Debbie Burghardt-Platt Swatch stories

80s, 90s and 00s

Debbie Burghardt-Platt worked for Swatch from 1986 (SMH back then) to 2009.  At the time, she was director of special Swatch events for the US.  In 2021, she started to post stories and photos from the 80s, 90s and 00s to the SWATCH ENTHUSIASTIC GROUP WORLDWIDE Facebook group.  With her permission and in order to preserve them, I republish and share these stories and photos below.  No specific sorting, new stories will be added as they pop up on Facebook.


Swatch and Blue Man Group and Peter Fonda, 1998?


My brain is getting a little fuzzy on dates, but I'll start with year I believe was 1998 during the time we changed from SMH to The Swatch Group....how to pull off an almost impossible press event that took us to Death Valley, California where temperatures could reach 134 degrees F/54 C! This was to be a 3-day trip where the press had to put their trust in the Swatch creative team as each step of the way would be full of surprises. Landing in Las Vegas, guests were put up at Caesars Palace for the night and told to pack a simple overnight bag and be on the buses in the morning to unknown destination. Boarding the buses, they had no idea where they were headed, but as a testimonial to what Swatch stood for, they knew they were in for a once in a lifetime experience. Halfway up, they were told we would be stopping for a quick bite to eat. What they didn't now as we pulled the buses up to this dusty-looking roadside "dining" establishment was their first surprise....Sitting atop a Harley Davidson was one of the Hayek's personal friends and Swatch-lover, actor Peter Fonda - Mr. "Easy Rider" himself. Peter greeted our guests, joining them for lunch and continued on our journey alongside the buses. Upon arriving at our final destination, DEATH VALLEY, guests were brought to Zabriskie Point for a champagne toast at sunset. Little did they know the magic was just starting! As the buses pulled up to what seemed like endless baron desert sand, it suddenly lit up in gorgeous colors with a white tablecloth dinner by Wolfgang Puck (okay we had a couple of glitches when a sudden sand storm kicked up).....guests were seated and wait staff seemed to appear out of nowhere to start service. Once dinner finished, out popped performers from Cirque du Soleil, the first time they agreed to do a private performance outside of their own venue. The photo here is not a PR shot but one from my personal camera of Nick Hayek Jr., Peter Fonda and one of the performers. Needless to say this event was a huge success and marked the beginning of our parent company's new name The Swatch Group......my next photo is just myself and a member of the Blue Man Group. Our launch event in Lugano, Switzerland (in 2006??!?) was awesome, but I had to pull off a U.S. worthy event for our market. I had developed a pretty good relationship with the guy who ran Times Square security for NYC - I asked him was it possible to shut down traffic in Times Square for even just a few minutes and he helped me make it happen. The goal was to host an event at our flagship store there and so the day of the event starting around 52nd Street the Blue Man Group was to arrive in a stretch limousine, but halfway down the road, the limo broke down and they all got out and pushed the limo down the middle of Broadway in Times Square to our store! Of course all this was staged for excitement. Once arriving, they walked up to our store as if they were looking at an alien spaceship and began putting their own artistic touch to our windows before joining our customers and press inside. That was a fun launch event, albeit the folks who were tied up in traffic for a few minutes in Times Square during rush hour!

28-MAR-1996, Swatch at Atlanta Olympic Games

Swatch promotions to support our store in Boston with Olympic legends and our VIP guest pin given out to our 1500 guests in four waves.





Hamptons NY "mermaid" event, 17-JUN-1994

love getting back into the wonderful world of Swatch past! Last night I pulled out one of the many old beach towels I have - this one has held up really nice. I forgot to grab the photos of our Hamptons NY "mermaid" event we did years ago at Gurneys Resort - we had a bunch of celebrities and I'll post them next. We had a surfboard all decked out in Swatch stickers and we had all the celebs sign. That happened the same day of the infamous "O.J. Simpson slow car chase" (June 17, 1994). I remember everyone was inside looking at the televisions in the bar at Gurneys instead of our beautiful mermaids LOL.....



