The ubiquitous Swatch watch is manufactured by the Swatch Group, a Swiss conglomerate whose name is derived from a combination of the words “second” and “watch.” The company introduced its first watches in 1983, at a time when digital timepieces were enjoying wide popularity. Intending to re-popularize the analog watch (which first appeared in the 17th century), Swatch developed a range of low-cost, high-tech, artistic and fun quartz-powered wristwatches in bold designs made of bright synthetic materials. Technical innovations included an innovative ultra-sonic welding process, automated assembly, simplified gearing, and a reduced number of components; Swatch was able to decrease the 90 or more components typical in an analog watch to just 51, with no loss in accuracy.
The first Swatch collection consisted of 12 models and was a resounding success. The company introduced a second collection in 1984 that sold over two million watches. In response to the growing popularity of their timepieces, the company decided to bring out two new collections of 70 models each year, each model chosen for a specific statement in terms of originality, controversy, or interpretation of fashion. Swatches appealed to consumers not only as reliable and low-cost timepieces, but also as collectable fashion statements and design objects. By the late 1980s, the company was commissioning artists and designers, such as Keith Harring and Alessandro Mendini, to create individual watches or entire collections.