With more than $7 billion in annual sales, Swatch Group watch brands have earned themselves the titles of seventh-largest company and fourth-largest watchmaker on Deloitte’s ranking of top-grossing luxury product producers. The company, which was formed in 1983 as a merger between Swiss firms ASUAG and SSIH, has turned procuring high-end watchmakers and jewelers into an artform. As a result of this, the company now has a hand in producing countless luxury timepieces and has an impressive portfolio of its own subsidiaries too.
Swatch Movements are Used by Most Brands
Chances are, you became familiar with Swatch when it initially marketed itself as cheap brand. This was more or less born out of necessity when quartz watches disrupted watchmaking altogether. Many people and brands turned their backs on mechanical timepieces, choosing to go with less expensive digital timepieces. While most of Switzerland resisted the change and stayed with their mechanical pieces, and struggled to maintain ground as a result, Swatch attempted to pivot. Its name, a contraction of “second watch,” references a time when the company wanted to be positioned as casual and disposable. However, it also began purchasing other companies silently in the background. For example, the founder of ASUAG was Ebauches S.A., which later became known as ETA, and ETA had dozens of watchmakers beneath it too, which Swatch grabbed up all at once. Swatch Group watch brands grew rapidly during the late 70s and 80s because of this, but what’s important to note is that ETA, though not a watchmaker, is responsible for almost all Swiss timepieces. It makes the movements used by TAG Heuer, Breitling, Tudor, and countless others. Moreover, the company, because of it’s monopoly-like stronghold on mechanical movements, is legally obligated to produce and sell to its competitors.
That being said, you won’t hear big companies like Tudor (Rolex) announcing they’re using pre-made movements from Swatch. If it is discussed, it’s generally mentioned that they have custom-made movements from ETA. Many brands have ETA remove their branding as well, instead stamping components with their own trade name.
Swatch Group Watch Brands (In-House)
At present, the company has 16 production companies and 18 different watchmaker subsidiaries under its umbrella. It would be easy fill several pages with details on each, but instead, we’ll focus on a few of the most well-known brands which are part of the group.
The original Swatches were crafted to compete with timepieces coming out of Japan in the 1980s. Then-CEO Nicolas Hayek found a way to create wristwatches less expensively and with fewer parts in order to capture a better share of the market. Sold for about $20, the first round of Swatches were fashionable and trendy, though were so cheap the owner could afford to throw them away at the end of a season and purchase a newer version. The brand partnered with artists and designers to create new looks, so there was always something fresh coming out. Nowadays, new Swatches are still relatively cheap, with many varieties under $100 and some around $50, but if you happen to get your hands on the right vintage collector’s item, your timepiece could easily be worth well over $1,000 or perhaps even $10,000.
If you recall from the intro, ASUAG and SSIH were the two initial Swatch Group watch brands, forming the makings of the company we know today. Going back just a bit further, SSIH was born in the 1930 merger of Omega and Tissot. Omega actually dates even further back to the 1800s. We dig into the history of the brand a bit more in “What You Need To Know Before Buying Omega Watches” and “10 Reasons to Buy Omega Watches,” but suffice it to say, it’s hard to find a higher-quality timepiece at a more reasonable price than Omega offers. Because of this, they’re the quintessential entry-level luxury wristwatch. Many favor the Seamaster line, largely because of its affiliation with James Bond, or the Speedmaster collection, which has ties to NASA. The Constellation line, though rugged, is more suited to formalwear or a day at the office, while DeVille carries a measure of nostalgia.
Originally formed in 1832, Longines initially built a name in the equine world, catering to horse lovers. The company created the first-ever timer that was triggered by an electric wire, changing sporting as we know it. Following this, it became known for crafting precise aeronautical timepieces. Its instantly-recognizable logo—a winged hourglass—speaks to this heritage and is the oldest unchanged registered trademark on file. It was Longines that Charles Lindbergh turned to when he needed a specialty timepiece crafted for flight. Because of their accuracy, the company also represented F1 racing for a decade and was used to time Olympic gymnastics competitions. It has consistently won awards for creating advanced technology, precision, and design as well. Historically, Longines has been considered a luxury brand, but like many, it struggled when quartz wristwatches came into popularity, so most place it in a mid or high-end range, rather than luxury. Like many others, it became part of Swatch Group in 1983, during the global shift to quartz. Timepieces from Longines largely set themselves apart with elegance nowadays. Arguably, some of the best sellers for the company include the Conquest and HydroConquest lines, both sport watches, with the latter being a dive watch. The Heritage collection is also popular, with the Lindbergh Hour Angle Watch among them. It’s possible to find some Longines for under $1,000, but as you get into finer offerings with mechanical movements, pricing tends to start at just under $3,000.
Blancpain is often credited with being the world’s oldest watchmaker, with roots back to 1735. When other companies reluctantly moved to quartz, Blancpain bucked the trend and, instead, took mechanical movements to the next level. One of Blancpain’s greatest achievements was releasing one of the first, if not the first, modern dive watch. Fifty Fathoms, which initially came out in 1953, has been only modestly updated. The company supports efforts to preserve the oceans in honor of this heritage. The Villeret collection is also hugely popular, which typically takes on a very classic appearance. Arguably the most unique thing Blancpain does, however, is its Métiers d’Art pieces. In 2017, the lineup included Japanese shakudō and rokushō, unique alloys used in traditional metalwork. Stunning enamel hand painting in classic Chinese designs has also been offered, but perhaps the biggest shocker from the brand was the release of erotic minute repeaters. As the name suggests, the images on timepieces are enough to make some blush. Timepieces with the Blancpain name typically start out at around $10,000, with some crossing the six-figure mark. A couple have approached or climbed over the million-dollar-mark.
Although Breguet didn’t join the Swatch Group watch brands until 1999, it dates back to 1775 and has been largely allowed to stay true to its heritage even though it’s part of a large company now. Despite being one of the most historic watchmakers, going so far as to serve the European courts, Breguet embraces innovation. The company was responsible for creating the first-ever wristwatch and invented the tourbillon, among other things. Aficionados will instantly recognize a Breguet based on its coin-edge case and “Breguet Hands,” or distinctive use of guilloché dials and blue pomme hands. Breguet’s La Marine collection is a favorite, which marries elegance with sportier looks and functions, while the Type XX was designed for French naval air army in the 1950s and maintains its distinct military bold look today. The Marie Antoinette Pocket Watch also deserves a mention. As the queen was known to be a devotee of Breguet’s timepieces, an unknown individual commissioned the company to create a stunning timepiece for her in 1783 with the instructions to spare no expense. Sadly, the timepiece was not completed for four decades after her death. However, Breguet released a reproduction of it in 2008 and those currently on the market easily fetch over $10,000 each, which is nearly the starting point for the brand’s pricing. The Breguet & Fils, Paris No. 2667 is a further claim to fame, as it sold for $4.69 million in 2012, making it the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
Other Swatch Group Watch Brands
- Ck Calvin Klein
- Flik Flak
- Glashütte Original
- Harry Winston
- Jaquet Droz
- Léon Hatot
Find the Swatch Group Watch Brands on Value Your Watch
No matter what your tastes or budget, there’s a timepiece from the Swatch family to suit. Browse our selection of Swatch Group watch brands and others to find the one that’s right for you.
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