Running on Swiss time

World time / Swatch retail stores began to operate in 1996, and now have 3,371 franchise units across 44 countries.
Swatch recently broke the internet with their collaboration with Omega.

Swatch is easily one of the world’s most recognizable brands when it comes to everyday watches. It's fun, colourful, quirky and durable fashion style is loved by young and old alike. The Swatch product line was initially developed as a response to the "quartz crisis" of the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the Swiss watch market was put under threat after the market became flooded with new-world technology watchmakers from Japan. The brand helped put European watchmaking back on track, and has since become the face of afforable Swiss watches. 

Brand history

On the 1st of March,1983, the first collection of 12 Swatch watches were released in Zurich, Switzerland. The Swiss made watches were all water and shock resistant, with quartz movement and in a range of funky colours. This helped reshape the European analog watch industry while throwing Swatch to the top of affordable fashionable timepieces. 

The name Swatch is a contraction of "second watch". In essence, they were created to accompany your more expensive formal watch, as they are a paired back Swiss time keep originally made with plastic. The company threw everything at an aggressive marketing campaign to get the brand on the map, selling their products at a competitively low price for a Swiss-made watch. Within two years, the company sold a total of 2.5 million watches.

Swatch retail stores began to operate in 1996. They now have 3,371 franchise units across 44 countries world-wide. In 2006, Swatch celebrated the production of their 333 millionth watch. Today, the brand sells about 3 million watches annually. However, as you'll soon find out - this has now spiked.

The brand Swatch is part of The Swatch Group; a diversified multinational holding company active in the manufacture and sale of finished watches, jewellery, watch movements and components. The Swatch Group is the world’s largest watchmaking group, and supplies nearly all the components required for the watches sold by its 17 individual brands and the multi-brand retail companies Tourbillon and Hour Passion. The group owns not only the Swatch product line, but other brands including Omega, Longines, Tissot, Mido, Hamilton and Rado.

Swatch's production companies supply movements and components to third-party watchmakers in Switzerland and around the world. They are a key player in the manufacture and sale of electronic systems used in watchmaking and other industries. It’s also a leader in the field of sports event timing.

Brand innovation

Swatch is fashionably known for their pioneering ways. Iconic in the late 80's and 90's for design. In 2004, they launched their first smart watch called the “Paparazzi”. The watch connected people with wireless internet connection, offering instant messaging, news and weather. Then in 2015, they integrated a payment function (NFT) in their Swatch Bellamy models of watches. This technolgy is now known as SwatchPAY!

The company was perviously rumoured to be developing a game-changing smart watch after Swatch CEO, Nick Hayek stated, "The Apple Watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution." However, more recent headlines suggest the company is focused on expanding the brand through means of fun and powerful collaborations.

Brand collaboration

The Swiss company's dual concept began with the ‘Swatch X You’ in 2017, when the company allowed customers to essentially be the designer of their own watches. More recently, the company nearly broke the internet with their 'Swatch X Omega', MoonSwatch collection. Arguably one of the best received retail collaborations in history, it had Gen Z's and watch fanatics camping out overnight to be one of the first put a Swatch Speedmaster on their wrist.

Following the popular trend of collaborations between luxury and street brands to create innovative new products that blend the best of both worlds, the collab draws their inspiration of design from space, creating a collection of eleven Swatches named after planetary bodies; from the giant star at the centre of the solar system to the dwarf planet at its periphery.

Watches, when they're not sold out, sell at retail for €250 - which seems like a bargain compared to the Omega Speedmaster’s luxury price of about €6,000. Furthermore, all of the Swatches are in ‘bioceramic', a unique mix of two-thirds ceramic and one-third material derived from castor oil. Although the colours like pink and pale blue offer strong clues that these are not your standard Speedmaster watches, the company says a hard-core Moonwatch fan would be hard-pushed to find the difference in the overall look. 

CEO and President of Omega, Mr Raynald Aeschlimann, considers the new collection as a source of pride. “Omega’s long and distinguished history may have been cut short if it wasn’t for the vision and the courage taken by Swatch,” said Aeschlimann.

“The MoonSwatch collection salutes the saviours of our industry in a witty and accessible way. The Swatches are perfect for budding Moonwatch fans and I can’t think of a more appropriate icon for our shared project. We went to the moon, now we’re exploring the whole Milky Way. They’re great watches, in fantastic colours and they make me smile,” he said.  

The MoonSwatch collection was released for sale in March this year at select Swatch stores. The New York Times called its release, "the watch industry's defining moment of 2022". The line sold out immediately around the globe with lines forming at most of the limited number of Swatch boutiques where it was carried.

Swatch initially stated that each consumer could purchase up to two watches, later walking this back and limiting each consumer to one watch. Swatch also initially added the product to their online catalogue, only to confirm later that the product would not be available for sale online as indicated.

Swatch has really worked hard to deliver something fun for everyone. Other Swatch collabs include: Bape, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art – New York), Peanuts, Centre Pompidou, and most recently with Dragon Ball Z.

Corporate social responsibility

The company has a long running affinity to corporate responsibly. The Swatch Group Environmental Policy focuses on conservation of the natural environment. In Peru, Swatch supported the 'Sofia Mulanovich Project', which developed Peruvian surfing through a three-year program that focused on environmental protection, healthy living and fair play. Then during Expo 2015, Swatch supported 'The Treedom Project' which aimed to make Africa greener by planting trees. The goal was to create benefits for the environment while supporting farmers who plant the trees.

In addition to giving outwards, the company has shifted to a more ethical approach in sustainable manufacturing internally. The companies ‘Bioreloaded’ line was introduced by Swatch in 2020; a relaunch of Swatch's 1983 debut collection, but partially made from "bio-sourced" materials. The case, strap, and strap clasp of a Bioreloaded watch is made of a material derived from the seeds of the castor plant, while the packaging material is a biodegradable "paperfoam" created with tapioca and potato starch. This was integrated in the successful MoonSwatch collection, as mentioned above. 

One more please / The name Swatch is a contraction of "second watch".

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