FEATURE: How the humble Swatch saved Switzerland (and the Swiss watch industry)Andrew McUtchen
It was April 2013 at Baselworld Watch Fair and Nick Hayek was sitting with a panel at the launch of the Swatch Sistem51. He took the opportunity to school the packed room on why Swatch still matters, and the place the humble wristwatch has in the modern history of high-end watchmaking. Notebooks out, no talking, these are the 7 Facts that matter about this eminently affordable mechanical marvel that was called “A sensation! A revolution!” by watchinsider.com and a “Bolt of lightning” by jewelleryeditor.com All of the following are direct quotes from Nick Hayek, who was on fire.
1. THE SWATCH SAVED SWITZERLAND
Switzerland was in misery 30-35 years ago. There was no Swiss watch industry, there were just small companies trying to survive. The strategy with the Swatch was to regain lower market share, to give the possibility for high end brands to develop and be successful. Thanks to swatch all these brands exist.
2. IN 1992 NO-ONE WANTED MECHANICAL WATCHES
In 1993 Swatch launched their first mechanical watch – Time To Move. ETA were desperate. Nobody wanted to place orders for mechanical watches. So the Swatch Group took up the struggle and put money in to maintain it. Dad fought against bankers, they told him to try to do what the Japanese were doing. In 1992 no-one wanted mechanical watches.
3. THE SWISS WATCH MUST STAY SWISS
Now we all talk about the success of mechanical and the cachet in ‘Swiss watch’. However Swiss made watches are using more and more foreign components and still sold as ‘Swiss Made’. The arguments from these brands are that it’s too expensive to do your own mechanical movements. This is NOT TRUE. Yes, we need sophistication but we need innovation that also comes from the mass market.
4. WATCHES FOR THE PEOPLE
What is really making the world move is sometimes to think more simply and to make the product available to hundreds of thousands of people. The dream is not just to connect to high price but to connect to imagination and fantasy. Swatch Group has 150 factories in Switzerland – we are fighting for Switzerland. We need to increase the industrial base in Switzerland. High end brands are all 100% here of course. It’s the lower end that make the excuses.
5. HOW DID SWATCH WIN?
By quality and by emotion and by attacking the lower end of the market where hundreds of thousands of people create a groundswell.
6. THE SISTEM51 STRATEGY
The Sistem51 was a collaboration between many companies in the swatch group. It was the first time the designers and the engineers conceived the movement. This watch tries to enchant people with the beauty of the movement. There is only one screw in the movement – the central screw. There are six rubies.
7. WHAT’S IN A NAME?
There are only 51 parts of this mechanical watch, the same number of parts in a quartz watch. You can unite these lines on the dial in a different way every time. There are three styles. One: Just the points as dots of colour. Two: Lines connect the dots in circles. It creates an optical impression. Three: Dots are connected creating geometric shapes.
5: the number of seconds it will lose per day
20: the number of minutes it takes to assemble a Sistem51
50,000-100,000: number of Swatches sold per day
17: unique patents enclosed in the watch
90: hours of power reserve
100: per cent Swiss made