While we may like to imagine a Swiss watchmaker fusing art and engineering together in the rare air of an Alpine village with a mountain view, that reality is long gone. These days one firm lords over all others: the Swatch Group. Here are five data points that really bring home the dominance of Swatch:
- 15 watch brands, including some of the most iconic in the business, like Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Omega, Longines, Rado, Tissot, Certina, Mido, Hamilton, and Swatch
- These brands accounted for 35% of all Swiss watch sales in 2012
- Big-name jewelers who also make Swiss watches: Harry Winston and Tiffany & Co.
- Control over Swiss watch movements: Swatch Group subsidiary ETA makes 70% of all Swiss watch movements
- A virtual monopoly over balance springs, which regulate watches: Nivarox-FAR, another unit of the company, supplies more than 90%
Why is this the case? The launch of Swatch in the early 1980s was a wild success and single-handedly rescued the whole industry from the abyss. This allowed Swatch to go on a buying spree and pick-up a whole bunch of brands in need of scale, resurrection, and distribution.
At the same time, many big brands not in the control of the Swatch Group, remain reliant on the Swatch Group's movements and other component parts because most firms find it easier and cheaper to purchase high-quality parts then build in-house.