The amazing adventures of the 'SECOND WATCH'

The Brand

Everyone knows a Swatch when they see one. There’s clearly something that makes Swatch different from every other watch brand. What is it? The look, the colors, the plastic? The design, perhaps, or the fact that it’s Swiss made and versatile enough to be worn with almost anything. There are Swatch watches for people of all ages, and a Swatch for every occasion. But there’s more to Swatch than market coverage. Swatch is an attitude, an approach to life, a way of seeing. The sight of a Swatch excites emotion. Wearing one is a way to communicate, to speak without speaking. Heart to heart.   

The Swatch Revolution

The story of Swatch is the story of a revolution. In 1983, the unexpected appearance of an affordable, Swiss made, plastic watch turned the watch world upside down. Suddenly, a watch was much more than a way to measure time. It was a new language, a way to speak from the heart without words. A Swatch watch was an expression of joy, a provocative statement, a warm smile delivered with a flick of the wrist. More than 30 years later, the revolution continues: Swatch talks, and everyone understands.

It wasn’t always that way.

The adventure begins

In the late 1970s, a Swiss watch was a work of careful craftsmanship, a uniquely valuable timepiece handed down from one generation to the next, to be cherished for a lifetime. Fitted with a complicated, hand-crafted mechanical movement, it was the expression of a culture in which changes took place (if they took place at all) only after much deliberation, and even then at the speed of glaciers. New models were introduced, but changes in how watches were made were few and far between. And then? Then came the crisis—not entirely unexpected, but serenely ignored for much too long. Overnight the market was flooded with watches from Asia equipped with quartz movements. They kept good time—most were at least as accurate as even the best mechanical watches—and they were cheap. You didn’t have to save for months or years to afford one. Worst of all, people were buying them! Even the Swiss were buying cheap watches!

It didn’t take a genius to see what was happening. In a few short years, the value of Swiss watch exports was cut in half. The Swiss share of the market dropped from over 50 to 15 per cent, and competition from Asia slashed the number of watchmaking jobs in Switzerland from 90,000 to fewer than 25,000: Swiss watchmakers were an endangered species.

Enter Nicolas G. Hayek, whose radical proposals and revolutionary ideas were to lead the industry from its near-death experience to unprecedented health today. Chief among Nicolas G. Hayek’s big ideas was that of a ‘second watch’ — not an expensive piece of well-crafted jewelry, but a new, fascinating way to say who you are and how you feel: elegant, emotional, provocative, seductive… And because it didn’t cost a fortune, a second watch was soon followed by a third, a fourth... and the rest is history. In 2006, Swatch celebrated the production of the 333 millionth Swatch watch, and in 2015 continues to reinforce its position as one of the biggest brand names in the world, known everywhere as a maker of entertaining, colorful and exciting watches in tune with the times and lifestyle trends.

Along the way to brand-name stardom, Swatch established an enviable reputation as an all-around innovator, applying its creative smarts to everything from research and technology to product design and manufacture, marketing, communication and retail distribution.

From slow, patient craftsmanship to high-tech design and high-speed manufacturing

In the late 1970s, faced with the growing popularity of inexpensive quartz watches, a group of engineers in Fontainemelon (Neuchatel) developed a super-thin, gold luxury watch known as Delirium Tremens. At just 1.98 mm and later at 0.98 mm in thickness, it was the thinnest watch ever made.

An initial response to the Asian challenge, its secret lay in its radical simplification. The traditional division into three parts (bottom plate for the movement, case, and frame) had been abandoned in favor of a one-piece case, the bottom of which also served as the bottom plate for the movement. But a thin, expensive watch would not be sufficient to stave off competition from the cheap quartz watches flooding the market. A more radical approach was needed, and the drive to simplify was soon complemented by a search for new materials and methods that would allow the production of an entirely new kind of Swiss watch — one made of a synthetic material, shock-proof, accurate, perfect for mass production, affordable for everyone, and available in a wide range of colors...

