Swatch Group founder Nicolas Hayek dies at 82

Mon Jun 28, 2010 4:49pm EDT
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ZURICH (Reuters) - Swatch Group Chairman Nicolas Hayek, one of Switzerland's most prominent and colorful entrepreneurs, died of heart failure at his workplace on Monday, the company said.

Hayek, who turned 82 in February, was widely credited with saving the Swiss watchmaking industry by reorganizing the ailing Asuag and SSIH watch companies, merging them into Swatch Group, which he took over with other investors in 1985. He became chief executive and chairman in 1986.

"With the unexpected death of Nicolas G. Hayek, Switzerland and the Swiss economy lose one of their leading personalities," Swiss President and Economy Minister Doris Leuthard said in a statement.

Hayek was a driving force for the Swiss economy with his courageous engagement for entrepreneurship, she said, adding, "We owe Mr. Hayek a lot."


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Swiss watch industry, which excelled in complicated mechanical watches, had trouble coping with the advent of highly reliable and much cheaper quartz watches.

Hayek did not hesitate to embrace quartz technology for the Swatch watch, launched in 1983, and the colorful plastic watch quickly became popular all over the world.

Its success drove the recovery of the Swiss watchmaking industry and helped turn the company into the world's largest watchmaker.

"Mr. Hayek's contribution to the Swatch Group and the Swiss watch industry was immense. We view today's announcement as a significant loss for the company," said Citi luxury goods analyst Thomas Chauvet.   Continued...