Nicolas Hayek

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Nicolas Hayek
Born (1928-02-19)19 February 1928
Beirut, Lebanon
Died 28 June 2010(2010-06-28) (aged 82)
Biel/Bienne, Switzerland
Occupation Businessman
Title Swatch Group, Founder/Chairman

Nicolas George Hayek (19 February 1928, Beirut – 28 June 2010, Biel/Bienne[1]), was a Swiss-Lebanese entrepreneur, co-founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Swatch Group,[2] with principal headquarters in Biel/Bienne.

Life and background[edit]

Hayek was born, the second of three children, to a Lebanese mother and a Lebanese-American father, both from Greek Orthodox Christian Lebanese families with roots in Lebanon's Northern Governorate of El-Koura. His father was trained as a dentist at Loyola University Chicago. In 2010, Hayek was ranked the world's 232nd richest person with an estimated net worth of $US3.9 billion.[3]

Hayek died unexpectedly on 28 June 2010 of cardiac arrest during work at the Swatch Group headquarters in Biel.[4]

Early career[edit]

Hayek started his business career working as an actuary for Swiss Re.[5] He then assumed briefly the management of the engineering firm owned by his then ailing father-in-law, Eduard Mezger. He soon relinquished this position to search for an opportunity "to learn something new every day".[citation needed]

Hayek Engineering[edit]

In 1963, Hayek founded his own management consulting firm, the Zurich-based Hayek Engineering.[6] Hayek made his mark quickly on the Swiss and European business scene by consulting and effecting successful turnarounds at several of the largest European multinationals. One of his management credos was: "The rarest resources are entrepreneurial types in top management." By 1979, Hayek Engineering had over 300 clients in 30 countries. Hayek was Chairman of the Board and CEO of Hayek Engineering from its founding until his death.[citation needed]

Swatch Group[edit]

Swatch Once Again watch

In the early 1980s, Hayek was asked by a group of Swiss bankers to oversee a liquidation of ASUAG and SSIH, two Swiss watch-making firms which were in turmoil due to heavy competition from Japanese watch manufacturers such as Seiko and Citizen Watch. Hayek believed that the Swiss watch manufacturing industry could remain competitive and that ASUAG/SSIH could recover after a restructuring of operations and a repositioning of the different brands.[7]

Hayek identified problems in products, policies and distribution as well as outdated leadership that needed to be changed.[8] "ASUAG for example owned more than 100 separate companies - some big, some small, some modern, some backward. Most of these companies did their own marketing, R&D and assembly. It was crazy." [9]

Hayek invested heavily in automation and the standardization of parts and tooling. This produced economies of scale and improved quality. Production was centralized, and parts were designed to be interchangeable.[10]

The restructuring of the companies coincided with the invention of the Swatch watch which used only 51 parts, as opposed to the nearly 100 parts needed to make a traditional wristwatch without compromising on accuracy or quality[11] and thus was cheaper to manufacture. The Swatch watch helped the Swiss watch industry reconquer a large share of the lower end of the watch market which it had lost to Japanese makers. Although the colorful plastic watch became quickly known for its flamboyant marketing, Hayek always emphasized that the Swatch watch was first and foremost a technological breakthrough.[citation needed]



  • Video (French), TSR Interview, 1988[14]
  • Video, CBC Interview from the 1990s, Part 1[15]
  • Video, CBC Interview from the 1990s, Part 2[16]
  • Video (French), Q&A with L'Hebdo, May 2009[17]
  • Video (French), Pardonnez-moi, L'Interview de Darius Rochebin[18]
  • Video (French), TSR News Report, June 2010[19]


  1. ^ "Er starb am Schreibtisch". 28 June 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Nicolas G. Hayek - Prestige Magazine". Prestige Magazine. 2014-10-29. Retrieved 2017-01-30. 
  3. ^ "The World's Billionaires". 3 October 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Nicolas G. Hayek 1928–2010". 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Das Unternehmen". Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Pope, Stephen. "Swatch Billionaire Nicolas Hayek, Who Saved The Swiss Watch Industry, Dies", Forbes, 29 June 2010. Accessed 16 May 2016.
  8. ^ Howell, John (2013). Snapshots of Great Leadership. New York: Routledge. pp. 114–120. ISBN 978-0-415-62482-4. 
  9. ^ Taylor, William. "Message and Muscle: An Interview with Swatch Titan Nicolas Hayek". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  10. ^ Bottger, Preston. "The Genius of Nicolas Hayek". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved 12/05/15.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ Potter, Samantha. "The History of Swatch". Watch News. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  12. ^ "Message and Muscle: An Interview with Swatch Titan Nicolas Hayek". Harvard Business Review. March 1993. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Time Bandit: Nicolas Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group". WSJ. Magazine. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Nicolas Hayek". TSR. 12 July 1988. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "CBC Venture Hayek Interview Part 1". YouTube. 
  16. ^ "CBC Venture Hayek Interview Part 2". YouTube. 
  17. ^ "ForumTalks: Nicolas G. Hayek et l'internationale des entrepreneurs". YouTube. 
  18. ^ "Nicolas Hayek". RTS. 27 September 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "Décès de Nicolas Hayek: commentaires de Béatrice Jéquier". RTS. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010.