In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary became the first
man ever to climb Mount Everest. On his
arm, there was a Rolex Explorer.
In ’Dr.No’ from 1962
James Bond wore a
The quartz watch (digital
technology) was originally
developed by a Swiss
But it was never commercialized in Switzerland.
Instead it was the Japanese firm Seiko which
pioneered quartz watches in 1969.
In “Live and Let Die”
from 1973, the British
agent wore a
Hamilton Pulsar 'P2
2900' LED Digital
Watch. It had no
gadgets, but the
watch was the latest
that’s what appealed
In the movies ”The Spy Who Loved me”
(1974) and ”Octopussy” (1983), Mr.
Bond wears Digital watches from Seiko.
This must have been the
ultimate confirmation of the
disruption of Swiss watches.
The first digital wrist watch, Pulsar, was
launched in 1972 and cost 2000 USD.
In 1976, Texas Instruments launched a
digital watch that cost 20 dollars!
A 99 percent price reduction in 4 years!
This dramatic decrease of prices implied
that all of a sudden, everyone bought
… Many watch manufacturers went
bankrupt simply because people
bought digital watches instead…
Other firms like Oris instead focused
on mechanical technology and the
beauty of these watches.
Tag Heuer invested extensively in
marketing and succeeded in creating
a ‘sporty’ appeal around the product.
Rolex never went into digital, instead
the firm focused increasingly on
positioning the watch as jewelry.
When Rolex was embraced by the Yuppie
movement in the 80’s it had established
a strong position in the luxury segment.
Omega, probably the main competitor
of Rolex decided to be both digital
and mechanical. As a consequence,
the brand was diluted, the firm
went bankrupt in the 80’s. The
brand lived on, but had lost much of
its market share to Rolex.
The main reason for this is that
Omega failed to recognize what a
watch was really about.
It wasn’t about function. It was
about beauty, luxury and status.
In the 1980’s the market for digital
watches became over-
populated and the appearance
and status of mechanical
watches turned out to be more
appealing to many customers.
Under the leadership of Nicolas
Hayek, SMH (formerly known
as ASUAG-SSIH) introduced
the Swatch fashion watch in
the mid 80’s.
In 1995 the Swiss once again
took over the lead in world
watch production with 38
million units shipped versus
30 million for Japan.
It was accomplished
quot;It's the only piece of jewelry many men
will allow themselves to wear,quot;
// Ilona Zimmer
Patek Philippe's Star Caliber 2000 pocket
watch has 21 functions.
It keeps track of the sunrise and sunset, the
moon phases and changes of the night
The watch contains of 1,118 parts, including
135 wheels, 336 screws, and 292 pins. It
is sold in sets of four watches for about
quot;People buy these watches like others
//Nicolas Hayek, chairman of
the Swatch Group.
quot;You don't buy these watches to know
what time it is.quot;
The value of total exports of Swiss
watches is five times higher today
than in 1970.
Given that the industry employs less
people today, the value produced
per employee has increased by 25
times since 1970!
A watch used to be a watch.
Today it can cost between 1
dollar and 1 million dollars.
Swiss watches prospered in the 16th
century as luxury goods.
They survived the digital disruption by
increasingly going back to these roots.
Thanks to the following sources:
Jörnmark, J. and Ramberg, L. Globala
Ekstedt, M., He, C. and Stheen, K. (2004)
Schweizisk klockindustri – en tid av