Swatch Group is the world's biggest watch company, controlling an extensive portfolio of leading Swiss timepieces from the colourful and affordable Swatch range to luxury brands Breguet, Blancpain, Glashuette and Omega, high-end Longines and Rado, and mid-range Tissot, among others. Omega is arguably the most high profile apart from Swatch itself, as a result of endorsement partnerships with astronaut Buzz Aldrin, actors including George Clooney and Nicole Kidman and the James Bond franchise as well as the Olympic Winter Games. The group also manufactures watches under license for clients including Calvin Klein. A similar arrangement with Tiffany ended in a bitter row, and eventually a $450m legal victory for Swatch. In 2013 the group acquired high-end US jeweller and watchmaker Harry Winston. The group was created in 1983 during the virtual meltdown of Switzerland's traditional watchmaking industry in the face of cheap Japanese imports using digital quartz technology. The country's two leading watchmakers merged and attempted to counter their Asian rivals with the launch of a new "Second Watch" (or Swatch) built with simplified plastic movements and supported by colourful, eye-catching marketing. Management consultant Nicolas Hayek was hired to oversee the merger, and was subsequently appointed CEO. Later he applied the same rules of eye-catching and playful design to the launch of Smart cars, initially a joint venture between Swatch and Daimler. Hayek died in 2010, and was succeeded by his children Nayla and Nick Hayek, now chair and CEO respectively. The family controls around 42% of Swatch Group's equity. After peaking in 2014 at a record SFr 8.7bn, revenues slipped back steadily in the face of competition from smart watches and fitness trackers. Swatch determined to forge its own path rather than tie up with the likes of Google as rival watchmakers had done, and sales had stabilised until the Covid pandemic. Revenues for 2019 were SFr 8.2bn (approx $8.2bn), with net income of approx $752m. China (especially Hong Kong) and Switzerland are Swatch Group's two biggest markets. However performance nosedived during 2020, with revenues plunging to SFr 5.6bn ($6.0bn) with a net loss of approx $56m.
Capsule checked 28th January 2021
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