Swatch Watch: A Designer's California Dreams

Paula Lehman

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Not unlike many of the surfers in the lineup at Lower Trestles for the Swatch Women's Pro, Swiss artist Serge Nidegger is living out his childhood dream. Long inspired by the lowrider cars from Dr. Dre's L.A.-based videos, when Swatch invited Nidegger to design an event watch, he was more than happy to oblige.

Shirt_swatch watch 3 Welcome to the on-site printing press -- aka Nidegger's mobile workshop -- at the Swatch Women's Pro. - WSL

"This is one of the works I'm most proud of," he said of his Lowers-inspired design. "I could never 20 years ago dream of coming to California and that I'd be printing my own design on the beach. I'm enjoying every minute of my time here."

Even Nidegger's nickname is an ode to California: He goes by "Lowrider," an homage to the decked-out, gyrating cars that inspired his style. The event watch, for example, is distinguishable by the road signs and biker logos and fonts (the kind you might see stitched on to the back of a leather vest).

Swatch artist feature The press in action. - WSL

"They put so much work and so much craftsmanship into those cars," Nidegger said. "They don't put in a lot of money, they put in a lot of soul. That's the kind of art that really inspires me."

Since his first design -- a collage of stickers in a family friend's garage -- Nidegger has been walking around with stickers in his pockets. His Instagram account ranges from photos of his sketchbook (the September 13 entry showed a drawing of a San Onofre lifeguard tower to next to the words "Day Off") to works in his Fribourg studio to murals he's done for H&M and Les Trentenaires, an upscale wine and beer bar.

Shirt_swatch watch 2 A Coco Ho shirt, drying on the press on site. - WSL

But the opportunity to return to the place that inspired him the most was, according to Nidegger, one of the greatest asks in his career.

"I'm inspired by California and all the old sign printers that started here," he said. "It can be just a parking lot sign that inspires me more than a painting some days. Since I was a kid [coming to California] is what I've been thinking about."

Nidegger put his craft on display during the event in the Swatch retail store, putting his stamp -- literally -- on the contest with new designs each day.

Take a look at the press and make your own tee in person at the Swatch Women's Pro and Hurley Pro daily through September 20, or the contest finals. Watch live here daily at 7:30 a.m. local time, or take waves on the go with the WSL App.