50th Anniversary United Nations, New York, Spring 1995

The United Nations was celebrating their 50th Anniversary with a big gala in NYC Spring 1995. Nicolas Hayek Sr. and Swatch were asked to participate by producing a limited edition watch to celebrate the event, but of course Mr. Hayek/Mr. Swatch never did anything simply - at the time we were working with an incredibly talented young group of artists from New Orleans called YaYa - Swatch came up with the idea why not have YaYa/Swatch totally re-design the inside of the General Assembly of the United Nations! Well, of course that wasn't going to fly very far - the United Nations wasn't exactly ready for a new makeover, but they did allow us to make removable chair covers for the event that would be placed on every chair in he General Assembly of the UN and of course our watch. Working with the United Nations was a HUGE undertaking. For anyone that has ever visited the UN, there is possibly the longest marble hallways to get anywhere. Add to that I was 7.5 months pregnant so going back and forth almost daily, through those immense hallways - I was surprised I made it to May. Some of the young artists in YaYa went on to Atlanta and worked to help design our office space for the 1996 Olympic Games which I'm sure was a great experience for them. Here are some of the young artists with then Mayor of NYC - - -


Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks in the 90s

Another funny story was whenever there was a big launch HQ came to us in the U.S. to find a celebrity to possibly be the face of the new watch or sometimes just for a one-off to be at an event   For a Boardercross event, I picked a random model from a bunch of cards sent to me - it was Heidi Klum before she was famous.  She had not yet walked in the big Victoria's Secret Fashion Show that shot her to stardom [in 1997] - I liked how she was multi-cultural and she was very sporty (and beautiful).  We brought her to this event and then later she began doing quite a bit for Swatch.  Same with Tyra Banks.  Picked her out for a one-off event and she became the face of SKIN.....if only I made a million bucks for my intuition!



Heidi Klum at the Wristory Event in 2001:



Heidi came as a courtesy, I also brought Aida Turturro from The Sopranos who I brought to a Swatch France event.  Donald Trump of course came because the event benefitted Gods Love We Deliver which was Blaine Trumpís big NYC charity.  I have some personal pics somewhere and some Wristory Auction books. The funniest thing about this event was no matter how big the celeb they all broke down their chairs and took them home.  That was their gift. Had all the artwork on them.



Olympic pins (Atlanta 1996)

Today's memory came from my sorting through the hundreds of Olympic pins that were collected mostly during the 1996 Atlanta Games as my father-in-law made it a full time job trading pins at the Park. As I was sorting through pins, event tickets and VIP hospitality passes that were given to our collectors, retailers and celebrity guests from around the world, I came across one interesting thing I can share for today for anyone who has collected Swatch pins. We were amateurs back then - our sister companies - Omega, Longines, Swiss Timing had been the face of the Games for many years, so when Swatch got involved, of course we wanted to add all the fun that comes with being a part of such an exciting brand. Going to the first Olympic Committee meetings at the United States Olympic headquarters in Colorado was draining - so much to learn. My colleague and I kept calling oursleves "the Olympic Virgins" because we were surrounded by people from Xerox, IBM, Coca Cola, Budweiser who had been doing this for eternity but we wanted to absorb everything there was to learn from these veterans. The first thing they told us was to make sure we made Olympic pins as this was a huge part of the experience during the Games. Pins? We are watchmakers - why would we make pins, but realizing we had to do some things that were part of tradition, we ventured into our first pin which was the original green and gold pin that was our first Olympic Swatch. The reason you might find this interesting is if you look at my pins you might see the first pin we did was not scaled correctly - it kind of looked stumpy so we went back at it and the following pins were more to scale but for anyone that might have one of those first 'stumpy" ones, it is unique! The camera pins had no wording on them but they were to celebrate our partnership with Annie Leibovitz. The red credit card looking thing you might notice was the ultimate VIP pass into our lounge at our Pavilion during the Games. We hosted kings and queens, every athlete you can imagine, celebrities, our cherished collectors throughout the three weeks.