The first Swatch watches were precisely that — quality Swiss timepieces, made of plastic.  In the weeks and months following their launch, Swatch took the world by storm. Ever since, the brand has continued to push the limits of technology, introducing an astonishing range of materials from plastic, stainless steel and aluminum to synthetic fabrics, rubber and silicone. The company continues to find new ways to impart texture and color to an expanding range of shapes, and inventive designers take advantage of everything technology offers. The radical reduction in the number of parts known as “Revolution 51” enabled innovative assembly methods, and special packaging technologies make it possible to deliver the products in pleasing and captivating containers. Continuing advances in design, materials and production technologies have enabled the brand to make even mechanical watches accessible to a much broader range of customers. In particular, Swatch Sistem51 has brought radical change to the manufacture of mechanical watches: in 2013 Swatch presented the first-ever mechanical watch designed for automated assembly.  The revolutionary new design combines design-led Swatch DNA with the dynamic mechanics of an automatic (self-winding) mechanical watch. A transparent case back, ring rotor and expanded printable surfaces render the movement even more fascinating. Like the first Swatch watches more than 30 years ago, Sistem51 has challenged the Swiss watchmaking industry to re-invent itself. Sistem51 has expanded the horizons of the mechanical watch, at a price much less than even the most accessible Swiss made mechanical timepieces. Since its initial presentation in 2013, demand for Sistem51 has grown rapidly, requiring repeated expansion of production capacities.

Marketing and Communication

Founder Nicolas G. Hayek’s ‘second watch’ was never just a watch. It was always also a way to communicate, a ‘talking piece’ designed to let the wearers show just who they are and how they feel. It’s no surprise, then, that Swatch places great importance on communication with its customers. Today, creative retail is the name of the game, and Swatch has monobrand Swatch stores, megastores, shop-in-shops and kiosks all over the world. Today Swatch points of sale make use of highly modular environments to provide a clean, simple setting in which the watches, their colors and creative design are the center of attention, allowing them to speak for themselves. The concept can be seen in New York City at the prestigious Times Square megastore, in Shanghai at The Swatch Art Peace Hotel, in Paris at the Champs-Elysées megastore, in Beijing in WangFuJing Street and in Hong Kong in the Luk Hoi Tong Tower. These locations have set the stage for more openings at prestigious locations on all five continents.

In 2013 Swatch celebrated its 30th anniversary at the annual watch fair in Basel, Switzerland. The spacious Baselworld booth became Planet Swatch, which evolved each day to reveal the rich diversity of the brand and served as the launch platform for the newly developed mechanical watch, SISTEM51.  The prototype on display attracted enormous attention from the general press and from the industry. Sistem51 has demonstrated the innovative strengths of Swatch and Swatch Group, and thrown down the gauntlet to the mechanical watch industry: innovate, differentiate, take advantage of advanced technologies to refresh a proud Swiss made tradition.

Swatch Club

The Swatch Club began as a way for collectors and fans of Swatch watches to get together and share their enthusiasm—to show off, exchange and talk about the latest Swatch watches. Today, the Swatch Club has evolved to become a worldwide community. The Club helps market Swatch through social networks and engages with its members and fans through web sites in different markets and languages. Swatch Club brings people together, 24 hours a day—fans who love art, follow sports and keep up with the latest trends in lifestyles and communications. They share the fun and the brand experience with fellow members all over the world, enjoying the Swatch experience online and at live events, where they meet athletes, artists and VIPs. They live the world of Swatch through, special Swatch watches, insider news and exclusive previews of future launches. 

Every year Swatch offers a new watch to its members, designed with the worldwide Club community in mind. Recently Swatch Club has begun offering a second Club watch to members who bought the year’s first, and has won new members among young people following a series of innovative “Swatch Up Your Night” parties featuring prominent figures in the electronic music scene.

The Club that got its start as a place for collectors to meet and exchange Swatches has seen some members take their passion for Swatch to very high levels. In 2011 a private collection assembled by a Swiss collector Peter Blum was sold at auction in Hong Kong for $US 6.5 million, and in 2015 the Dunkel collection of Swatch watches, enhanced by artwork from artists who created Swatch Art Specials, brought in $US 6 million, again at an auction held in Hong Kong. 

