Back in 1984 when Howard Jones and his rack of synthesizers were inspiring my classmates to bleach and feather their hair, and girls started taking their fashion cues from Molly Ringwald movies, the fashionistas of my elementary school were discovering Swatches, sometimes wearing two on the same wrist, or using them as pony tail bands.
In my Levi jacket, spangled with enough Van Halen pins to pass for a Spanish general, I would have none of it. For a quarter of a century, I've associated Swatch watches with kids in my sixth grade glass who were affluent enough to be trendy.
It's taken me 26 years, but I finally have a great appreciation for Swatch as a brand. (Certainly a much stronger brand than Van Halen turned out to be.)
- Launched in early 1983, they were smart enough to realize they needed a brand. They knew if they were just another Swiss watch, their deep-pocketed competition would demolish them.
- Switzerland was known for producing the best watches in the world, but they were also the most expensive. In the early 1980's, if you wanted a good watch for under a couple hundred bucks, you bought a Japanese Seiko. Swatch changed all that. (In fact, Swatch was short for "second watch" - the one you'd wear when you didn't want to scratch up your $10,000 piece.)
- Early on, Swatch started partnering with artists like Keith Haring to build their design cred.
- They remained true to their meticulous Swiss heritage, first developing the flattest watch in the world, and then figuring out a way to reduce the pieces needed from 91 to 51 without losing any accuracy.
- Today, the Swatch Group is the world's largest watch company and owns the following brands: Omega, Tissot, Mido, and the watch lines of Calvin Klein and Tiffany & Co.
There are so many watch companies in Switzerland, and so many have zero branding acumen. It's not surprising to me that the one who understood the power of branding could rise from start-up to market goliath in less than 30 years.