Swatch was founded in 1983 by Ernst Thomke, Elmar Mock, and Jacques Müller as a response to the “quartz crisis” of the 1970s and ’80s when inexpensive quartz watches were competing against the famous mechanical watches of European brands. Swatch is now a member of The Swatch Group, which currently owns 17 brands.
Originally launched as a series of fashion-forward, inexpensive plastic watches, the fundamental purpose of Swatch was to capture the market share of entry-level watch enthusiasts. Swatch also launched a return in the popularity of analog watches.
The first collection of 12 Swatch models was debuted in 1983 in Zürich, Switzerland. By 1997, the Swatch group opened about 60 stores worldwide.
Sales goals were ambitious: one million in 1983 and 2.5 million in 1984. The products were an immediate success.
Lebanese entrepreneur Nicolas G. Hayek and a group of Swiss investors took over a majority share of the company in 1985, naming the company Societe Suisse de Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie, or SMH. Hayek became chairman of the board of directors and CEO in 1986 and later changed the company's name to Swatch Group.
The Swatch Group re-solidified Switzerland as a major player in the global wristwatch market.