- Museum number
Black plastic case with a screw-on battery compartment cover.
Orange and black plastic wrist strap.
Dial with yellow, black and orange design of horizontal bars.
central dial with minute track and hours 1-12. a date aperture at 3 o'clock.
Green hour and minute hands, orange centre-seconds hand.
- Production date
Diameter: 31.20 millimetres (dial)
Thickness: 9.50 millimetres (case)
- Curator's comments
- Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 164-165 [comment relating to registration 1990,0508.1, 1997,0213.1 and 2000,0707.8].
PLASTIC CASED QUARTZ WRISTWATCHES
BIEL, SWITZERLAND, 1980s-90s
After the introduction of quartz watches in the 1970s, the watch market was so dominated by Japanese and American manufacturers that the Swiss watchmaking industry was under serious threat of collapse. By 1980 traditional and long-standing watchmaking companies that were still manufacturing mechanical watches were facing extinction, and large numbers of factories had already closed, causing widespread unemployment. What had been for centuries a major part of the Swiss economy was rapidly disappearing. At the time the two major companies involved in watchmaking in Switzerland were the Société Suisse de l'Industrie Horlogerie SA (SSIH) and the Allgemeine Schweizerische Uhren AG (ASUAG), which incorporated many well-known subsidiary watch manufacturers.
In an attempt to curb this serious threat to the Swiss economy, a group of bankers called on Nicolas Hayek, head of Hayek Engineering AG, to investigate the feasibility of revitalizing the failing industry. In 1979 ASUAG devised a new watch, the 'Delirium', which at just under 2 mm thick was one of the thinnest models ever made. Hayek's plan was to develop this watch using new technology and to market it in Europe and in America. In 1981 the watch was finally produced and was launched on the market in 1982 under the name 'Popularis'. That same year the trade name 'Swatch' came into existence, a combination of the words 'second' and 'watch', coined to indicate a new concept in watch ownership. The project was an immediate success and as a further step towards revitalization, ASUAG and SSIH merged in 1983 to become the Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie SA (SSMH), which, although best known for making Swatch watches, also includes such household names as Omega, Longines, Blancpain, Certina and Mido.
The Swatch brand quickly became synonymous with fashion and design watches aimed at the younger buyer, with short-lived designs at affordable prices. Early on it was decided that the watch would be priced at no more than 50 Swiss francs to reach a huge market around the world; because the watch contained the latest quartz technology, accuracy far superior to any comparatively priced mechanical watch could be guaranteed. In competition with the established quartz watch manufacturers in America and Japan, the use of plastics for the cases and wristbands also allowed for a much cheaper product, lowering manufacturing costs and thus retail price. Swatch watches were an entirely new creation, which in no way attempted to imitate existing styles or the look of a traditional watch, also a factor that contributed to its success. New and different dials were of the essence, and in this respect the time-indication element took second place to the design. Bright colours and eye-catching images were the order of the day. Within two years of the founding of the new company, over ten million Swatches had been sold worldwide, proof of the concept's overwhelming success. SSMH is today the world's largest manufacturer of watches.
- On display (G39/dc14/no87)
Latest: 2 (2016)
2 (Apr 2007)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number