Weekend Edition: How Swatch Went From Disrupter To Iconic Brand

  • Weekend Edition: How Swatch Went From Disrupter To Iconic Brand

    Posted by on August 10, 2022 at 10:46 AM

    The Moonswatch may have been one of the biggest stories in the horological world in the last six months, but one of the companies behind it, Swatch, has been making headlines for nearly 40 years.

    Founded in 1983 – squarely within the Quartz Crisis of the '70s and 80s – Swatch was created to be the antithesis of its more established and historically ingrained European watchmaking competitors. The watches were inexpensive, battery-powered, and quartz-regulated. They were designed to be casual, fashionable-yet-disposable (i.e., plastic-cased) accessories. Swatch was also a powerful Swiss-based response to Japanese upstart Seiko, who was battering those larger Swiss brands with inexpensive (and highly accurate) quartz watches of its own.

    The Swatch Keith Haring Blanc sur Noir (GZ104) and the Milles Pattes (GZ103)

    Depending who you ask, the name Swatch is a contraction of either “Swiss Watch” or “second watch,” and the first collections were colorful, trendy, and eye-catching. They were an instant hit with younger buyers, especially (I should know; I've been the proud owner of at least three of them over the years!). In its first year, the company sold over 1 million watches, and by 2003, 300 million pieces had been sold.

    But beyond the quartz movements and lower price point, what really drove the success of the company was the marketing. According to Nicholas Hayak, Sr., longtime CEO of The Swatch Group, the message was, “First, the highest quality. Second, a low price. And third, provocation of society.”

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