Swatch Group is the largest watch company in the world, comprising of 18 brands and 156 watch component production centers.
The group is known for its diverse offerings, designed to appeal to all market segments and price ranges. This means that all categories, from spectacular and expensive prestige watches, to very basic plastic watches, are represented.
Swatch Group assembles all of its watches in Switzerland, and its subsidiaries make almost all of its watch components.
This means that, from design to final assembly, nearly everything that goes into a Swatch watch is Swiss-made.
Read below to learn more about the founding and history of the Swatch Group, as well as its current line of watch brands.
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History Of Swatch Group
Swatch Group formed from the biggest Swiss watch holding companies, SSIH and ASUAG, in 1983, because they were both failing.
Technological changes in the industry and increased foreign competition, especially from Japan, had jeopardized their business models. Cheap and accurate quartz movements drove the price of lower-end wristwatches to the ground, and the Swiss needed to adapt.
So, in light of this looming economic disaster, Switzerland’s banks chose Nicolas Hayek and his firm to find a solution. So, he merged SSIH and ASUAG with the aim of improving their efficiency.
Swiss watches were nonexistent in the lowest price range, which encompassed the vast majority of worldwide sales.
Rather than compromise on existing brand images, the group built the brand Swatch to compete with Japanese quartz watches.
The Swatch, short for “Second Watch,” was a quality, inexpensive watch, built in Switzerland. So, Nicolas Hayek ran against the trend of outsourcing for cheap production, which gave Swiss bankers and component suppliers pause.
But Hayek understood that, even if consumers weren’t currently buying Swiss, the country’s tradition and reputation in watchmaking were valuable.
Over the next five years, Swatch Group soared to the top of the world watch market where it has stayed ever since. Nowadays the Swatch Group is considered the largest watch company in the world with 18 watch brands under its ownership, as well as more than 150 subsidiaries involved in the production and assembly of watch components.
A very helpful overview. I'm now much more familiar with the Swatch Group thanks to this guide.
Swatch Group brings watch lovers hundreds of years of Swiss tradition, experience, and ingenuity in many classic brands. Certainly, this company is unrivalled in sheer number of venerable, recognizable brands. Continue reading to learn about Swatch Group’s family of iconic watchmakers.
Breguet, founded in 1775 in Paris, has a long tradition in the pursuit of ultimate refinement in the watchmaker’s craft. Its founder, Abraham-Louis Breguet, invented the tourbillon, now a common hallmark of the world’s most expensive and difficult-to-build watches. Abraham-Louis Breguet was a legendary horloger, creating innovations such as a self-winding movement a full century ahead of its time.
The company retains its reputation for sophisticated movements involving extremely laborious constructions, and the finished watches’ accompanying exorbitant prices. Very few watchmakers are on the level of Breguet when it comes to both skill and distinguished history in craftsmanship.
Harry Winston takes its name from its founder, who was a renowned jeweler and notable owner of many famous diamonds. These watches distinguish themselves both by their brilliant jeweled opulence, and the extreme intricacy of their watch movements.
The brand’s “Histoire de Tourbillon” series, for example, includes tourbillons with multiple axes of rotation. These take the mechanical engineering marvel of a tourbillon to incredible new heights. The Histoire de Tourbillon 6 prominently displays a tri-axial tourbillon, while other models include multiple, linked tourbillon carriages.
However, these watches, extremely limited in quantity, are the watch counterparts of the brand’s finest, most exclusive jewelry. Costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and up, Harry Winston’s top watch lines are effectively unattainable to most buyers. In essence, these models serve as examples of the exquisite skill of Harry Winston’s watchmakers.
Jaquet-Droz is a watch brand with a long tradition in timepieces that are lavishly-decorated and also meticulously crafted. Pierre Jaquet-Droz, who founded the company in 1738, was an engineering genius who impressed royal courts with his company’s mechanical contraptions.
Most well-known of these are probably the automata presented by Pierre Jaquet-Droz to the court of King Louis XVI. These robotic artworks include a girl playing music, a draughtsman, and a boy writing custom programmable messages with his pen.
Because these machines still operate centuries later, they stand as a testament to the exceptional watchmaking pedigree of the company.
Montres Jaquet-Droz defined its image from the start with its ateliers, where teams of fine artists decorate the company’s timepieces. These ateliers continue today, therefore the extravagant rococo splendour of Jaquet Droz’s beginnings survives in the Ateliers D’Art series.
Because the relatively toned-down ornamentation on these watches seeks to suit modern sensibilities, it brings new life to the brand. Sublime enamel paintings, delicately carved and decorated golden sculptures, and painstakingly-applied patterns of miniscule gold paillons adorn their dials.
Having opened in 1735, Blancpain is a company which has admirably weathered multiple crises. The brand takes pride in purity of traditional construction in its watch movements, and has never used a quartz movement.
Its first crisis came in the 19th century, when small-scale Swiss workshops were struggling to compete with mechanized American factories. Blancpain harnessed the power of the River Suze, using equipment powered by hydroelectric generators.
