Quinn Pictures • Jonathan Quinn

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Premeasuring time • Predetermine value

The small, Swiss city of Beil is on the slopes of the Jura mountains and is home to Omega watches. Before Omega moved there the town was recognized as the capital of inexpensive time pieces. There was a time when owning a reasonably accurate but relatively inexpensive timepiece required a Swiss movement manufactured in this town.

That all changed in the 1970s with the advent of inexpensive quartz and digital technologies, much of which was invented and perfected by the Omega company. Soon afterwards, Texas instruments and Seiko introduced incredibly inexpensive digital watches, manufactured in Japan and Hong Kong. These new, affordable time pieces revolutionized time keeping with unprecedented accuracy.

The city of Beil went through economic upheaval as the culture and manufacturing traditions of the community became obsolete. While the Swatch Group and Omega reorganized and became competitive in the business of time keeping, the city slowly adapted and became a center in the manufacture of medical and other precision equipment.

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