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Hands-On Swatch Adds Six Watches To Its Neon Collection Just In Time For Summer

Grab your chronographs and Kool-aid bursts and get ready for some '90s nostalgia.


Ah, Swatch. Pure, early '90s, neon-flecked nostalgia. Andre Agassi is slapping serves, mullet flapping in the breeze; Marty McFly just touched down in his DeLorean (again); even Dennis Rodman is wearing one. Swatch.

Whenever it feels like watches are a bit too serious or perhaps we're just not having enough fun, I turn to the lovably nostalgic brand. I love vintage and modern Swatch and always have a few stuffed in a drawer, somewhere, and the brand does as good a job as any at looking to its past without just playing the hits.

Luckily, Swatch is hitting the High Noons and sniffling through its allergies to deliver another update to its bright Neon collection just in time for summer. Last year's Neon releases were, for me, highlighted by the Shades of Neon. While some people are still chasing down a MoonSwatch, the Shades of Neon has been the elusive Swatch I can't get my hands on. (Malaika has one, and it kills me!)

This time around, Swatch added six new Neons, all playing on laser-tag adjacent models from the '80s/'90s. Here, I've got the Neon Wave Chronograph, the Neon Pink Podium, and the Neon Hot Racer Skin. While all stand in the shadow of last year's Shades of Neon, they're fun additions to the Neon collection with bright colors and bold design. Agassi's jorts would be proud.

swatch neon collection 2024

Neon Pink Podium, Neon Wave, and Hot Racer Skin. 

Let's start with the Neon Wave Chrono, an orange-purple-green-aqua proposition that's 42mm but pretty wearable at 13mm thick and about 49mm lug-to-lug. It's a play on the original Neo Wave Chrono from the '90s and keeps the colors mostly the same, just upsizing a few millimeters (original Swatch chronos are 37mm). Obviously, I wish they would've brought down the size a bit more, but it's a huge improvement over the monstrous "Big" chronos like the Neon Jelly Chrono Swatch also makes. It's big, bright, and feels a bit like a toy, but that's certainly by design. But to truly get why I like the Neon Wave, we need a quick diversion…

A Brief (And Only Somewhat Relevant) Divergence On Vintage Swatch Chronographs
swatch chronographs

The Neon Wave Chrono next to a '90s Skate Bike. 

Swatch released its first collection of 12 watches in 1983, and its first chronograph collection came in 1990. While I love some of those early '80s Swatches (I've professed my love for the Jellyfish around here before), these first chronographs are some of my favorites. There's the charm of the additional complication, but at 37mm, they're also slightly bigger than the time-only Swatches, and some of them even had tritium lume, which means they can develop a little patina. They're still, basically, toys, but I feel like it is just a little bit less so. That first Swatch chronograph collection included six models:

  • Black Friday
  • Skate Bike
  • White Horse
  • Signal Flash
  • Neo Wave
  • Flash Arrow
1990 original swatch collection white horse

The original 1990 Swatch chronograph collection, courtesy of Rarebirds

Here's my quick and totally subjective analysis of the original Swatch collection: The Black Friday is pretty boring, but you can wear it every day. It is very "Heuer Carrera," but make it plastic (pick one up for about $200). The White Horse is the coolest, and that can be good or bad depending on your general disposition, but it usually sells for the highest prices (say, 700 bucks). The Neo Wave, Flash Arrow, and Signal Flash are bright and try hard, but they're just not the White Horse. Finally, the Skate Bike falls somewhere between the Black Friday and all those bright chronographs, which, naturally, makes it my favorite (yes, I have one, I wear it a ton, the strap is stiffer than a Swiss watch exec, and I paid about $250 on eBay).

These old Swatches are by no means rare – Swatch made 100 million watches in its first 10 years – but they're a ton of fun, and I'm still discovering old Swatch references I didn't know about.

