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Swiss watch companies had dominated the world of precision timekeeping for two centuries by the 1970s, when a technological marvel known as the quartz watch — a cheaper, more accurate work of horology mass produced in Asia — threatened them with extinction.
Between 1970 and 1983, as watch buyers abandoned windup mechanical timepieces for digital ones, the Swiss lost half their watch companies, two-thirds of their watchmaking jobs. and their unrivaled authority as the world’s most reliable timekeepers. Industry analysts called it the “quartz crisis.”
Raymond Weil, who died at 87 on Jan. 26 in the Swiss city of Calvin, started a watch company that bore his name in the midst of all that, joining a watchmaking vanguard that saved the nation’s signature product by redefining it.