Our guests that included many Swatch collectors received these VIP passes from the Olympic commitee that gave them access to VIP hospitality venues. The passes were given out by day and had a SENSORMATIC chip on the back. You could not get into a lot of areas without these passes. What makes the DAY EIGHT pass interesting is that this was date the bomb exploded 50 feet from our pavilion that evening closing the Park immediately. I still have a lot of DAY NINE and TEN passes and imagine it's because we were in such lockdown for a couple of days before things returned to somewhat normal.


The "Red Card" was as sought after as the AMEX Black Card!


VIP and GUEST Passes to various events


Swatch really was more than a watch - it was a lifestyle as proven by the worldwide events that supported our launches".....Some more momentos from my memory box - VIP and GUEST Passes to various events. Sometimes it was an actual lanyard you might wear and sometimes we used actual watches as the Access to an event. I'm missing so many of my "Access Swatches" but few comments behind some of the below: 1988 Sales Meeting Pin from Barbados - no launch here - this was historical in that this sales meeting that took place in the Caribbean was the turning point in the United States for a major shakeup that was to happen immediately following.....SWATCH KING OF THE BEACH, what an amazing event in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel with Swatch Pro team members. An entire beach was built in the middle of the desert for this awesome event. SWATCH WAVE TOUR - Long Beach, California. I don't want to screw the story up because Bernie was the brains behind everything cool that happened around our sports partnerships but I believe this was when the guys who invented the artificial wave machine needed to get it off the ground and gain exposure - Bernie always had a vision (my international counterpart) and said we should do a huge event in front of the Queen Mary, bring in all our best board riders from skate, surf, etc., heve them compete on this thing while we had live concerts alongside. This was a huge undertaking but this multi-day event was a huge success showing up on the morning news each day -celebrities calling us asking for tickets - we had quite the musical lineup too. Of course, now these wave machines are everywhere including on cruise ships, etc....so happy to oblige! GOODWILL GAMES held in NYC outside the World Trade Center (before 9-11) was also a multi-day event - Swatch used a watch with the logo for ACCESS. Anyone remember Swatch "friend" Olympian Michael Johnson driving the first SMART CAR down Broadway in the middle of Manhattan during the Games? The SMART CAR had never been seen before here and people were chasing it, not because of Michael but because of this strange looking car! Can't find my JACKIE BROWN Swatch which was another of those retrofitted clear Swatch Access watches we put the movie logo on the band and special packaging. We partnered with Quentin Tarantino to sponsor the PREMIERE of his movie JACKIE BROWN which does feature a Swatch counter in the mall in the film. That was a lot of fun. As the celebrities arrived wearing their JACKIE BROWN SWATCH ACCESS, they went through an airport type turnstyle where they were scanned and on a giant screen it would say JACKIE BROWN AND SWATCH WELCOMES SAMUEL JACKSON, MICHAEL KEATON, OSCAR DELA HOYA, etc. so many major starts in Hollywood that night I couldn't even count. A mock setting from the movie was then set up in our Swatch Store where Pam Grier did a signing - were you there?

Films and Music

FILMS AND MUSIC - gather your friends and do Swatch Trivia - here's just a few really old ones:
Swatch sometimes partnered with filmmakers to be part of the premieres or events, rarely purchased "product placement" but on occasion might have and then sometimes just ended in a film on its own merit....these are oldies: HEATHERS - the original MEAN GIRLS film of the 80's - who can forget the locker scene when the head Heather mentions the dead friends Swatch collection...UNDERCOVER BLUES with Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid - so funny! THE TERMINAL with Tom Hanks - where he is forever stuck in an airline terminal (Swatch Store is part of it) - we also did some stuff for the Premiere, JACKIE BROWN (Quentin Tarantino) as mentioned earlier, GODZILLA, ERIN BROCKOVICH of course this was on the wrist of the star...lastly BELL BIV DEVOE song of around 1990? where he says IT WAS SIX O'CLOCK ON the SWATCH WATCH....

Thanks Debbie for sharing the stories and the photos!

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