The man who saved the Swiss watch industry…


Share on LinkedIn

This past July, Nicolas Hayek, a lebanese-born business consultant died at the age of 82. While Hayek’s name may not be familiar to most, the company that Hayek founded in 1983 is known by all: The Swatch Group.

The Swatch Group today comprises such high-end watch brands like Breguet, Omega, Tissot and Longines, along of course, with the company’s namesake product; Swatch.

Nicolas Hayek was born in Beruit in 1928 and moved to Switzerland as a young man, eventually starting his own consulting firm, Hayek Engineering in Zurich in the early 1960s.

His connection with the Swiss watch industry occurred in the early 1980s when banks hired Hayek to oversee the liquidation of two high-end Swiss watchmakers ASUAG and SSIH – which between them owned brands such as Omega, Longines and Tissot. The entire Swiss watch manufacturing industry had been under heavy assault from low-cost Japanese watch manufacturers such as Seiko and Citizen Watch for the past decade. The irony was that Hayek believed that the Swiss watch manufacturing could remain competitive with the Japanese by restructuring and then focusing on different business areas.

So rather than liquidate the two watch manufacturers, Hayek led the reorganization and subsequent merger and then bought a stake in the reorganized group, known as SMH. In 1983, SMH introduced the Swatch. Lightweight, with vibrantly colored bands and breezy novelty faces, it was remarkably inexpensive to produce – retailing for less than $35 when it was first marketed in the United States later that year.

Hayek’s role in resurrecting the Swiss watch industry can not be understated. While he may be most remembered for his founding of the Swatch Group, his bigger impact was in the saving of the premier brands Omega, Longines, Rado, Tissot, Certina, Mido and Hamilton; just to name a few.  And the strategies he developed during this period led to the success of the entire Swiss watch industry which fended off the Japanese challenge and regained its leading position worldwide since 1984.

And by the way, did I mention that Hayek was also one of the founders of SMART Car?

Here’s the takeaway: Nicolas Hayek was a genius and his role in saving the Swiss watch manufacturing industry should be studied by all business strategists.



Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Lefler
Patrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group -- a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster by providing unique value at the product level: specifically product marketing, pricing, and innovation. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here