Swatch 2002 "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" James Bond watch

Swatch Irony “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” YNS 402 James Bond watch, licensed 2002 (original photograph, ©2013 Dell Deaton, All Rights Reserved. USA)

If you’re interested in James Bond watches, the name “Swatch” likely brings “The James Bond Collection” of 2002 top-of-mind when starting to read this.

But that’s little more than the tip of its extensive and very important association with Agent 007. First, as a business entity, its website says:

Swatch Group is a diversified multinational holding company active in the manufacture and sale of finished watches, jewelry, watch movements and components. It is the world’s largest watchmaking group, and supplies nearly all the components required for the watches sold by its eighteen individual brands ….

In 2014, these brands include movie-bond watchmakers Hamilton and Omega, as well as Swatch wristwatches made by this business unit under its own name.

Swatch Group also owns ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse, a company that “develops and produces quartz, mechanical and Swatch watch movements,” per its website. In fact, a March 2012 article in Forbes India pegged ETA market share at 80 percent, stating that ETA movements were then being used to power million of newly-produced Swiss watches each year — both in and out of Swatch Group. These included watchmakers such as Breitling and TAG Heuer.

Writing further in this Forbes India piece, Rohin Dharmakumar summarizes a seminal change for the Swiss watchmaking industry as a whole. And one, in fact, that I have discussed at length as having played out in James Bond movie-watch choices real-time

[The] Swiss watch industry had historically been horizontally integrated with a dense and closely knit ecosystem in which “établisseurs” assembled, branded and sold watches made with components bought from various specialists.

That changed during the Swiss fightback to the Japanese quartz threat during the 1980s. On the verge of bankruptcy two of the largest watch makers — ASUAG and SSIH — merged to form a massive vertically integrated unit to fight the Japanese using economies of scale and their own cheap quartz watches. They did so based on a report created by the late Nicolas Hayek, who within a year ended up acquiring a controlling stake in the combined entity which would later be renamed as the Swatch Group.

The Swatch Group annual report for 2013 states that the company grew by 8.3% and “achieved gross sales of 8.817 billion Swiss francs, despite the extremely unfavorable exchange rates.”

Dell Deaton | July 4, 2014

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