Swatch & Art

Right from the start, Swatch connected with art. Like the pop art first seen in the 1960s, Swatch watches were inspired by popular culture, and Swatch itself soon became a canvas for world famous artists—painters, sculptors, musicians, filmmakers. It isn’t the medium that counts, it’s the act of making something different, the creative impulse and its expression. The first artist to collaborate with Swatch was Kiki Picasso in 1984, less than a year after the first Swatch watches made their appearance. American painter Keith Haring created a number of prototypes in the mid-1980s, and four Swatch watches with Haring’s designs were produced and launched in the United States. The relationship between Swatch and art has since produced a fascinating series of creative collaborations between Swatch and artists from a broad range of disciplines.


Swatch Art Specials

Among the many memorable works designed for “the world’s smallest canvas” are classic Swatch Art Specials by Alfred Hofkunst, Jean-Michel Folon, Sam Francis, Mimmo Paladino, Mimmo Rotella, Nam June Paik, Not Vital, Akira Kurosawa and Pedro Almodóvar. The Swatch & Art collection has also been enriched over the years by artists whose creativity is often seen first on the catwalks and runways of the world’s coolest cities, from Paris and Milan to London, Tokyo and Shanghai. Among those who have created notable work for Swatch are Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, David LaChapelle and Jeremy Scott.

Recent additions to the Swatch Art Special Collection range from innovative designs by Spanish multimedia artist José Carlos Casado, British pop singer and artist Mika and Shanghai photographers Birdhead to colorful graphic designs from Olaf Hajek and Alexander Gorlizki and contemporary art by German duo EVA & ADELE, Dutch artist Sigrid Calon and the renowned Portuguese conceptual artist, Joana Vasconcelos.

An integral part of each Swatch Art Special is the packaging, frequently as entertaining and inventive as the watches themselves.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel

With the opening of The Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai the Swatch & Art story entered a new dimension. Fully restored by Swatch Group and opened to the public in 2011, the landmark hotel on the Bund has two entire floors dedicated to studios and living quarters for artists-in-residence. Since 2011 more than 150 artists from 39 countries have been invited by Swatch to live and make art in the hotel for up to six months at a time. In late 2014 Swatch invited the public to FACES & TRACES, the first-ever exhibition of “traces” — art made by current and former artists-in-residence. Opening event celebrations included a Street Art Festival with live painting and a world-first live performance by Swiss yodelers on the Bund. Hundreds guests enjoyed an artistic happening and live art performances throughout the hotel that evening. Open to the public through the end of February 2015, the FACES & TRACES exhibition attracted thousands of visitors to the landmark hotel.

La Biennale Arte

The relationship between Swatch & Art gained depth with the partnership between Swatch and La Biennale di Venezia, which began in 2011 and has developed significantly in the years since. The 2015 edition of La Biennale Arte saw Swatch ramp up its presence at the prestigious international art exhibition with its own pavilions at Arsenale Nord and Giardini, the two main venues at La Biennale Arte. The pavilions illustrate the breadth and scope of the Swatch & Art story. Under the motto Swatch Faces 2015 Swatch brought artists from Shanghai and The Swatch Art Peace Hotel to Venice, where they exhibited work alongside contemporary artists EVA & ADELE and Joana Vasconcelos, who have also contributed work to the Swatch Art Special collection.

Permanent innovation – new products

In the 30-plus years since the first Swatch Gents caught the world by surprise, the Swiss watchmaker has introduced an extraordinary series of innovative products; from the first Originals to the POP Swatch, Irony, Skin, Scuba, Chrono Automatic, .beat, Big Classic, the lightweight Irony Xlite, and SISTEM51. Its amazing mechanical movement has only 51 parts and is the first ever to be assembled entirely by machines – a mechanical revolution! A popular expression of the innovative Swatch spirit is also Swatch Touch, the colorful line of trend-setting timekeepers with big LCD dials and a touch-sensitive zone in place of pushbuttons. Swatch Touch brings streetwise trends to the wrist, showing inspiration from urban rhythms and electric sounds, and from the sheer exuberance of sports. Swatch innovation takes another surprising and entertaining twist with the new Swatch Touch Zero One. Its 5 worlds in one -- Hit, Clap, Step, Coach and Time -- offer 18 new functions that make Beach Volleyball and active lifestyle even more fun. The watch also connects to an engaging and original smartphone App designed by Swatch to enhance the sports and fitness experience for players and fans alike.

