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Quartz crisis

The "quartz revolution"

As “quartz crisis” the crisis is usally referred, into which the Swiss watch industry of the 1970s had brought itself by its own strenuous efforts to develop the latest watches quartz technology. First this new invention had been celebrated as a significant advance with respect to precision and simplification, until, within a very short time, its fatal other side emerged Watches of this type could in fact be produced much cheaper in the Far East. Suddenly, revenues by Swiss manufacturers decreased rapidly, and many employees in this industry lost their livelihoods.

At that time it was believed that the last hour of the mechanical watch had struck, and one proceeded to destroy production capacities and remaining stocks of mechanical movements. Many traditional companies in the Swiss Jura closed or went bankrupt. It has to be clearly understood, what a bitter blow this meant to the traditional Swiss watch and even for the whole cultural identity of Switzerland!

The astonishing renaissance of the mechanical watch

After, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it had still looked as if the mechanical wristwatch of the type “Swiss Made” could not be saved any more, only a short time afterwards it experienced a remarkable rebirth. Manufacturers like Blancpain and Chronoswiss were the first to put new mechanical models on the market and thereby achieved amazing successes - also Rolex had largely remained faithful to the mechanical watch. By and by also other manufacturers returned to the production of watches with mechanical movements.

In the 1990 years sales increased more and more. Also watch magazines like the German Uhrenmagazin or Chronos played a significant role, because with detailed background reports and high quality photos they brought the charm and fascination of such watches to interested readers. Not a few readers caught fire and caused substantial increases in sales at watch shops. Another factor was that some models were now equipped with transparent casebacks, which allowed to admire the beauty of the mechanical watch movement - an experience that formerly had been reserved only to the watchmaker. Now you could show around to people you knew, why your new watch was so special - which could also be a very special kind of effective advertising.

Since then, the mechanical watch, especially in the luxury segment, has prevailed as a quality watch on a broad front, while the low-cost and mass market (keyword Swatch) still prefers quartz movements.

The biggest sales are still made on this mass market. (Think, how enormously cost effective a highly automated production of quartz watches is, where scarcely a human hand grip is needed! Not to mention the primitiveness of the movement, which basically consists only of an electrical circuit and a battery.) So a situation has been created where a provider such as the SMH (later Swatch Group) has taken over important and traditional luxury watch manufacturers in the field of mechanical watches (such as Breguet) and contributes to their (very profitable) further existence.

Manufacture production as desired quality criterion

In parallel with the renaissance of the mechanical watch also the manufacture status of a watch manufacturer — that is the ability to produce whole watches, including their movement, by themselves — has again won great importance. Manual work — as opposed to industrial mass production — is now back as a sign of quality.

Also the remnants of old mechanical movements enjoy a high regard among watch friends and collectors today. Again and again there are new editions of watches with remnants of such movements, which are overhauled and then can resume their work with full functionality in the current models. (Example The Chronoswiss Delphis with a calibre from Enicar.)

quartz_crisis.txt · Last modified: 03.07.2022 15:37 by

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