A Swatch for Christmas

It’s widely known that Andy Warhol enjoyed the Christmas holiday. During the 1950s when he worked as a commercial designer, Warhol made hundreds of personal Christmas drawings and greeting card graphics for clients, most notably Tiffany & Co.

Andy Warhol, Christmas Card Design for Tiffany & Co. (detail), ca. 1957, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol, Christmas Card Design for Tiffany & Co. (detail), ca. 1957, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

What is not as well-known is how Warhol celebrated Christmas with his family and friends. Warhol’s nephew Donald Warhola says that a typical gift Warhol would receive as a child was a piece of fruit, such as an orange or a banana. While Warhol very much enjoyed giving gifts, Warhola suspects that this humble gift-giving tradition carried on into his adult life.

Donald Warhola’s 1980s Swatch from Andy Warhol

Donald Warhola’s 1980s Swatch from Andy Warhol

During visits to “Uncle Andy’s” New York townhouse, Warhola says Warhol would often go into a small elevator he used as a closet and pull out “gifts” for his nephews (note the price tag in photo above). During the early 1980s, on two occasions, Warhola remembers receiving wrist watches, which had been Warhol’s staff Christmas presents from the previous year. The plain-looking watches—Swatch and Muratti brands—were a treat for the nephews. Warhola thought they were “hip” and wore his Swatch for years. He has at least four watches from Warhol—each surplus from stashes of the staff Christmas gifts—and he quips, “Another year, another watch.”

Multiple years of gifting watches to his staff and nephews points to Warhol’s love of collecting, and to his collection of antique watches, which he often wore on his wrist on top of his sleeve.

“I have the watches in my nightstand,” says Warhola. “Every once in a while when I clean out the drawer, I come across them, and I remember.”

Jessica Warchall

Communications Manager