Swatch’s Hayek May Retire by 2003

Nicolas G. Hayek, chairman of The Swatch Group and a leading “mover and shaker” in the international watch industry, is planning to reduce his involvement in the world’s largest watchmaking company.

In a recent interview with the Agence Télégraphique Suisse news agency, Hayek was asked who might succeed him and when. He answered that probably “in a year or two” he will hand over the 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 has made similar statements on several occasions. However, a Swatch spokesperson told JCK that no date has been set for Hayek’s retirement.

Hayek Sr. has led what is now called The Swatch Group since its formation in 1983. Then known as SMH (or the Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd.), the company was created by the merger of the two largest Swiss watch manufacturers, ASUAG and SSIH. Swatch, the new group’s innovative, low-cost fashion watch, was launched at about the same time. In 1998, the group changed its name to The Swatch Group to reflect the success and importance of that brand.

The Swatch Group, headquartered in Biel, Switzerland, is the world’s largest manufacturer of finished watches. It represents (in Swiss francs) 22%-25% of the world’s watch sales and produces 120 million watches, movements, and stepping motors. The Swatch Group has some 50 production centers in Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Thailand, Malaysia, and China.

Its watch 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).