In the late 1970s, a Swiss watch was a work of careful craftsmanship, a uniquely valuable timepiece handed down from one generation to the next, to be cherished for a lifetime. Fitted with a complicated, hand-crafted mechanical movement, it was the expression of a culture in which changes took place, if they took place at all, only after slow deliberation, and at the speed of glaciers racing down the Alpine valleys. New models were introduced, but changes in how watches were made were few and far between. And then? Then came the crisis—not entirely unexpected, but serenely ignored for much too long. Overnight, it seemed, the market was flooded with watches from Asia equipped with quartz movements. They kept good time—most were at least as accurate as even the best mechanical watches—and they were cheap. You didn’t have to save for months or years to afford one. Worst of all, people were buying them! Even the Swiss were buying cheap watches, in the thousands!
It didn’t take genius to see what was happening. In a few short years, the value of Swiss watch exports had been cut in half. The Swiss share of the market dropped from over 50 to 15 per cent, and competition from Asia slashed the number of watchmaking jobs in Switzerland from 90,000 to fewer than 25,000: Swiss watchmakers were an endangered species.
Enter Nicolas G. Hayek, whose radical proposals and revolutionary ideas were to lead the industry from its near-death experience to unprecedented health today. Chief among Nicolas G. Hayek’s big ideas was that of a ‘second watch’ — not an expensive piece of well-crafted jewellery, but a new, fascinating way to say who you are and how you feel: elegant, emotional, provocative, seductive… And because it didn’t cost a fortune, a second watch was soon followed by a third, a fourth... and the rest is history. In 2006, Swatch celebrated the production of the 333 millionth Swatch watch, and today Swatch is one of the biggest brand names in the world, known everywhere as a maker of colourful, exciting watches in tune with the latest trends.
Along the way to brand-name stardom, Swatch has established an enviable reputation as an all-around innovator, applying its creative smarts to everything from research and technology to product design and manufacture, marketing, communication and retail distribution.