The 1970s were a dark time for the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Battery-operated digital watches were all the rage--relatively cheap, far more accurate than all but the most expensive Swiss mechanical watches, and utterly MODERN.... at all but the highest ends of the market Switzerland just couldn't compete.
And to top it all one of the newcomers--SEIKO--even ran an ad. campaign that cheekily stated "One day, all watches will be made like this" to sell its digital lines.
And for a while, it looked like that would be true.
Until 1983, when Swatch was born!
Realizing that Swiss watches would have to shed their staid image to compete with their digital rivals and become a LOT cheaper Nicholas Hayek and The Swatch Group decided to produce a watch that was very much NOT staid--and the result was the Swatch.
Swiss-made but deliberately cheap, and with an emphasis on the design of the face and strap and NOT the inner mechanical workings, swatches were the antithesis of the traditional Swiss watch. Mechanical, sure, but who cares? These are intended to be fun, and, yes, even disposable.... Hence the term "Swatch"--for "Second Watch".
They were an instant success... Not least owing to Swatch's realization that they could be collectible, and that this could be readily capitalized on. As such, Swatch occasionally marketed "Limited Edition" watches that would be sold only at certain times and certain places--and which become instantly collectible.
So, how do Swatches fit into the classic Ivy canon? Easily and quickly... You wouldn't give up your Patek Philippe, but you wouldn't want to wear that on the beach at Hyannisport, or playing with the retrievers, or golfing (which plays havoc with automatics!), or shooting... And Swatches had the perfect GTH vibe for those more casual or rambunctious times!
And, besides, they were so CHEAP... and thrift is a WASP virtue!
Photo Credit: All of the pictures of Swatches being worn are from Ivy Style's excellent piece on the current Ivy fascination with Swatches, linked to in the Comments below!