Swiss watchmaker Swatch has found itself embroiled in controversy as Malaysian authorities confiscated 164 rainbow-coloured watches from its Pride collection.

Taking place across eleven shopping malls in Malaysia, including the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian officials raided retailers leaving Swatch’s CEO, Nick Hayek, in disbelief that a collection promoting peace and love could be deemed harmful.

Swatch’s collection of watches featuring rainbow colours, a symbol associated with the LGBTQ+ community, became the target of the Malaysian authorities. Under Malaysia’s laws, homosexuality is strictly forbidden, and engaging in sodomy can result in imprisonment and corporal punishment, although enforcement is infrequent.


The raids took place on 13-14 May, with the home affairs ministry’s enforcement unit confiscating the watches. The seized timepieces were described as having “LGBT elements” and were targeted based on the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984.

Following the raids, Swatch officials expressed their disagreement with the seizure, highlighting the watches’ message of peace and love, with CEO Nick Hayek questioning the enforcement unit’s actions by sarcastically wondering how they would confiscate the natural rainbows that appear in Malaysia’s skies on numerous occasions throughout the year.

Sarah Kok, the marketing manager for Swatch Malaysia, stated that despite the confiscation, the company would continue to replenish the stock and display the watches on store shelves as instructed by the Swiss headquarters.

According to authorities, the confiscation was made under the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, a law often criticised as draconian.

The act is frequently employed to ensure that content does not offend or undermine race relations in the country; however, critics argue that the law’s broad application limits freedom of expression and stifles diversity.

A ministry official (who preferred to remain anonymous) defended the actions undertaken in the raids, stating that the watches featured the letters “LGBT” and had six colours instead of the seven typically associated with the rainbow flag.

The confiscation raises concerns about the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia and the limits on freedom of expression imposed by the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

Despite the controversy, Swatch officials remain defiant, vowing to replenish the stock and display the watches.