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. Swatch Group is the world’s largest watch company, and the Group has accelerated its acquisition of Swiss luxury brands in recent years, and currently owns: Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Omega, Tiffany & Co., Rado, Longines, Tissot, and Hamilton. In 1984,

Swatch was conceived and it was introduced to the market in Switzerland the following year. This concept was realize 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 design the thinnest watch in the world, the Delirium which made it to market in 1979. It was also designed for easy assembling.

Conceived at the beginning as a standard timekeeper in plastic, Franz Sprecher, a marketing consultant hired 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. 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 and Citizen 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, was marked by bold new styling, design and marketing.

Lebanese entrepreneur, Nicolas G. Hayek, who, with a group of Swiss investors, took over a majority shareholding in 1985, further masterminded its development to reach its now major worldwide Swiss watch brand status within the lower end of watch prices. 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.

The name ‘Swatch’ is a contraction of ‘Second Watch’ – coined by Nicolas Hayek because the new watch was introduced with a new concept of watches as casual, fun, and relatively disposable accessories.

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.

From the original cult plastic watches, Swatch has diversified its offerings considerably, and the company now sells more than a dozen different types of watches, including metal-bodied watches (the Irony series), diving watches (the Scuba series), thin and flat bodied watches (the Skin family) and even an Internet-connected watch that can download stock quotes, news headlines, weather reports, and other data (the Paparazzi series). They have now become fashionable objects, generating specialized models (the ‘Flik-Flak’ for children) quartz chronographes, automatic and automatic chronographes movements, and even some diamond-decorated Swatches. The company also produces watches with seasonal themes.

In the mid-1980s, mainstream Swatch fashion statements came about in the rising hip-hop scene with the introduction of various colored and interchangeable watch faces and wrist bands (made of vinyl). Colors included bright, day-glow and pastels. The key standard accessory was the Swatch Guard, a thin, rubber-band like strip that would stretch over the watch face. A good number of ‘Swatchies’ sported two Swatch Guards of different colors, twisted or braided together across the Swatch face. A second type of Swatch Guard was a 1/8″-thick hard plastic ring which encircled the face and snapped onto the sides.

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