Back To The Future

Swatch has made a few references to these original chronos before. For example, last year it released a BIG (too big!) homage to the White Horse, but this pair of new 42mm chronographs is actually wearable. The Neon Flash Arrow Chrono is the same size and is inspired by the original 1990 Flash Arrow. I'm not afraid of pink; I swear – I fully embrace modern masculinity whatever that means, and as we'll get to with the Pink Podium, it works in doses – but the pink strap paired with the larger watch just felt like a little too much which is why I opted for the Neon Wave instead. But swap the strap for something a little more subdued (or, Swatch, offer it on another strap as well?), and I love the dial execution.

But the Neon Wave is just mwah (chef's kiss), perfectly distilling the '90s into 42mm of neon goodness:

swatch neon wave chronograph

The Swatch Neon Wave is based on the 1990 Neo Wave, part of the original collection of Swatch chronos. 

swatch neon wave chronograph

The one wrist shot rule is "always have sleeves" but in the summer there are no rules.

Engaging the chronograph is enjoyable, and the reset on Swatch chronos is always fun to watch: The chronograph seconds hand slowly rotates back to zero (watch out, Grönefeld brothers!).

There's not much else to say about a fun, nostalgic chronograph that costs $130. If it tugs at those '90s, MJ-era Bulls heartstrings, maybe you'll like it. If not – or if maybe you're a tortured Knicks fan – maybe you won't.

Take The Podium

Alongside the Neon Wave and Flash Arrow chronos, Swatch also added a few new time-only Neons. The Pink Podium is a standard 34mm, while the Neon Hot Racer uses Swatch's super-thin Skin case, which measures just 34mm and 4mm thick. This leaves out the Neon Rider – at 41mm, it's not my preferred size for a bright, bold Swatch, but it's just fine, and I'd guess it might even be more popular.

Both the Pink Podium and Hot Racer stay pretty true to their original Swatch inspiration, though I think those were made in the smaller case size. While a 34mm Swatch will wear small for many people – these things are thin, small, light, with short lugs, so there's not a ton of wrist presence if you don't account for the colors – but to me, that means it's a perfect summer thing. When the sleeves are shorter and the days are longer, sometimes a Swatch is more than enough. Sure, it'd really work if it had more than 30 meters of water resistance, but what do you really expect from a Swatch?

swatch neon hot racer skin

Hot Racer Skin

Perhaps it's because of the smaller profile, but I really enjoyed wearing around the Pink Podium. Swatch has been using its classic 34mm "Gents" case more recently and to its massive benefit. To me, it's the perfect one, one true Swatch size the same way a Rolex Explorer should always be 36mm. 

The Hot Racer Skin has the same diameter as the Pink Podium, and even though it's thin, it doesn't feel flimsy. The crown can be a pain to operate, but I guess it's quartz, so that issue shouldn't come up too much. I find the pricing on all these imminently reasonable, but the Skin ($120, standard Skin model price) is the only one I might quibble with, though perhaps this says more about me and my preconceived notions of what "more expensive" should feel like on wrist. 

swatch neon collection 2024

The Neon collection is exactly what I'd love to see more of from Swatch. The Neon collection makes explicit callbacks to old Swatch references, but they're never too on-the-nose. It shows that, first of all, you don't need to spend $1,500 for a little '90s nostalgia. More accurately, you don't need to spend anything more than perhaps a Netflix subscription because you could just binge The Last Dance again, but you get the point. If you long for those days of MJ, laser tag, and a little bit of neon, here's your watch. 

swatch neon collection 2024

The Swatch Neon Wave Chrono (SUSJ404) and Neon Flash Arrow (SUSG408) have silicone straps and cases measuring 42x13mm. MSRP: $130. The Neon Pink Podium (SO28K111) measures 34x9mm (MSRP: $75). The Neon Hot Racer Skin (SS08K119) measures 34x4mm (MSRP: $120). All have quartz movements and 30 meters of water resistance.

Shop this story

The Hodinkee Shop is an authorized retailer of Swatch watches and I'm told all 6 additions to the new Neon collection will be available in the Shop very soon. If you're interested, join the waitlist above, or check them out in the Shop here