The quartz crisis is the name given to the revolution that occurred in the watch industry with the arrival of quartz watches that entered the market to replace mechanical watches.
A movement that changed an industry
To refer to the quartz crisis, one must go back to the 1960s when Swiss watchmaking was at its peak.
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During the Second World War, Switzerland maintained a neutral position, and this was reflected in its watch industry that expanded rapidly, creating a watchmaking monopoly. Germany and Japan began to restructure and regain their stability, but Switzerland still held the lead. Around 1970 Switzerland held 50% of the market.
FROM BATTERY TO QUARTZ
The first battery-powered watch was developed by Max Hetzel, a Swiss watchmaker, in 1954. This started a trend and by the late 50's, early 60's, many companies around the world were already developing battery-powered watches. However, it wasn't until December 25, 1969 that the world's first quartz wristwatch was introduced. Seiko's Astron was the watch that started the quartz crisis.
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CRISIS OR REVOLUTION?
The introduction of quartz in the watch industry in the 70s largely replaced mechanical watches worldwide. American and Japanese brands followed the trend, and managed to gain a significant share of the market. Swiss houses, on the other hand, decided not to join the wave and continued to manufacture mechanical watches as they considered that excellence was there and this had a negative impact on them.
By the late 70s, early 80s quartz watches had become extremely popular and started to be created massively, so in countries like Japan and the United States, this time is known as the quartz revolution, which involved a great growth that helped them to establish themselves in the market. Switzerland, on the other hand, suffered heavy losses and several houses were forced to close. Between 1970 and 1983 Swiss watchmaking companies went from 1600 to only 600.
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QUARTZ IN THE RACE
Nowadays quartz watches are already established in the industry and gained their own category hand in hand with mechanical watches.
The Quartz revolution managed to open the territory to new brands, because although Switzerland regained its position, it lost its monopoly, however, many manufacturers established themselves within the high-end of the market, turning mechanical watches into luxury goods for their craftsmanship, aesthetics and complications.