In the 20th century, when the invention of quartz watches threatened the Swiss industry again, Blancpain persevered. However, the company did not intend to compromise its traditional values by switching to quartz movements.
So, the company looked to its past and its roots. Blancpain decided to make mechanical watches to the most discriminating standards of traditional watchmaking.
The Blancpain 1735, a grand complication watch, was the centerpiece of this effort due to its great complexity. The 1735’s design includes a minute repeater, moon phase indicator, perpetual date calendar, and a flyback chronograph.
Finally, it includes a tourbillon, not strictly a complication, but nevertheless an indicator of great skill. All of this fits into a movement only 11 millimeters thick. Such watches demand such mastery and attention to minute detail that only one Blancpain 1735 may be built per year.
Glashütte Original began as a conglomerate of individual watchmakers from Germany’s Glashütte region. The company formed in 1845, uniting a wide range of companies which specialize in specific types of watch parts. This was the beginning of the Glashütte watch industry, hence, the company took on the name Glashütte Original.
Because of this history, Glashütte Original is essentially able to manufacture their watches from the ground up. Therefore, company has the capacity to make 95% of the components of the final watch. Although most of the brand’s manufacturing divisions are located in its Glashütte facilities, its dial workshop is in Pforzheim.
Based in Biel/Bienne, Omega is a Swiss watchmaker with an impressive history of innovation and collaboration. Its watches appear in a diverse range of cultural landmarks, from the moon landings to James Bond.
In 1999, Omega began using its Calibre 2500 movement, the first mass-produceable movement with a coaxial escapement. This was a big step forward in watchmaking technology, drastically reducing friction and, therefore, wear and tear on Omega movements.
Omega innovated in anti-magnetic watches when, in 2013, the company created the movement of the Seamaster Aqua Terra. Until the invention of this movement, anti-magnetic watches had generally used Faraday cages to dissipate magnetic fields. While effective, this technique only works to a certain extent if the movement itself uses ferrous metals.
This particular Omega movement, however, uses nonferrous metals, requiring new machining techniques and standards. The Seamaster Aqua Terra stays accurate at 15,000 gauss, the equivalent of a neodymium rare earth magnet placed against it.
Over the years, Omega has earned many accomplishments, such as being the first watch on the Moon. In the Apollo 11 landing, Omega watches kept the time when the lander’s electronic timing devices failed. The firm has also served as official timekeeper to the Olympic Games since 1932.
Longines is a Swiss watchmaker headquartered in St. Imier, which has been with Swatch Group since the group’s 1983 formation. Registered in 1889, its distinctive winged hourglass logo is the oldest unchanged trademarked logo still in active use.
The company’s winged logo gained new relevance when, in the early 20th century, Longines watches quickly gained popularity among pilots. Certainly, the brand’s watches were valued by aviators for their exceptional accuracy and features which aided navigation.
Longines is able to offer great luxury in a relatively affordable price range, because it is an établisseur. In contrast to a manufacture, an établisseur assembles watches starting with movements from other companies. Of course, because this is a Swatch Group member, these other companies are sister Swatch Group subsidiaries to Longines.
Léon Hatot is a jeweler and watch company with Art Deco sensibilities. The company’s namesake, watchmaker Léon Hatot, delved into electrical timekeeping technologies early on. He made his name in the 1920s chiefly with a line of clocks he called ATO, an acronym that reflects the French pronounciation of “Hatot.”
At the present time, the company makes elegant dress watch collections, primarily for women, but with a few men’s lines. It’s a relatively new watch brand in the Swatch portfolio, therefore its aesthetics and identity are still developing.
Union Glashütte is a sub-brand of Glashütte Original. Therefore, it also creates watches from parts produced in Glashütte Original facilities.
Compared to Glashütte Original watches, Union Glashütte watches are intended to be more affordable, incorporating fewer functions and elaborations. While sporting fewer features and more simplified movements, they represent the same high quality standards and fine aesthetics.
Union Glashütte watches seek to capture the essence of a luxury watch. Each timepiece strives to embody German precision and functional form. The company’s workshops use high-end materials wherever they best contribute to the rugged beauty that their watches are built for.
Rado is a Swiss watchmaker with a strong focus on scratch resistant watches. To this end, they have often sought to innovate in materials engineering for the watch industry. The brand has pioneered various materials and coating technologies in order to provide an ultra-high standard of scratch resistance to customers.
Rado watches often incorporate “Ceramos,” a metal ceramic with a naturally metallic lustre and the extreme hardness characteristic of ceramics. Watches typically use ceramics in bezels, but Rado’s watches use Ceramos throughout their cases and in their linked bracelets.
This watchmaker also used tungsten carbide for its cases, notably in the 1960s DiaStar. Like ceramic, tungsten carbide is extremely hard, often used for quality drill bits, but it must be machined, not molded. This restricted the range of possible case shapes, though it did give DiaStar watches distinctive appearances.
Tissot started in 1853, and has time and again reinvented itself with eye-catching and unusual concepts and designs. Globally-minded from the start, the company sold in the USA and Russia early on, impressing Tsar Alexander II’s court.
