Fashion watches arose in the 1980s out of a fit of desperation as the Swiss watch industry faced utter collapse. Despite being a pioneer in the field, Switzerland was caught completely off guard by the quartz revolution of the 1970s when quartz movements and digital displays caused the average cost of a wristwatch to plummet while producing pieces of unprecedented precision for the price.
Within a few years, Swiss dominance of the world watch market collapsed. World-renowned firms were closing their doors or merging, and the entire industry depended on handouts from the Swiss government just to survive.
Then along came Nicolas Hayek, who in 1983 hit on the idea of attacking the market from the opposite direction. Instead of trying to revive interest in the traditional Swiss watches, which were rapidly becoming a high-end niche market, he introduced Swatch. A contraction of "second watch," the Swatch group turned the whole idea of watch ownership on its head.
The selling point was that these watches were so cheap and came in such a variety that they were no longer just watches, but fashion accessories. Instead of one, you bought several and wore them with whatever outfit or occasion they matched.
Today, any number of firms have lines after the Swatch model with some placing more emphasis on the box the piece comes in rather than the watch itself. Some are even watch kits that allow the wearer to mix and match straps, bezels, and other components to achieve the exact desired look