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Swatch Ltd
Industry Watchmaking
Founded 1983; 33 years ago (1983)
Founder Nicolas Hayek
Headquarters Biel, Switzerland
Key people
Nick Hayek, Jr. (Chairman, President)
Products Wristwatches
Parent The Swatch Group
Subsidiaries Flik Flak

Swatch is a Swiss watchmaker founded in 1983 by Nicolas Hayek, and is subsidiary of The Swatch Group. The product line was developed as a response to the "quartz crisis" of the 1970s and 1980s, in which Asian-made digital watches were competing against traditional European-made mechanical watches.


Swatch store, Oxford Street, London, 2016
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.[1]

Conceived at the beginning as a standard timekeeper in plastic, Franz Sprecher,[2] a marketing consultant hired by Thomke to give the project an outsider's consideration, sought to create a trendy line of watches with a full brand identity and marketing concept.

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.

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.[where?] Compared to conventional watches, a Swatch was 80% cheaper to produce by fully automating assembly and reducing the number of parts from the usual 91 or more to only 51 components.[citation needed]

Lebanese entrepreneur, Nicolas G. Hayek, who, 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, became Chairman of the board of directors and CEO in 1986 (who later significantly changed its name to Swatch Group), further masterminded its development to reach its now major worldwide Swiss watch brand status within the lower end of watch prices.[citation needed]

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. The number of components was reduced from 91 or more to 51, with no loss of accuracy.[3]


The name "Swatch" is a contraction of "Second Watch" – coined by Nichole Lopez[4] because the new watch was introduced with a new concept of watches as casual, fun, and relatively disposable accessories.[5]

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