The eighties was undoubtedly the peak time when digital watches were all the rage. It’s no surprise as they generally offered multiple functions, such as alarms and stop watch features, and they were quite affordable when more traditional analogue watches still tended to be quite expensive.
The Swiss manufacturers of analogue watches obviously didn’t like this, as these new contenders from Japan were eating into their market, so they conceived a way of making the analogue watch popular again, and came up with the Swatch watch, a relatively inexpensive (compared to other Swiss made watches), fashionable and most importantly fun line of watches.
Swiss watches are renowned for being very accurate time pieces, but also expensive. Costs were cut by first reducing the number of components required to make the watch by almost half, and then by making the watch casing and strap from plastic instead of the more traditional metal.
Detractors of the digital watch would often complain about the use of plastic making the watches look ugly, but Swatch managed to avoid this criticism by ensuring that all their watches were given sleek, modern designs, with a wide range of colours to suit all tastes. Whilst some Swatch watches were just a single colour many had very bright, colourful designs on both the watch face and the strap, and this is what made them so popular.
It was not uncommon for the fashion conscious watch wearer to have more than one Swatch watch so they could coordinate with their wardrobe, or even wear more than one watch at a time, on the same arm no less! Swatches were even worn in the hair and attached to clothing! This led to the name Swatch sometimes being referred to as a shortened version of the phrase Second Watch, although really the S actually stood for the country of origin, as you might have expected.
The first Swatch watches went on sale in Switzerland on 1st March 1983, and were soon popular across Europe. By the middle of the decade they had a strong foothold in the US and the rest of the world, and the brand is still going strong today, with both plastic and now metal watches forming the available range.