Grenchen, Nicolas G. Hayek. Foto: TES.

Nicolas G. Hayek and Swatch

The Swatch watch is almost forty years old. The watch was launched in 1983 as the first quartz watch. It marks the transition from mechanical watches to electronic models.

The introduction was at the height of the crisis in the watch sector. Competition from Japan led to a major crisis in this sector between 1970 and 1984. 60 000 workers out of 90 000 lost their jobs, and only 632 companies remained out of 1600.

Although the first electronic watch was invented in 1967 in Neuchâtel, Japan was the major producer in the 1970s. But then came the new revolutionary watch from Grenchen (canton of Solothurn). Although much less well known than La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle, St. Imier and Biel, this city gave birth to Swatch.

First, the watch was called Second Watch, then the Swiss Watch, S-Watch and Swatch. The great man was Nicolas G. Hayek (1928-2010).

Grenchen honours this Hercules of the Swiss watch industry. In Roman times, Grenchen was known as Granum, meaning corn. From the 14th century, Bern and Solothurn were the most relevant cantons for the city. The watch industry started in 1851 and is still the most important economic activity.