Nicholas Hayek Dies at Eighty-Two

Long regarded as one of the saviours of the Swiss watch industry, a man who almost single-handedly led its revival after the quartz crisis of the 1970’s, Nicholas Hayek died unexpectedly at work on June 28th.

Hayek was the founder and most recently the chairman of the Swatch Group, the number one manufacturer of finished watches in the world. Considered one of Switzerland's leading entrepreneurs, he had managed to turn his vision of a strong watchmaking enterprise into reality. The self-styled 'Mr. Swatch' continued to believe in Switzerland's future as a watchmaking country despite difficult economic times.

The man with the cigar and two watches per wrist was a household name in the Swiss media. Over the years Hayek was a popular interview subject. When a business was on the verge of a crisis, the media often sought Hayek's expert opinion.

Even outside the watch industry, Hayek was considered a visionary. One of his ideas was the Swatch-Mobil, an eco-friendly mini car. It eventually morphed into Daimler’s Smart, but by then Hayek had left the project because it no longer embodied his original concept.

However, Hayek did not give up on his vision of a green vehicle. Together with the energy firm Groupe E, Hayek launched a new project and founded a joint enterprise for renewable energy in 2007.

Click here for an essay I wrote on Hayek's role in reviving the fortunes of the Swiss watch industry and here for a series of resources that help explain what Hayek was all about.  HBR's, Bill Taylor has written a commentary on Hayek here

Hayek truly was one of Switzerland's living treasures, and it's doubtful whether the industry will ever again produce someone with such wisdom, insight and breadth of vision to prod and browbeat it into sustainability.

1 comment:

  1. Robert K.10:37 am

    Thanks for posting this. I did not see the news in the media outlets I normally follow. RK