Swatch watches in the 1980s

The Swiss watchmaker was founded in 1983 by Ernst Thomke. During this time Japanese digital watches were coming out cheap and flooded the markets. The West did not escape this “quartz crisis”. Swatch watches in the 1980s were an idea to counter the digital menace from Japan.

Swatch Logo

It was marketed as a casual, funky, “disposable” leisurewear accessory. The name “Swatch” is intended to mean “second watch”.

The first issue

The original releases

The watches were designed with 60 parts, sealed in a “disposable” unit, with a variety of designs. This all to give it that affordable yet robust on-the-go quality fashion statement. And the 80s was all about fashion and statement. But don’t think the watchmaker threw quality out the window. A battery that lasted almost three years instead of one, was a key feature to the brand’s success. Great attention was given to versatility.

Aggressive Marketing

The watches were released at a price ranging from $19,95 for the basic one to $37,50 if you required a calendar. The timepieces were made of high-quality durable plastic. They were shock-resistant and waterproof. To oversee the launch of the new watch line in 1983, the group hired Jacques Irniger. Formerly serving as a marketing executive at Nestle and Colgate.

Magazine advert

The company invested huge sums in an aggressive marketing campaign. Initially, the target was one million units sold. With the good quality, yet relatively cheap cost, the watches became an instant success. Sales targets were set to 2,5 million by the second year. Magazine ads and TV commercials were fast-paced, true to the times, colorful, and sporty. Appealing to the product’s target market of young outgoing individuals.

The colorful world of Swatch

Check out the vast variety of designs from Swatch here on our Pinterest page. The 1980s were known for the bright colors, freedom, and funky tones. You could choose designs and colors, to match any mood or event. Bright colors for that roller skating evenings, or plain colors for the more serious social gatherings. The designs were unlimited. Swatch even released a “Jellyfish” fish design, with the casing of the watch totally transparent, revealing all the workings of the watch inside.

The colorful world of Swatch

The Swiss watchmaker was spot on. Their watches became a fashion necessity and statement. It was a perfect hit. The decade would not have been the same without it.

TV Commercial


Swatch – Wikipedia