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Swatch This

The Swatch Group: tearing down the time-zone barrier.

When the Swatch Group Ltd. added the first digital watch to its purely analog collection a year and a half ago, the company generated worldwide attention by introducing a whole new outlook on time. It was, they claimed, the first timepiece for the Internet Age.

On this watch, each day is divided into 1,000 "beats," rather than 1,440 minutes, and time follows a meridian that passes through Biel, Switzerland, where Swatch is headquartered. Biel Mean Time (BMT) is the universal reference for Internet time. When it's midnight BMT, it's @000 beats all over the world, and when it's noon BMT, it's @500 beats.

"In a period when the Internet generation is spreading the message of global community, the idea of time zones seems anachronistic," says Carlo Giordanetti, 39, Swatch's vice president of creative services. "Time zones are a barrier to unity."

Swatch has moved fast since first introducing BMT. Today, measuring time in beats is a function that's available on all of Swatch's digital watches. You can also download software from Swatch's Web site that enables your personal computer to display both local traditional time and Swatch Internet time.

What will Swatch's next timely innovation be? To help people save time. The company has embedded a device in some of its watches that enables the wearer to load admission tickets. This technology, called Swatch Access, is already being used in 30 countries — at ski resorts, at museums, at various events, and for public transport. In Rome, tourists sporting one of these watches can buy a ticket for admission to 10 city museums (including the Coliseum) and then bypass entry lines by swiping the watch in front of a scanner. Also in the works: Under an agreement with SEGA Enterprises, users of the Dreamcast home video-game console will soon be able to download information from the Internet to a Swatch watch. And a watch that doubles as a cell-phone is due to appear by year's end.

"We use the watch as a tool," says Giordanetti. "We're redefining the boundaries of that tool and helping people use it in an interactive way."

Visit the Swatch Group on the Web (

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  • Yale Landsberg

    Swatch was as usual ahead of its time. On the other hand, we at think that we have made a logical case for going back to -- or at least factoring in -- a more natural and human mode of telling time, rather than just continuing the, by now, post-modern and post-industrial trend towards a world enthralled by corporatized artificial time.

    I.e., whereas Swatch sought a while ago to lead the way by fashionably tearing down time zone barriers by instituting one time zone for everyone, GreenTyme's new KinderClock is a kinder and gentler method of telling time to (and for) each user's own "inner child". Every individual KinderClock user gets to see and experience his or her own "time zone" -- the way time actually was seen and experienced by and for the human race for thousands of years. And, in actuality, still is.

    Hey, maybe there should be a grass roots movement for a GreenTyme KinderClock watch from Swatch for all of those millions of folks around the world who are oriented towards keeping or coming back to more natural modes of living and rejoicing in life? Or perhaps from some other watch company equally willing to make history by being both fashionable and ahead of its time?

    We look forward to hearing from those interested in this very important topic. YL