Nicholas Hayek, the man who saved the Swiss watch industry, died on monday June 28. The 82-year-old chairman and delegate of the board of directors of the Swatch Group died Monday of a heart attack while he was working in his office in Biel.
In the early eighties Hayek – as consultant – was approached by the Swiss banks for a rescue plan for the watch industry. The two main producers where on the brink of bankruptcy and the banks had lost confidence. They did not believe that Swiss watches could still compete with the cheap digital clocks from the Far East.
Hayek was convinced the Swiss watch industry was viable, however productioncosts should be reduced and price had to increase. Anyone who wanted a ‘Made in Switzerland’ watch had to pay a premium. The large producers merged to EMS, in which Hayek got a 51 percent share. Then he introduced a cheap watch to the market, which put the Swiss watch industry upside down. Hayek introduced plastic cases, quartz drive and mass production: Swatch, a watch that became a hype and saved the Swiss watch industry.
In 1998, the flamboyant Swiss with the idea of producing smart, because a city car, as he himself said, had only enough space to accommodate ‘two adults and a crate of beer’.