The Quartz Crisis, (also known as the Quartz Revolution), is a term used in the watchmaking industry to refer to the economic upheavals caused by the advent of quartz watches in the 1970s and early 1980s, which largely replaced mechanical watches. It caused a decline of the Swiss watchmaking industry, which chose to remain focused on traditional mechanical watches, while the majority of world watch production shifted to Asian companies that embraced the new technology.
On 25 December 1969, Seiko unveiled the quartz Astron, the world’s first quartz watch. The first Swiss quartz analog watch—the Ebauches SA Beta 21 containing the Beta 1 movement—arrived at the 1970 Basel Fair. The Beta 21 was released by numerous manufacturers including the Omega Electroquartz. On 6 May 1970, Hamilton introduced the Pulsar – the world’s first electronic digital watch. In 1974 Omega introduced the Omega Marine Chronometer, the first watch ever to be certified as a Marine Chronometer, accurate to 12 seconds per year using a quartz circuit that produces 2,400,000 vibrations per second.In 1976 Omega introduced the Omega Chrono-Quartz, the world first analogue/digital chronograph, which was succeeded within 12 months by the Calibre 1620, the company’s first completely LCD chronograph wristwatch.
(two prints from 1977 and 1979 of Citizen quartz and automatic diving watches side by side)
By 1978 quartz watches overtook mechanical watches in popularity, plunging the Swiss watch industry into crisis while at the same time strengthening both the Japanese and American watch industries. As a result of the economic turmoil that ensued, many once profitable and famous Swiss watch houses became insolvent or disappeared. The period of time completely upset the Swiss watch industry both economically and psychologically. During the 1970s and early 1980s, technological upheavals i.e. the appearance of the quartz technology, and an otherwise difficult economic situation resulted in a reduction in the size of the Swiss watch industry. Between 1970 and 1988 Swiss watch employment fell from 90,000 to 28,000.(wikipedia)
At the same time Citizen was carrying it’s own war. Prior to this era the company was developing a lot of movements and interesting complications. Citizen production of quartz oscillators begun in March 1976 so the prints above are dating to the very heart of the war. Read more about Citizen history HERE.
So, who won?!