Digit celebrates the Swatch watch – 80s fashion accessory, engineering masterstroke and design phenomenon.

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It’s funny how something as cute and collectable as the Swatch watch was born out of desperation. In the 60s and 70s, the old guard of watchmakers in Switzerland were being outdone by upcoming Japanese electronics manufacturers. The likes of Seiko were beating the Swiss at their own game and something had to be done. 
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The low-cost, no-frills Swatch watch was the answer and Swiss watchmaking has never looked back. It soon became one of the most significant fashion accessories of the 1980s, and designers from Andy Warhol to Vivienne Westwood have applied their talents to this simple canvas. 
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Early prototypes of the watches were designed by three engineers – Ernst Thonke, Jacques Muller, and Elmar Mock. The Swatch watch was 80 per cent cheaper to produce than conventional watches, thanks to automated assembly and design innovations. Conventional watches were composed of 91 pieces, but the Swatch team reduced this to just 51 – the company even produced a transparent one to prove it. 
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An 80s throwback, maybe, but Swatch changed the watch industry and put the Swiss back at the top.
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