- Quartz movement
- Bioceramic case, silicone rubber strap
- Year of Release – 2022
What Exactly Is Bioceramic?
I’ve heard my fellow watch journalists praise Swatch’s Bioceramic as a meaningfully sustainable material and dismiss it as a fancy word for plastic. As we shall see, both claims are partially correct, though neither was substantiated or explained. We feel it’s worth slowing down to get a better grip on the facts of Swatch’s Bioceramic.
The term bioceramic originally described synthetic materials that bond with living tissues, especially bone, and it is typically used in joint replacement surgery. In the broader plastics industry, however, the term bioceramic can indicate any number of non-medical plastics that contain ceramic as well as biologically-derived chemical components.
Swatch describes its Biocermaic as a bio-sourced plastic. Search for bio-sourced plastics, and the first listing is DuPont Chemical’s Sustainable Materials page. Investigating this page is instructive, as it shows us how plastics manufacturers tend to use the term bio-sourced plastic.
On that webpage, DuPont describes Derlin, their brand name for a commonly used hard and low friction acetal homopolymer used in countless commercial and industrial products. DuPont partially derives Derlin from bio-methanol exhausted when our garbage is processed into a usable heat source. As such, DuPont’s Derlin can be considered partially bio-sourced.
However, DuPont’s Derlin also contains Teflon (DuPont 1938), which contains polytetrafluoroethylene, which decomposes to emit fluorocarbon gasses including tetrafluoroethylene, which in higher concentration can kill a bird and cause cancer in humans. DuPont doesn’t mention fluorocarbons on its Chemical Sustainable Materials page.
Though Swatch also uses the term bio-sourced plastic to describe its Bioceramic, this material is not related to Derlin. Swatch’s Bioceramic is a hard-wearing material produced by combining ceramic with plastics partially made from the oil of caster beans. Caster bean oil is a bio-sourced raw material, and caster bean plants are renewable. Swatch’s use of the term bio-sourced plastic to describe its Bioceramic is entirely legitimate in regards to the caster bean content.
However, caster oil has been a component in compounds like Nylon (DuPont 1939) for decades. The class of plastics that includes Nylon typically contains petroleum, also known as crude oil, which is largely composed of fossilized algae and zooplankton, all millions of years old.
Confusingly, some argue that petroleum is bio-sourced in the sense it derives from (long dead) biological materials; this debate quickly grows semantic and will be important to clarify below.
What is clear, however, is that, unlike caster beans, petroleum is categorically non-renewable. Many scientists the world over have concluded that the extraction, processing, and burning of petroleum has been driving climate change as well as other environmental and health problems for well over a century. Though many argue (or deny) this last point, the science seems clear enough.
And so, with Swatch’s commitment to sustainability in mind, I asked Swatch’s representative if its Bioceramic contained petroleum or not, and here is their reply:
Our products are only partially biosourced (not 100%). The other % is plastic where we continue to use petrol. We hope to have in the future a 100% biosourced material (probably first with the strap).
In this statement, Swatch is semantically precise in not describing petroleum as bio-sourced. I think this semantic precision is important, as it simplifies the discussion and avoids weird justifications of petroleum use. I also applaud Swatch’s candor in answering my question, as corporate transparency is a cornerstone in building trust with journalists and customers alike. I’ll also add that transitioning away from petroleum products was never going to be swift, and what counts during these transitional decades is a commitment to keep going in the right direction, which Swatch appears to be.
And so, finally, I can turn to one of my favorite watch brands of all time, the one that got me hooked on watch collecting in 1983 when I was 13 and bought my first Swatch – one very much like the supercool 34mm Skin I have in hand here for review.
SWATCH’s Bioceramic Is Lovely
Sensually speaking, Swatch’s Bioceramic is a really lovely material to handle. It’s strangely soft, but not exactly smooth. There’s a slightly textured, matte finish to the surface that looks and feels pleasant, and it resists abrasion.
Bioceramic also resists fingerprints and other oily residue that we humans tend to excrete, which can really muck up a plastic watch. Bioceramic stays looking good, even on a hot muggy day, and that means your Swatch won’t get all funky. I remember my Swatch in the 80s looking pretty darn gross after a muggy day of skateboarding, and over time the light gray plastic took on a brown hue that caused my mother to (futilely) suggest I not wear it any longer.
The ability for Swatch to explore color with Bioceramic seems endless, and Swatch has always been a master of color. I chose to review the Caricia Verde because it looked great in photos, but it looks even better in person – vibrant and strangely dynamic. Carcia means ‘caress’, which is entirely appropriate, and I assume can go both ways in that the watch caresses the wrist and is a joy to touch.
The Silicone Strap
I’ll spare you a chemical breakdown this time, but silicone rubber was developed by Corning Glass and Dow Chemical in the 1940s. Silicon is a naturally occurring material, but silicone rubber is not. It is a polymer that includes silicon and other chemicals often derived petrolium, which Swatch acknowledges in their statement above.
Silicone is, however, a rather luxurious material, and this is by far the most supple silicon strap I’ve ever worn. It’s truly a pleasure to handle. Thin, a little stretchy, flip-floppy and about as comfortable as a watch strap gets. My old Swatch’s strap was kind of hard in comparison, and I have to say that today’s Skin is just lightyears beyond where the original Swatches of the 1980s were. Again, we see Swatch really showing an incredible command of the various materials they use.
It’s Actually Easy To Set The Time
The crown is perhaps the smallest I’ve ever encountered outside of tiny women’s watches, and I was wondering if my thick, guitar-player calloused fingers could manage it. Surprisingly, it was a literal snap to release and turn the crown. A little recess in the back of the case behind the crown makes pulling it out super easy, and setting the time was just as easy.
Who Is This Watch For?
You know, I have to say that as a man who rocks a 33mm dress watch on most days, who enjoys playful colors, and who can femme it up comfortably enough, I was a little bummed not to see myself represented on the page for this watch. But, let’s face it, I am a 52-year-old dude with hairy arms, and thus an absurdity when considering the target market for the Swatch Slim at 34mm. You guessed it: the page is filled with bright shiny young women.
With that said, bend your gender if you feel like it, folks. I’ve gotten a kick out of wearing the watch, and no small dose of retro-Swatch vibes that had me longing for those muggy days skateboarding in the 1980s.
At $129, this is an easy grab for a gift, which has always been an option I consider as a watch enthusiast when shopping for friends and family. I can’t even remember how many Swatches I’ve given at the holidays and on birthdays, and I even bought a friend a spicy Yoko Ono limited edition vintage Swatch for her birthday not long ago. Everyone loves getting a Swatch!
There aren’t many watches one can say this about, but the Swatch Slim at 34mm really is for everybody. Fun, smart, stylish, environmentally headed in the right direction – what’s not to like?