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Swatch Celebrates 30 years with its Fashion Watch Debut at Basel

It was 1983. The TV series MASH had shown its last episode and Mr. T and The A-Team were making their debut. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was everywhere, and Ronald Reagan was president.

In Switzerland, there was a crisis in the watch industry. The Swiss had been under assault in the marketplace by inexpensive quartz watches from Asia that kept as good as time as the Swiss mechanical timepieces, but at a fraction of the costs. Swiss watchmaking jobs had fallen from over 90,000 to less than 25,000. Even the Swiss were wearing the cheaper timepieces.

While many were using these cheap quartz watches for everyday use, they still kept a more expensive watch for more formal occasions. It was under this pressure the “second watch” was born. It was not only a second watch, it was a Swiss watch. It was called Swatch. The first ones were made (of all things) plastic, and their immediate popularity put the Swiss back on the watchmaking map. It was whimsical, colorful, and most of all inexpensive.

This year Swatch celebrates their 30th anniversary with a first ever appearance at BaselWorld. BaselWorld is an watch fair, generally for more stuffier brands. Swatch CEO Nick Hayek (who was there back in’83) is expected to be at BaselWorld on April 25th to talk about the company’s plan for its 30th year.

Swatch has been a part of pop culture for a long time, and continues today with products that continue to reflect its buyers. This year it debuts a new denim line. Will Hayek’s appearance at BaselWorld lead to a surprise or two? We shall see in April.

Raymond Z for Raymond Lee Jewelers, premiere fine jewelry and luxury watch boutique and buyer.

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