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Nicolas G. Hayek, the man who saved the Swiss Watch Industry

by Marco 18 September, 2008 View Comments

During the 1970s the watch industry was turned on its head with the advent of inexpensive, production line, watch manufacturing that mainly took place in Japan. Swiss watchmakers were affected strongly by the new Japanese market and a crisis ensued. While old independent companies like Rolex and Patek Philippe where not in direct competition with the Japanese giants, two of the world's major watch manufacturers, USUAG and SSIH could not cope with the competition. In 1982, the two companies' creditors hired Hayek Engineering in an attempt to save the giants from bankruptcy. The work that Nicolas Hayek did during this time secured him his spot in watch making history and has often been credited with saving the entire Swiss watch industry.

The ensuing Hayek Study, as it came to be known, recommended two major changes. The first was to merge ASUAG and SSIH. The two previous competitors joining forces was crucial in Hayek's next step. Backed by a team of investors, Nicolas Hayek bought the controlling shares of resulting SMH and implemented the second phase of his plan. This was to create a new kind of low-cost watch aimed at the mass market. So came about the 'launching of a low-cost, high-tech, artistic and emotional 'second watch' - the Swatch.' (http://swatchgroup.com/en/group_profile/history/yesterday) The incredible success of Swatch soon launched SMH back into the black and to the top of worldwide watch sales. The infrastructure created by the SMH, now the Swatch Group, has benefited the Swiss watch industry as a whole ever since its inception.

Nicolas Hayek has been credited many times with saving the Swiss watch industry. His face and name are ubiquitous with Swatch and he is probably the most notable personality in the watch industry. His self proclaimed love for attention and his gregarious character surely have something to do with it. Accounts by colleagues and trade-show goers also paint Hayek as an extremely hard-working puppeteer; getting directly involved in every facet of the Swatch Group businesses no matter how small.

A great article on how the Swatch Group came about is available at the following address: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/history2/8/The-Swatch-Group-SA.html. Also we must not forget that one of Hayek's greatest talents is to surround himself with a great team. Any one that wants to know the full Swatch story also has to look up Dr. Ernst Thomke, who engineered the idea of low-cost mass production of Swiss watches when Hayek began Swatch.

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