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S.11 Swatch

Although Swatch is not an independent firm but part of SMH, the history of Swatch will be dealt with in a separate chapter because of its importance. As Swatches have been frequently depicted in other books they will not be shown here.

1979Research for the technical and design aspects of the watch starts.
1980On the 11th of April, ETA, part of the ASUAG, and now of the SMH, takes the formal decision to produce a cheap watch suitable for mass production. Dr. Ernst Thomke, head of the ETA division of the ASUAG, instructs his engineers to develop a low cost plastic watch.
1981The export of Swiss watches has decreased from 91 million pieces in 1971 to 43 million in 1981. More than half of the employees in the Swiss-watch industry are laid off during this period. The Swiss banks asks Nicolas Hayek to examine the viability of the Swiss watch industry. The result is the fusion of the two most important Swiss watch manufactures, the ASUAG and the SSIH in 1983. The new name is SMH, an abbreviation for the 'Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie'. Nicolas Hayek becomes the new president. 'Swatch' is now owned by SMH.
1982The first working prototype of a Swatch is available. The year also marks the realization of the manufacturing lines, utilizing an entirely new micro injection plastic molding process and robot assembly techniques. The production takes place in the factories of ETA SA in Grenchen. The marketing for Swatch started at ETA SA and was later transferred to Bienne after the creation of Swatch SA, in 1984. The Swatch watches are launched in the USA in November .
1983The Swatch watches (Reference no. ETA 500) are launched in Switzerland and Great Britain. Swatch's marketing and communication was provocative and innovative from the beginning. Instead of the normal 90 parts, a Swatch contains only 51 different elements. Max Imgr/th, hired by the ETA, becomes head of the new headquarters in New York. The first Swatches are typical examples of a product that is marketed as the result of an economic analysis. Max Imgr/th succeeds in improving and converting Swatch's rather dull and conservative image of the initial introductory phase, by aggresively marketing Swatch to a young and fashion-conscious public. One of televisions most popular channels, Music Television (MTV), is used as major media marketing vehicle.
1984The first million Swatches sold. The Swatch collection is also launched in France, Belgium, the Middle East, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland and Holland. In May, Swatch presents its first prototypes of the POP Swatch. Swatch is retailed in Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Columbia, Canary Islands and Malta.
1985In the autumn, two years after the introduction, ten million Swatches have been sold.
1986The first Pop Swatches are presented to the international press at the end of the year. Swatch also introduces its 'Maxi Swatch'. A Swatch ten times larger than a normal Swatch. The Red Cross organises the first Swatch auction held at Sotheby's, London.
1987The first Pop Swatches sold.
1989Foundation of the Swatch Lab in Mailand, Italy, managed by Carlo Giordanetti and Franco Bosisio.
1990In the spring, the 'Swatch Chrono' is launched. In the summer, the Swatch 'Scuba 200' follows and is introduced in the USA.
1991The first Swatch Automatics sold in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. On the 25th of May, the first complete collection of Swatch watches is put up for sale at an auction at Rudolf Mangisch and Peter Ineichen. Nobody is interested in the entire collection, so the Swatches are auctioned one by one. The most expensive Swatch is the Kiki Picasso, selling for 57,500 Swiss Francs. In December, the introduction in Switzerland of two models of the 'Swatch Pager' takes place. 1992 Introduction of two 'Stop Swatches', the 'Coffee Break' and the 'Jesse Rush'. One crown functions as the key for all the stop-watch features the watch contains. In April, less than ten years after their introduction, one hundred million of Swatches have been produced.
1993In November, Swatch and Mercedes AG in Germany enter into a joint venture agreement between them, the 'MC Micro Compact Car AG' to develop a 'Swatch-Mobile'. In the summer, Swatch launches a new product called 'Swatch MusicCall', a watch with an alarm melody instead of a banal beep. With the launch of Swatch in China, Swatch is now present in 66 markets world-wide. Nicolas G. Hayek launches the 'Trésor Magique' at NYMEX in New York, a limited edition of Swatches with platinum cases.
1994In April Swatch launches their new product line 'AquaChrono' at Loch Ness in Scotland, a diver's watch with chrono function that goes to 200 m.

Because the original watch straps of the 1983 and of most of the 1984 watches had seven holes and the latter ones eight holes, it clearly shows whether the straps are the original ones or not. The date codes on the back of the Swatch watches are explained in every book about Swatch.

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Copyright © by Pieter Doensen

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