Last updated

Swatch Ltd.
Industry Watchmaking
Founded1983;37 years ago (1983)
Founder Nicolas Hayek
Key people
Nick Hayek, Jr. (Chairman, President)
Parent The Swatch Group
Subsidiaries Flik Flak

Swatch (stylized as swatch) is a Swiss watchmaker founded in 1983 by Ernst Thomke, Elmar Mock, and Jacques Müller. It is the flagship subsidiary of The Swatch Group. The Swatch product line was developed as a response to the "quartz crisis" of the 1970s and 1980s, in which inexpensive Japanese-made digital watches were competing against traditional European-made mechanical watches.


The name Swatch is a contraction of "second watch", [1] as the watches were intended as casual, disposable accessories. [2]


Swatch store, Oxford Street, London, 2016 Swatch store, Oxford Street, London, March 2016 02.jpg
Swatch store, Oxford Street, London, 2016
Swatch store interior Swatch Store 02.jpg
Swatch store interior

Swatch began development in the early 1980s, under the leadership of the then ETA SA's CEO, Ernst Thomke with a small team of watch engineers led by Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller. [3]

Conceived as a standard timekeeper in plastic, Franz Sprecher, [4] a marketing consultant hired by Thomke to give the project an outsider's consideration, sought to create a fashionable line of watches.

Swatch was originally intended to re-capture entry level market share lost by Swiss manufacturers during the quartz crisis and the subsequent growth of Japanese companies such as Seiko and Citizen in the 1960s and 1970s, and to re-popularize analog watches at a time when digital watches had achieved wide popularity.

In 1983, the group hired Jacques Irniger—who formerly served as the marketing executive for Colgate, Nestlé—to launch the swatch. [5]

In 1997, the Swatch group opened about 60 stores worldwide. [5]

The first collection of twelve Swatch models was introduced on 1 March 1983 in Zürich, Switzerland. Initially the price ranged from CHF 39.90 to CHF 49.90 but was standardized to CHF 50.00 in autumn of the same year. Sales targets were set to one million timepieces for 1983 and 2.5 million the year after. With an aggressive marketing campaign and relatively low price for a Swiss-made watch, it gained instant popularity in its home market. [6]

Lebanese entrepreneur, Nicolas G. Hayek together with a group of Swiss investors took over a majority shareholding of Swatch during 1985 in the newly consolidated group under the name Societe Suisse de Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie, or SMH. He became Chairman of the board of directors, and CEO in 1986. Later he changed company’s name to Swatch Group.

This combination of marketing and manufacturing expertise restored Switzerland as a major player in the world wristwatch market. Synthetic materials were used for the watchcases as well as a new ultra-sonic welding process and assembly technology. [6]

Product lines

Swatch Irony "Charcoal Suit" Swatch Irony Charcoal Suit.jpg
Swatch Irony "Charcoal Suit"
Swatch Swiss Autoquarz, 1998 Swatch Swiss Autoquarz, 1998.jpg
Swatch Swiss Autoquarz, 1998

There are families under the Swatch brand:

Swatch Originals

The Originals are plastic-cased watches. They are available in various sizes, shapes, and designs. The Originals consist of various sub-families as well.

Swatch Irony

The Irony family contains all the metal-cased watches produced by Swatch. These include both quartz driven and automatic mechanical watches that can be serviced. The automatics have a 21J/23J ETA 2842 movement. This movement is exclusive to Swatch and is derived from 2824-2.

Irony Chronograph was introduced in 1996 (type/code: YCS101).

Swatch Skin

The Skin family contains two sub families: Original Skin and Skin Chronograph. The Original Skin was introduced on 6 October 1997 as a thinner version of the original Swatch watch. It is ultra thin, standing at 3.9 mm (18 in), hence the name Swatch Skin. The Swatch Skin later went on to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's thinnest plastic watch. The Swatch Chronograph is simply the Swatch Skin with a chronograph function, adding two additional buttons on the side of the watch.

Swatch Bijoux

The Bijoux line is the jewelry line that Swatch released in the new millennium. It partnered with Swarovski to encrust the Bijoux line of watches.

Swatch Digital Touch

The Digital Touch line, launched in 2011, derives its name from the touchscreen technology used. In contrast to other Swatch families, a digital LCD shows the time. Various models in different colors of the display are available, which include backlighting for reading in the dark. [7] [8]

Swatch Bellamy and Pay

These Swatch models of wristwatches with a quartz movement are additionally equipped with a near-field communication (NFC) chip to accommodate contactless payment. As an improved second generation, Swatch introduced model Pay for the Chinese market in July 2017. Unlike the Bellamy, model Pay can be programmed and activated in Swatch shops using a Cloud Computing service operated by several Chinese banks. [9]

Swatch Sistem51

Swatch introduced Sistem51 at Baselworld 2013 as "the world's first mechanical movement with entirely automated assembly." [10] The movement uses 51 components anchored to a central screw with automatic winding and a 90-hour power reserve – and is 100% Swiss made on a 20-metre-long (65 ft) automated assembly line in clean-room conditions, without human intervention. [11]

The movement is permanently sealed in its case with structural adhesive securing both the acrylic crystal over the dial and the caseback, making it invulnerable to environmental conditions including moisture, dust or foreign objects – and also making it maintenance free – i.e. impossible to service.

The movement is made from ARCAP, an anti-magnetic alloy of copper, nickel, and zinc – designed to free the movement from the need for adjustment. The escapement has no manual adjustment or regulator; the initial rate is factory laser-set. Swatch reports precision of −5/+5 seconds per day. [12] The design's peripheral bi-directional rotor allows viewing of movement components through the caseback. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Omega SA

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Patek Philippe SA Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer

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ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse designs and manufactures quartz watches and both hand-wound and automatic-winding mechanical ébauches and movements. Commonly referred to as ETA, the company is headquartered in Grenchen, Switzerland and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Swatch Group.

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Omega Speedmaster

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Quartz crisis

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  1. Swatch Group history
  2. Company History The Swatch Group
  3. "The Swatch co-inventor welds wood – and bones". Lunch over IP. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  4. Lury, Celia (2004). Brands: the logos of the global economy – Google Books. ISBN   9780415251839 . Retrieved 11 April 2010.
  5. 1 2 Donzé, P. (8 April 2014). A Business History of the Swatch Group: The Rebirth of Swiss Watchmaking and the Globalization of the Luxury Industry. Springer. ISBN   9781137389084.
  6. 1 2 Bold, Kathryn, "Swatchdogs on the Lookout : Promos give collectors a chance to meet the inventor and pick up some of the 'vintage' timepieces for face value", Los Angeles Times, 3 January 1992
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  8. Swatch digital touchscreen models with backlight
  9. Sarah Clark: Swatch partners with eleven Chinese banks for second-generation payments watch. In: NFCworld, July 17, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2018
  10. 1 2 "Exclusive Hands-On Look At The Swatch Sistem51, A Revolutionary Mechanical Watch". Hodinkee. Hodinkee. 30 April 2013.
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  12. Michel Jeannot (16 May 2013). "Swatch Sistem51: Just How Far will the Revolution Go?". HH Journal.