Plastics, silicone, steel and aluminum continue to offer designers a wealth of color, textures and techniques as they surprise and delight fans with mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining ways to tell time. And more new materials remain to be discovered.


Sports are an essential component of the Swatch identity. Swatch has been promoting and supporting action and lifestyle sports since the very beginning—sports that challenge young men and women to make the most of themselves. Swatch shows its support through official timekeeping and sponsorships of a wide range of projects and events all over the world. The Swatch Skiers Cup added another exciting event to the roster of Swatch-backed sports events; women’s surfing enjoyed a big boost in visibility thanks to Swatch’s full support and Swatch Primeline Munich sees Swatch engaged in action sports at its best (Mountain Bike Slopestyle).


In recent years Swatch has extended its support for action sports to include women’s surfing. Following the inaugural Swatch Girls Pro France held in Seignosse-Hossegor in 2010 and Swatch’s 2011 move to bring international professional surfing to China, in 2014 Swatch took its support to the highest level - the ASP Women’s World Championship Tour (WCT) – with the Swatch Women’s Pro Trestles 2014. In Peru Swatch is backing a terrific project together with champion surfer Sofia Mulanovich. Sofia invites 12 talented young surfers from different backgrounds and regions to her high-performance surfing academy in Punta Hermosa, where they learn to deal with the Ocean and a sport minded environment, with pure energy and amazing support towards the pursuit of their dreams.

Freeride Skiing and Snowboarding

Swatch’s long-standing commitment to action sports also finds expression in its role as Title Sponsor of the Swatch Freeride World Tour. The brand’s close association with these thrilling competitions (Freeride Snowboard and Skiing) began with the Verbier Xtreme event in 1996 and evolved to a partnership that began with the launch of the Freeride World Tour in 2008 and continues today.

Swatch Skiers Cup

The world’s first intercontinental freeride competition sees top-flight teams from America and Europe go head-to-head in a series of big mountain and backcountry slopestyle match-ups. After the first two editions in Valle Nevado, Chile in 2011 and 2012, the Swatch Skiers Cup moved to Zermatt, Switzerland. In 2014 Team Americas evened the score at 2 wins apiece. The 5th annual competition in 2015 saw Team Europe surge ahead, 3 to 2, with an exciting victory over Team Americas on Swatch’s home turf in Zermatt.

Beach Volleyball

Swatch and Beach Volleyball have a long history together, and the brand built a worldwide reputation as a strong supporter of the sport as it spread from its origins on the sandy beaches of Southern California to today’s purpose-built stadiums around the world. Swatch served for ten years as title sponsor of the FIVB Beach Volleyball SWATCH WORLD TOUR and is title sponsor today of the new Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series.

Swatch Proteam

The Swatch Proteam brings together top athletes from a wide range of challenging, exciting and creative disciplines such as snowboarding, freeskiing, FMX, surfing and beach volleyball. Like the Swatch Proteam athletes, Swatch loves to push the limits and dares to make the impossible happen.

Swatch - Corporate Responsibility

Swatch maintains an active presence in more than 60 countries, engaging with communities on many levels, and aware of its role as an employer as a manufacturer with an impact on the environment. In Peru Swatch supports Proyecto Sofia Mulanovich, with its commitment to developing Peruvian surfing talent and a universal sense of responsibility. The three-year program combines top-level, competitive surf training for young men and women with life lessons anchored in the key areas of environmental protection, healthy living and fair play. During Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy, whose theme is "Feed the Planet: Energy for Life", Swatch stepped up to support The Treedom Project, which aims to help make Africa greener by planting 5100 fruit trees in Kenya. Beginning May 1, the first 5100 visitors to buy a Swatch at the Swatch EXPerience pop-up store received one of the fruit trees in the campaign as a gift. They can watch the tree grow online by entering a personal code printed on a special card. With this green project Swatch pursues the twin goals of generating benefits for the environment and supporting the farmers who will be planting trees in Kenya. 

Swatch Finder