Hirsch Changes Top Bosses, Structure

Hirsch Armbänder AG, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of watch straps and the parent firm of Speidel Inc., is entering the new century with a new corporate structure and changes in top management.

Hermann Hirsch has retired as chairman. He joined the family firm in 1957, bought it in 1975, and had led it since then. Hirsch turned over control of the company, based in Klagensfurt, Austria, to an executive committee of three co-directors. They are Walter Lehman, who is responsible for corporate strategy and business operations; Horst Werner Heipl, who is responsible for finance, administration, and acquisition; and Robert Hirsch, Hermann’s son, executive director of sales and marketing, who will also continue as chairman of the company’s Hong Kong and U.S. operations. Hermann Hirsch will continue as a member of the company’s supervisory board.

Spokesmen for Hirsch and Speidel, located in Providence, R.I., say Speidel will not be affected by the changes.

Hirsch employs more than 900 people worldwide and produces some 20 million watch bracelets annually. Group sales in 2000 amounted to about $67.6 million (72.6 million Euros).

In addition, the corporate structure has been split into two parts: Hirsch Armbänder, which makes watch bands and bracelets, and Hirsch Advanced Technologies (HAT) Skinline. HAT, spun off as a public company, uses cutting-edge injection molding technology to produce “designer surfaces” for products ranging from case shells for mobile phones to plastic straps for Swatch watches (80 million since 1990).