Swatch Tresor Magique: The Watch Harry Potter Would Have Worn
by Martin Green
It’s interesting that Swatch Group, one of the most powerful Swiss watch conglomerates with a bevy of prestigious haute horlogerie brands, is named after the group’s least expensive brand: Swatch.
But it is to Swatch that the entire Swiss watch industry owes a debt: the creation of Swatch offered a whole new perspective on Swiss watchmaking. Inexpensive and fun, yet still profoundly Swiss, it was the vision of Nicolas G. Hayek that proved to be the vital ingredient for the Swiss watch industry to become competitive again after the quartz crisis.
A couple of decades later and the role of Swatch is no longer that of savior. Instead, it has taken on a position that it is most comfortable with: it has become the Andy Warhol of Swiss watchmaking, going against the classical grain and establishing new ways of expressing itself.
The price level of Swatch has remained pretty much the same over the years, with only a few exceptions. Some might recall the Swatch Diaphane One from 2001 with its unique rotating movement, but before that there was the Tresor Magique, a Swatch crafted from one of the most precious materials in watchmaking: platinum.
Swatch Tresor Magique’s design . . . if you can call it that
The Tresor Magique might have a platinum case, but it looks like something Harry Potter would have appreciated wearing while attending classes at Hogwarts. However, in 1993, the year the Tresor Magique was launched, Harry Potter didn’t yet exist except in the manuscript J.K. Rowling was still writing.
The dial of the watch features several stars and references to the moon, while the case band offers a skeletonized, geometric motif under which the top of the movement becomes visible. Somewhat a tradition with platinum watches, Swatch combined it with blue and adopted this color for the outer ring of the dial, which marks the hours, as well as the strap.
The hour ring features Roman numerals in a slight disorder, some indicating one of the 12 hours, others one of the 24 hours, and some both. While this would be hugely annoying with any other watch brand, you accept it from Swatch – in fact you demand it. These elements add the fun flavor that makes the brand so lovable in the first place.
The gold-colored sword-style hands fit in the theme yet are a practical nightmare as at some angles they are barely visible against the bright, polished dial with gold-colored accents underneath. The second hand is however very clearly visible, not because it is silver colored but because it features a large circle filled with Super-LumiNova.
That is also the great irony (no pun intended) of this Swatch: as the hour and minute hands do not have luminous material, in the middle of the night you can see that your watch is still running, but you have no idea what time it is.
A treasured collectible. Or maybe not
The Tresor Magique came in a large acrylic case that included the watch, its paperwork, and an extra plastic strap and changing tool so you could turn it into a real Swatch if you wanted to.
It was limited to a not-so-exclusive run of 12,999 pieces. Despite this, you have a far better chance of seeing a Paul Newman Rolex Daytona in the wild than one of the Tresor Magique models. I suspect that many keep them untouched, hoping that one day they become valued collector’s pieces.
We are talking the 1990s here, and back then it was not uncommon for people to wait in line outside the Swatch stores when a limited edition launched. In fact, Nicolas G. Hayek launched the Tresor Magique in 1993 at the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) for the official retail price of $1,618.
Originally it came with a blue plastic strap in addition to a leather strap. This leather strap is interesting as I have seen two versions over the years. Most common is the one that just states that it is leather. This means that the strap is made from calfskin and embossed with a crocodile pattern.
However, there are also crocodile straps – which are worth more by themselves then the vast majority of these Swatch watches as a whole. The precious platinum wasn’t carried through and through as the stylish buckle is just polished stainless steel.
Even if in 1993 quartz still ruled supreme among the Swatches, with the first Swatch automatic only joining the ranks in 1991, the Tresor Magique was equipped with automatic Caliber 2840, a dressed-down version of the ETA 2824. The movement’s rotor is engraved with the number of the limited edition.
Swatch Tresor Magique: the ultimate understatement?
Most people will just recognize the Tresor Magique as a Swatch, perhaps even think it is a regular version of the Irony. That is actually quite ironic (pun intended) and should be part of the fun for whoever owns one.
While the platinum case ensures that the Tresor Magique retains a decent value, you should have no problem finding one for just below €2,000. That still makes for one very expensive Swatch, yet after 25 years of holding on to it some people might have hoped for even more.
It is, however, dirt cheap for a Swiss-made watch with a platinum case. Not that anybody will notice its pedigree, but at least you can comfort yourself after the lack of attention with the fact that you are wearing the ultimate understatement when it comes to watches!
For more information, please visit www.swatch.com.
Quick Facts Swatch Tresor Magique
Case: 36.7 x 11 mm, 950 platinum
Movement: automatic ETA Caliber 2840
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Original strap: crocodile leather with stainless steel buckle; additional plastic strap provided
Limitation: 12,999 pieces
Year of manufacture: 1993
Original retail price: $1,618
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Talk about a value proposition! Interesting article on a unique watch.. thanks.
My pleasure, David! Do check this watch out, very curious if it will impress you as much in the metal as it does in the article.
#02951 is my favorite watch (the salad green A.S. Krono Bauhaus 351/999 being close second), and indeed it is frowned upon: any TAG Heuer, even Tissot are seen as more mature choice. Well … who am I to blow against the wind? If anybody asks, I just tell that it and its 12898 siblings were responsible for a notable spike in import of American-mined platinum to Switzerland in 1993.
There’s a Swatch for everyone out there. It is the plain T-shirt of watches and like a plain T-shirt, it really is a litmus test on what you’ve been hiding. I suggest, dear readers, that you find one you like and wear it for a week. It’s amazing how free-ing it is to have “just the time” on your wrist.
I would love to pick one of these for the very reasons mentioned in this article but was wondering if they can be serviced with ease? If that isn’t the case, back to the showroom with these!
Any Swatch Group AD can do it. Even an independent. Might have to wait a bit longer but certainly serviceable.