An early proponent of the unification of the Swiss watch industry, Tissot was part of the SSIH group with Omega. This merger occurred in 1930, and in the Swatch Group, the two companies remain sister brands.
Tissot’s history is punctuated by many spectacularly unusual watch designs. Its Astrolon mechanical movement almost exclusively used polymer components, while its RockWatch boasted a case of Alpine granite.
A frequent partner and promoter of motorsport leagues, Tissot often incorporates automotive and motorcycle imagery and motifs in its watches.
Hailing from Grenchen, Switzerland, Certina is a brand which focuses on durability and resistance to the elements in its watches. Its logo, a turtle shell, reflects this, and it has historically partnered with explorers and researchers in extreme conditions.
In 1960, watches from its DS line were used during the first successful ascent to the peak of Nepal’s Dhaulagiri. This mountain, over 8 kilometres tall, was a true test for the watch’s resistance to atmospheric pressure and temperature differences. A few years later, Sealab II research divers used Certina watches at the seafloor without any loss in accuracy.
Certina’s commitment to excellence in durability shows in its use of materials. For instance, the company was an early user of sapphire crystals and of tungsten carbide, notably in the DiaMaster’s case. The DiaMaster was a collaboration with watchmaker Rado, which is now a fellow Swatch group brand.
Balmain is a French fashion house which sells a wide range of clothing and accessories. The Swatch Group-owned Balmain watch department is a division of Longines, and makes watch collections to suit Balmain’s luxury collections.
These watches bring French haute couture to Swatch Group’s lineups. Many of the brand’s watches sport its signature arabesque ornamentation, as well as other types of scrolling shapes.
Most of Balmain’s watches use quartz movements, however the company offers a few collections with mechanical movements. All of the company’s watches use quartz or mechanical movements made by the Swatch Group movement production company ETA.
Mido is a Le Locle, Switzerland-based watchmaker which takes pride in precision and timelessness. This brand offers high precision watches, including chronometers, at relatively low prices, giving wearers good value for their money.
Also, in its watch designs, Mido seeks to avoid trendy appearances and visual motifs that may become dated. Instead, the brand takes cues from successful watch styles from various eras in the 20th century.
Mido watches typically feature narrow bezels around wide dials with self-winding mechanical or quartz movements. The brand has 4 major collections: Multiform, Commander, Ocean Star, and Belluna.
Started in 1892 in Pennsylvania as Hamilton Watch Company, this brand first found success with railroad watches. At the time of Hamilton’s founding, many companies needed accurate timing to keep their shipments coordinated.
In the mid-20th century, Hamilton introduced many cutting-edge concepts into the watch world. For example, in 1957, the company released the first electric watch on the market.
This pre-quartz design utilized an electromagnet in order to keep its balance wheel moving. It was not as accurate as a quartz watch, however the Hamilton Electric 500 was the first battery-powered mass-produced wristwatch. Later, Hamilton continued to innovate in electronic watches, developing the first LED digital watch, the 1972 Pulsar.
Hamilton has maintained close ties with the American film industry, with its watches appearing in over 450 films.
The Calvin Klein Watches + Jewelry brand is a joint venture between Swatch Group and American fashion house Calvin Klein. Calvin Klein watches use quartz movements and are assembled in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
These watches are designed with a modernist aesthetic in mind, so minimal decoration is typical. For example, many models have dials with nothing except the Calvin Klein logo and a visible hour and minute hand. Priced much lower than typical dress watches, these attain a precious metal look using scratch-resistant PVD layers over stainless steel.
The namesake brand of the Swatch Group, Swatch led the Swiss response to inexpensive Japanese quartz wristwatches. Swatch is meant to cover the opposite end of the spectrum from high-end traditional mechanical watches, in price and tone. The extremely low price of the Swatch led to the nickname “the impossible watch” during its early development.
Watch lines from Swatch are often whimsical, even impish in name and concept. For example, the codename of the watch project that led to the brand’s first movement was “Delirium Tremens.” In general, Swatch associated itself with European counterculture, which lent the brand a playfully mischievous look and feel.
Where its parent group’s other brands might sponsor fencing or Olympic sports, Swatch partnered with championship breakdancing. Later, the brand partnered with extreme sports athletes from the BMX, snowboarding, and skateboarding worlds.
Since the brand didn’t need to uphold centuries of tradition, it offered oftentimes outlandish selections. The Granita di Fruta series, for example, was a fruit-scented watch. Another example is the Limelight, which subverted luxury materials by setting genuine diamonds into its plastic dial.
The Swatch brand for kids, Flik Flak puts Swiss quality on tiny wrists. Sports and activity themes are offered alongside dinosaurs, unicorns, and astronauts. Flik Flak offers watches featuring licensed characters from Disney, Looney Tunes, Hello Kitty, and more.
Learn More About Watches
We hope you enjoyed this overview of Swatch Group’s brands. If you’d like to read the official websites of the Swatch Group watch companies, visit the official website.
Otherwise, for in-depth histories on individual watch brands, watch reviews, and watches guides and info, visit our main watch page.