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Swatch, the little plastic watch that revived the Swiss watch industry

Swatch, the little plastic watch that revived the Swiss watch industry
Swatch, the little plastic watch that revived the Swiss watch industry

Although the greater public knows Swatch as the name for fun, affordable and Swiss quality watches, the name actually refers to the world's largest watchmaking group. This is also the revolutionary story of a plastic watch that saved the Swiss watchmaking industry.
As a reminder, the arrival of the Swatch took place at a time, the late 70s, when the Swiss watchmaking industry was dealing with a crisis brought on by the strong competition created by Japanese quartz watches.

Ernst Tomke, Director of ETA, asked Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller, two of his youngest engineers, to design a movement costing only 5 Swiss Francs (equivalent to 7 Euros in 2016), while the cheapest available on the market at the time cost 15 Francs (equivalent to 21 Euros in 2016).
The two engineers designed a plastic watch with a very simplified mechanism: 51 components, against at least 91 for an ordinary quartz watch. It could not be opened, and therefore could not be repaired, so its quality had to be above reproach. It could be mass produced using highly automated machinery, but the different versions could easily be identified thanks to the different colours used on the straps, the drawing on the face, etc. This meant that the watch could be marketed to old and young alike, to men and women, to fit each season's new trends. The technical accomplishment was combined with a stroke of business genius: the Swatch was launched not as a watch, but as a fashion accessory. The Swatch revolution began: how a small bit of plastic saved a major part of the Swiss economy and revived the attractiveness of a watchmaking industry acknowledged as the best in the world!

The first Swatch was launched on the Swiss market on 1 March 1983 and the plastic watch's name became that of a group, the industry's undisputed leader, which owns 18 illustrious brands such as Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines, Tissot and Calvin Klein. The Swatch Group even went on to become the world's largest watchmaker.

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