Much mythology has build up around the Swiss meltdown of the 1970s and the rise of the Swatch Group under Nicholas Hayek, and rarely do we see these events placed into contexts of the industry structure and business environment of the time.

What we do know is that, today, the Swiss industry appears robust and very profitable. But,are the Swiss destined to experience more than one meltdown in the Alps in the coming decades? Could there be a repeat of that frightening decade when there was a very real question about the Swiss industry surviving?

In this essay, Cyril Bouquet, Writing in a 1999 journal about conditions that precede industry collapse, reviews the events that led up to the crash and follows the Hayek trajectory through to the boyant times of the late 1990s. In closing, he outlines some key issues that may determine the future of the Swatch group, some of which were taken up by Hayek when he expanded his niche brand base.

Its an interesting and comprehensive review that relies not on myth but published information of the period. Click here to download a copy


  1. Anonymous10:01 pm

    There are so many inaccuracies in the beginning the credibility of the entire piece is put into question. The only mention of the beginnings of the American watch industry is the Waterbury Ingersoll "Turnip". Boquet's time frame is wrong, and he fails to mention Waltham as the originator of interchangeable parts in watches, instead giving credit to The Swiss! Boquet also fails to mention the atrocious pin set cylinder escapement beasts that the Swiss flooded the US market with after the jig was up faking American movements. Boquet also fails to mention the 1 jewel cheapies the Swiss tried to market in competition to the reliable Timex.

    I understand this is supposed to be a "scholarly" article and the background information is expected be sketchy. Sketchy is one thing, it should at least be accurate! I've read though about half the article and don't know if I care to finish.


  2. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comments. Is the Waltham innovation water tight? I know the Swiss were working with interchangeable parts in the 1890s.

    Bouquet's essay was largely looking at the Swatch group in the context of numerous other companies around the world who had gone to the brink, but I understand your chagrin in him not having broadened the background so as the give more flavour to this period.

    Ive been looking around for years for a definitive history of this period and I dont think there is one.

    Let's know specifically where the accuracies are and we can keep your comments as part of the record of this post



  3. Anonymous7:14 pm

    I own a few Waltham 1857 models and I can assure you they are not watertight! They do, however, have interchangeable parts. I also have a P.S. Barrett (not Bartlett, the correct name for the authentic Waltham watch) Boston, Mass. with a fluky serial number that doesn't match Waltham's production records and, while it looks like an 1857 model the parts do not interchange with genuine Waltham 1857 models.

    I'm not in any position to write a definitive history of watchmaking. Waltham is generally credited with bringing the concept of mass production and interchangeable parts to watchmaking and I've never seen any clam that it started elsewhere. Here's a history of Waltham from a good source:
    And a good thread on the subject:

    If the Swiss were mass producing watches with interchangeable parts in the middle of the 19th century where are they today? What I have seen with my own eyes and held in my hands are Swiss fakes of American watches. The Swiss were copying American keywinds when the Americans were producing stem winds and lever sets in vast quantities. This was an ugly period for the Swiss watch industry.

    I understand that a scholarly article article needs to include some background to bring the reader into the writer's thesis. Boquet's discussion of the American watch industry was limited to the Waterbury/Ingersoll. I doubt that he had ever looked at an 1880s vintage Illinois or Rockford.

    I don't have the time or inclination to point out every inconsistency in Boquet's essay. He was simply writing off the top of his head without any references or citations to back up his words. Since he was probably writing to an audience of Swiss businessmen who were not horologists he got a nice pat on the shoulder.

    My point is not that he should have given a more thorough history of watchmaking but that he should have checked his facts and backed them up with verifiable citations. You like your Constellations to be genuine, don't you?



  4. Re watertight, I actually meant the assertions that Waltham parts were interchangeable....a metaphor for proven assertions.

    I know that Omega is credited with initiating one of the first dual manufacturing systems in the late nineteenth century, but I'm not sure the history is as important as the period of the Swiss meltdown.

    Bouquettes backgrounding, to me, was broad brush, but the main focus was on what happened during the late 60s to early 80s.

    Thanks Richard for your contribution - I appreciate it.