In honor of the passing of Nicolas Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group, we decided to wax a little nostalgic about his most breathtaking – and lucrative – product: the Swatch watch.
Swatch was the brainchild of Elmar Mock and Jacques Müller who were attempting to make the thinnest wristwatch in the world. Instead, they created a simple plastic quartz watch with a movement that contained only about sixty pieces instead of the 100 plus found in Japanese quartz movements at the time. Hayek saw this as an excellent opportunity to create a “throwaway” watch that could be worn for a season and then swapped with another model. Artist and designers bedecked the watches in odd patterns and the company brought the nascent Swatch Group, formed by Hayek in the early 1980s, to the forefront of Swiss watch manufacturing.
At $20 or so, these watches were amazingly cheap and many collectors bought two at a time, one to wear and one to keep hidden away. The watches married high tech with high design and, given their fashion-forward nature, are the precursors to many of the design decisions made today by CE manufacturers. The iPod as an object of desire couldn’t have existed without the Swatch paving the way for inexpensive but highly designed objects to woo the consumer into regular purchases.
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