Swatch Group’s Hayek may retire by 2003

Nicolas G. Hayek, chairman and chief executive officer of the Swatch Group and a leading “mover and shaker” of the international watch industry, is thinking about reducing his involvement in the world’s largest watchmaker.

In a recent interview with the Swiss news agency Agence Télégraphique Suisse, Hayek was asked who might succeed him and when. He answered that probably ”in a year or two” he will probably hand over daily operations of the Swatch Group to his son, Nicholas (“Nick”) G. Hayek Jr., currently chief executive officer of Swatch Ltd. and a member of The Swatch Group management board. Hayek previously has made similar public statements several times.

An exact date hasn’t been set, a Swatch spokesperson told JCK.

Hayek Sr. has led the Swatch Group since it was formed (as “SMH” or the Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd) in 1983 by the merger of the then-two largest Swiss watch manufacturers, ASUAG and SSIH. Swatch watch, the new group’s innovative, low-cost fashion watch, was launched about the same time. “SMH” was changed to The Swatch Group Ltd. in 1998 to reflect the success and importance of that brand.

The Swatch Group, based in Biel, Switzerland, is the world’s largest manufacturer of finished watches. It has about a fourth of the world’s watch sales, and manufactures about 120 million watches, movements and stepping motors. The Group has some 50 production centers in Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Thailand, Malaysia and China. Its brands include Blancpain, Breguet, Glasshutte Original and Jacquet-Droz (luxury), Omega, Rado and Longines (prestige, upscale); Tissot, Certina, Mido, Pierre Balmain, Hamilton and Calvin Klein (mid-price); Swatch, Flik Flak (for children), and Lanco (in the mass-market segment), and Endura (private label watches).

The Swatch Group is also involved in microelectronics, micromechanics, and telecommunications.