Do you remember your first watch?
If you were a teenager in the 80’s you probably bought a digital quartz watch from Japan or Hong Kong as your first wristwatch. If you were born in the 80’s then your first watch was probably a Swatch and you didn’t know that the quartz watches were threatening the whole Swiss watch industry.
A watch is meant to give you the time, right? So imagine that the whole market is made of expensive and classic watches that cost hundreds of euros (if not more). Not everybody can buy a watch. Suddenly there is a new watch that is much more precise (because of the new quartz technology), it’s much more functional (it comes with chronograph, games and many other functions), it’s much more modern (the display is digital, with numbers, a cool shape and backlight) and finally… it costs only 50 Euros.
You are right, this is a situation that cannot last… and in the 80’s it didn’t. The digital watches made in Asia took the market by storm.
The reaction that changed everything came from Nicholas Hayek, a Swiss/Lebanese business man. It seems very obvious now but he managed to change the trend by focusing on 2 things: price and style. The market had now a new price reference (50 Eur) and he was forced to find a way to sell below that price. They changed everything in the way a Swiss watch was made to be able to do that. Then they managed to make the Swatch watches very trendy through edgy marketing with very edgy designs, artistic stylings, special editions, PR events and modern advertising.They modernized the traditional watches and made them cooler than the digital ones. Finally, they ensured that the watches were precise enough using quartz technology. Okay, they didn’t have so many features, and perhaps they didn’t give you times with milliseconds… but who cares about seconds.
Afterall is meant to give you the time, right? Perhaps it’s also a status symbol and a style element too?
After the crisis of the late 80’s the Swiss watch industry is alive and well and the Swatch Group is at the forefront. Not only do they make the Swatch watches but they also have a stable of brands like the super-luxury Breguet, Blancpain and other classics which are still using the most refined craftsmanship to achieve precision and function without digital technology, just using mechanics. The Swatch Group also owns Omega as a large and mid-priced brand that competes with Tag Heuer or Breitling as challengers to the king Rolex. With other brands they basically cover the whole market and price points, from cheap commercial watches to super high-end.
As a professional option, the Swatch Group is a large recruiter that offers opportunities in all areas, from the corporate positions in Marketing, Finance or HR… to the more technical positions in watchmaking. If you are a technical person fascinated by watchmaking check out the opportunities are legendary watchmakers like Bréguet, if you are more into corporate jobs you might want to check marketing at Swatch, it’s supposed to be pretty fun and non-traditional.