1990’s commercial for SWATCH watches.

Swatch is a brand name for a line of wrist watches from the Swatch Group, a Swiss conglomerate with vertical control of the production of Swiss watches and related products. In 1982, Swatch was conceived and it was introduced to the market in Switzerland in March 1983.

Origin

This concept was realised in the early 1980s, under the leadership of the then ETA SA’s CEO, Ernst Thomke with a small team of enthusiastic watch engineers led by Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller , who had had the idea to use the case back as a movement main plate (platine), as it had been done to realise the flattest watch in the world, the Delirium, suppressing a lot of parts. And designed for easy assembling.

Conceived at the beginning as a standard timekeeper in plastic, Franz Sprecher,  a marketing consultant hired by Thomke to give the project an outsider’s consideration, soon led the project into what it has become: a fun “Brand” with a full brand identity and marketing concept, instead of developing just another watch collection, which could have soon been matched & killed by the competition.

Swatch was originally intended to re-capture entry level market share lost by Swiss manufacturers during the aggressive growth of Japanese companies such as Seiko in the 1960s and 1970s, and to re-popularize analog watches at a time when digital watches had achieved wide popularity. The launch of the new Swatch brand in 1983, then led under the auspices of Nicolas G. Hayek, was marked by bold new styling and design.

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 the assembly technology. The number of components was reduced from 91 or more to 51, with no loss of accuracy.


Derivation of the name Swatch

The first meaning of the name “Swatch” was “Second Watch” — because the new watch was introduced with a new concept of watches as casual, fun, and relatively disposable accessories.  However Franz Sprecher conceived it as the contraction of Swiss (Made) Watch: “S’Watch”, soon became “Swatch” as it is today perceived worldwide.


The first collection

The first collection of twelve Swatch models was introduced on March 1, 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 a very reasonable price for a Swiss-made watch, it gained instant popularity in its home market. 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.


Popularity

Swatches enjoyed their peak popularity during the mid-1980s. Such ’80s fads included wearing two Swatches and using a Swatch as a ponytail band. Some models, like Pop Swatch, allowed wearers to attach Swatches directly to clothing. During this same time, Swatch introduced the idea of partnering with noted artists, including Keith Haring and others. Artist watches gave a new cachet to what had previously been a trendy youth article.


Info gleaned from Wikipedia

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