GONE too soon, they say. I recently had a chance to design Swatch watches in commemoration of UST’s Quadricentennial in January 2011. My journey with Swatch started in 2009, just after I submitted an entry for their annual art contest, hoping to win for myself a few thousand pesos. I suggested the idea of having a commemorative Swatch watch to the Office of Public Affairs with the enthusiasm that I would be the one designing it. After endless brainstorming, soliciting design concept from at least 50 individuals, and tons of revisions, I ended up designing it myself.

Nobody said it was easy

In April 2009, the UST Office of Public Affairs team, headed by Prof. Giovanna Fontanilla, met with Swatch chief operating officer James Locsin at the Swatch Office for the first time. We sat in their conference room with no idea it would take so long to create. If you were wondering how that UST Swatch became what it is now, you would forget about that line you waited for hours to move just to have one wrapped around your wrist. Swatch is known for its hip yet elegant, Swiss-made watches. I remember having one when I was in grade school, my mom gave me one when she was working abroad. A few weeks later, I lost it. She never got mad at me for losing it. However, she haunted me whenever I got to see a Swatch watch, hoping that someday I would replace it. Now I got four, designed it, and shared it with thousands of fellow Thomasians.

After a year of conceptualization, we finally had a concrete idea of what to put in the watches. But we ran out of time. Designs would have to undergo a series of approval from the bosses at Switzerland, which took time.

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Waste management and nostalgia

The clock is ticking

In December 2009, UST started the 400-day countdown to the 400th anniversary. The Swatch “Beatman” was unveiled before at least 50,000 Thomasians. For some, it bore the number of days left until UST’s Quadricentennial. But for us, it was a race to finish what we started a year ago. It was a constant reminder to have it done and over with, to make our mark in time.

The first of four Swatch Designs (Thomasian Swatch) was sold at the Thomasian Global Trade Expo in October 2010. It was a blockbuster! The second Swatch, (Quadricentennial Series) was then sold during the Paskuhan 2010 festivities in December. The last design (Dominican Duo) was released just in time for the Quadricentennial celebration in January. Today, all four designs are sold out. I even encountered people selling theirs on the Internet for a higher price. It made me think that it was so valuable to people that some even try to buy watches from other owners at point blank. I had a taste of my share of complaints over the phone why we made so few. Then I explain, but at the back of my mind, I said, “you were just a little too late, or terribly late.”

Collector’s fantasy

I am, you may say, a beginner at collecting. My room is a myriad of non-thematic collections of everything I love. I have a collection of masks that were mostly given to me by friends who travel. I have a dozen kinds of weapons and several model cars I could never buy in real life. Lastly, my collection of watches sits in one level of my shelves. Almost ten of them I use alternately.

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Keeping out of touch

The best thing about being the designer of the UST Swatch is I get to add four more watches to my growing collection, and prove that when I lose something valuable, I’ll get it back someday, somehow.

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