional or not, the space vehicles and equipment used by NASA have long been prime examples of toyetic design. The bright whites, vibrant colors, high-tech materials, and futuristic shapes used by NASA equipment make these machines prime candidates for toys (one of my own favorite toys growing up was a plastic model of the space shuttle Endeavor, complete with astronauts), and Swatch has seized on NASA’s vibrant and toyetic signature look to create a playful new series of lightweight watches cased in advanced bioceramic material first developed for space exploration. The new Swatch Space Collection, including the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular, Swatch Big Bold Chrono Launch, and Swatch Big Bold Jumpsuit combine a bright and cheerful toyetic space aesthetic with futuristic cases to create a vibrant and unique tribute to NASA equipment.
All three models in the Swatch Space Collection begin with an imposing 47mm case made of the brand’s unique bio-ceramic material. Made from a blend of traditional case ceramics and organic plastics made from castor beans, the resulting matte material is impressively light, smooth, and soft to the touch, with a premium feel on the wrist that belies its affordable price point. Nothing about the material feels hard or plasticky, and the weight of the material, when paired with the quartz movements in the Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular and Big Bold Chrono Launch, gives those models an almost impossibly lightweight wearing experience in contrast to the bold case dimensions. The 47mm diameter of these three models is also somewhat misleading in terms of wrist presence and wearability. There’s no denying that all three models wear large, but the wearing experience is far from overwhelming, thanks to a combination of the abrupt downward curve of the short four-pronged lugs, the tapering strap which flows seamlessly into the case, and, most prominently, the bowl-like inward slope of the case sides toward the wrist. This flowing, organic curve ensures that the bezel is the widest point of the case, overall, and limits the actual footprint of the watch on the wrist to something far more manageable. The narrow smooth primary blue bezel of the Big Bold Jumpsuit helps to further compress the design on the wrist, while the crenelated design of the chronograph bezels gives those models a slightly heftier feel.
The use of brightly colored bi0-ceramic is a cornerstone of the Swatch Space Collection’s look, both setting the tone for the series and referencing three of NASA’s most iconic uniforms. The simple pillbox crowns of all three models and wide pushers in bright red and blue reinforce the vibrant toyetic feel of the overall design, adding intense contrast to the main case body. In terms of coloration, the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular feels like the “hero piece” of the collection, with a stark white, red, and blue colorway in reference to the clean white EVA spacesuits worn by NASA astronauts for spacewalks since 1983. It’s instantly recognizable as a space-inspired color combination and makes for a versatile statement piece with a variety of casual outfits. The Big Bold Chrono Launch, on the other hand, presents itself as a wilder and darker alternative. With its sky gray main case, intense signal orange bezel, and bold accents in red and blue, this is a color combination that demands attention in any scenario. The inspiration here is NASA’s long-serving “pumpkin suit” uniform, used by astronauts for space launches. Lastly, the Big Bold Jumpsuit takes on a deeper, slightly more reserved look with an optic white main case and blue bezel. Less aggressive than its chronograph stablemates, the Big Bold Jumpsuit takes its stylistic cues from the jumpsuit uniforms used by NASA astronauts for a variety of land-based tasks from press conferences to everyday facility work. All three models in the Swatch Space Collection offer an underwhelming 30 meters of water resistance.
All three dials in the Swatch Space Collection share the same basic layout, including trapezoidal printed indices and sharply pointed ladder hands. Naturally, the time-only Big Bold Jumpsuit is the simplest of the three, with slightly muted red hour markers, white hands, and a transparent blue bio-plastic dial that reveals much of the quartz gear train below. The two chronograph models add a playful sci-fi sensibility with their subdials, featuring circular indices cut through with an outer ring. It’s the central chronograph seconds hand, however, that steals the show here. Rather than starting at 12 o’clock, the chronograph instead starts at 10 o’clock, with a swath of the outer seconds track dedicated to a 10-second countdown to zero, followed by the word “Liftoff.” As a fun and funky nod to space travel, it adds a fair amount of unique personality to the design, but this playful element has functional repercussions in practice. More than once during the review period, I found myself having to mentally add 10 seconds to a chronograph reading, and while this works well as a novelty touch it must be said that legibility does suffer somewhat as a result. The transparent ring bisecting the metallic silver dial of the Big Bold Chronograph Launch presents further legibility challenges, cutting through all three subdials and making portions of the scales difficult to discern at a glance. By contrast, the matte white dial of the Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular offers excellent legibility and a vibrant character thanks to accents in red, blue, and traffic cone orange. However, with its level printed surface, the Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular can feel somewhat flat from certain angles.
All three models of the Swatch Space Collection are powered with Swiss quartz movements. While the brand offers few details about the exact pedigree of these powerplants, performance is solid and reliable with typical quartz accuracy.
For straps, all three models of the Swatch Space Collection turn to the brand’s light and flexible semi-integrated strap in silicone. The tapering width and thickness of these straps flow handsomely into the lines of the case, while the supple feel keeps this lightweight design effortlessly comfortable on the wrist. Swatch continues its use of bold color here as well, with the Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular using a matching optic white strap with splashy red and blue keepers, while the Big Bold Chrono Launch and the Big Bold Jumpsuit opt for straps in orange and blue, respectively. Each of these straps is embellished with a printed NASA emblem running down the 12 o’clock side, making the collaboration aspect unmissable on the wrist.
Ultimately, the watches of the Swatch Space Collection – the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular, the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Launch, and the Swatch Big Bold Jumpsuit – combine futuristic new materials, playful toyetic nods to the space program, and surprising comfort with Swatch’s signature lighthearted and adventurous approach to design for a fun and funky series of tribute watches. All three models are available now through select Swatch retailers at an MSRP of $125 for the Swatch Big Bold Jumpsuit, $160 for the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular, and $165 for the Swatch Big Bold Chrono Launch. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.
>Model: Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular, Big Bold Chrono Launch, Big Bold Jumpsuit
>Price: $125 (Big Bold Jumpsuit), $160 (Big Bold Chrono Extravehicular), $165 (Big Bold Chrono Launch)
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When visiting science centers or museums, as a casual weekend accent piece, or whenever something lighthearted and fun is needed.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Space and science geeks, or younger enthusiasts looking for their first Swatch.
>Best characteristic of watch: Bright, playful toylike design, comfortable silicone straps, durable and lightweight space-age ceramic case, extremely accessible price point.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Dial printing can appear a bit flat and cheap, large case diameter will likely be divisive among enthusiasts, chronograph models’ countdown mechanics can affect functionality.