Japan Invades Switzerland!
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am delighted to welcome as a guest columnist Fred B. Lederman, managing partner & president, Tourbillon Ventures, LLC, a direct marketing consulting and M&A advisory firm.
On Dec. 25, 1969, Japan launched an attack on the 350-year-old Swiss watch industry that would change the complexion of manufacturing and marketing warfare from that point on.
Seiko introduced the 35 SQ Astron—the first commercially available quartz watch to appear on the market. Even though there was a limited production run of some 100 pieces, it had a price tag of 450,000 yen (at the time, about the same price as a Toyota Corolla) and claimed to be accurate to within five seconds per month or one minute per year.
It wasn’t a “shot heard ‘round the world.”
It was more like a muffled snap that reverberated in Tokyo’s Ginza district, its decibel level growing as it went through the large shopping and business district of Shinjuku, building to a roar along the streets of Europe’s major shopping districts, and, finally, to a deafening blast as it hit America’s shores like a vast tsunami that would reach Main Street in every city and town in the country. When its echo came back to Rue du Mont Blanc and Rue Rhone in Geneva’s City Center—home to many of the world’s luxury watch boutiques—it virtually shook the foundation of the Swiss watch industry to the ground.
Let’s take a quick trip back to the Middle Ages when mechanical clocks were being constructed by ironsmiths who fabricated these massive timepieces with driving weights, gears and escapements to be installed in town center buildings to add structure to a community’s life. Some of the better known examples of these were built in Exeter and London, England (circa 1285); Beauvais, France (circa 1305); and Milan, Italy (1336).