Nicolas Hayek

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Nicolas Hayek
Nicolas Hayek - Bibliothek am Guisanplatz.jpg
Born(1928-02-19)19 February 1928
Died28 June 2010(2010-06-28) (aged 82)
Biel/Bienne,[1] Switzerland
TitleSwatch Group, founder/chairman

Nicolas George Hayek (19 February 1928 – 28 June 2010), was a Swiss businessman of Lebanese descent, and the co-founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of The Swatch Group.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Hayek was born the second of three children, to Lebanese parents from Greek Orthodox Christian Lebanese families. His father trained as a dentist at Loyola University Chicago. He had an older sister, Mona,[3] and a younger brother, Sam.[4] Hayek studied mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the University of Lyon.

Personal life[edit]

Hayek met Marianne Mezger, an au pair and the daughter of Swiss industrialist Eduard Mezger, in Beirut in 1950. They married in 1951 and moved to Switzerland. They had two children, Nayla and G. Nicolas "Nick" Jr. In 1964, the family moved to Meisterschwanden, a village west of Zürich. Hayek lived there for the rest of his life. Hayek was awarded the title of Doctor honoris causa of Law and Economics of the Faculty of Beni Culturali of the University of Bologna (Italy) in June 1998, after being awarded doctor honoris causa of Law and Economics of the University of Neuchatel in 1996.

In the year of his death, 2010, Hayek had an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion.[5]

Early career[edit]

Hayek worked as an actuary for Swiss Re,[6] before briefly managing his ailing father-in-law's engineering company.

Hayek Engineering[edit]

Hayek founded Hayek Engineering, a management consulting firm, in Zürich in 1963.[7] He advised successful turnarounds at several of Europe's largest companies. One of his management credos was: "The rarest resources are entrepreneurial types in top management." Hayek Engineering had more than 300 clients in 30 countries by 1979.

Swatch Group[edit]

Swatch Once Again watch

In the early 1980s a group of Swiss banks asked Hayek to oversee the liquidation of ASUAG and SSIH, two Swiss watch-making firms that were in turmoil due to competition from Japan. Hayek believed the Swiss watch manufacturing industry could be competitive and that restructuring operations and repositioning brands would help ASUAG/SSIH recover.[8]

Hayek identified problems in products, policies, distribution, and leadership.[9] "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."[10]

He invested in automation and standardised parts and tooling. This produced economies of scale, improved quality, and allowed production to be centralized.[11]

The restructuring of the companies coincided with the invention of the Swatch watch. Its colorful appearance and marketing helped Switzerland regain a large share of the lower end of the watch market from Japanese makers. Hayek emphasized the Swatch watch was above all a technological breakthrough.[citation needed] The design used almost half the number of parts of a traditional wristwatch to reduce cost without compromising on quality.[12]

After the reorganisation ASUAG and SSIH merged, initially becoming the Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie. Hayek and Swiss investors bought a majority shareholding in the new group in 1985. Hayek became chairman and chief executive officer in 1986. His business strategies helped the Swiss watch industry regain its market leading position.

Hayek is also credited with a fundamental role in the creation of the Smart Car with Mercedes-Benz. The name "Smart" was derived by adding the first letters of Swatch and Mercedes to the word "art".

Hayek's son Nick Jr. became the CEO of the Swatch Group in 2003.[13] Nicholas Hayek remained Chair Swatch Group's board until his death. His daughter Nayla succeeded him as chairperson.


Hayek died of a cardiac arrest while working at the Swatch Group headquarters on 28 June 2010.[14]



  • Video (French), TSR Interview, 1988[17]
  • Video, CBC Interview from the 1990s, Part 1[18]
  • Video, CBC Interview from the 1990s, Part 2[19]
  • Video (French), Q&A with L'Hebdo, May 2009[20]
  • Video (French), Pardonnez-moi, L'Interview de Darius Rochebin[21]
  • Video (French), TSR News Report, June 2010[22]


  1. ^ "Er starb am Schreibtisch". Tages-Anzeiger. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Nicolas G. Hayek – Prestige Magazine". Prestige Magazine. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2017..
  3. ^ "Joseph Philippe Karam". Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  4. ^ "La longue agonie de la brasserie Cardinal prend fin". 28 July 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  5. ^ "The World's Billionaires". 3 October 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Das Unternehmen". Archived from the original on 6 August 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  8. ^ Pope, Stephen. "Swatch Billionaire Nicolas Hayek, Who Saved The Swiss Watch Industry, Dies", Forbes, 29 June 2010. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  9. ^ Howell, John (2013). Snapshots of Great Leadership. New York: Routledge. pp. 114–120. ISBN 978-0-415-62482-4.
  10. ^ Taylor, William (March 1993). "Message and Muscle: An Interview with Swatch Titan Nicolas Hayek". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  11. ^ Bottger, Preston. "The Genius of Nicolas Hayek". Forbes. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  12. ^ Potter, Samantha. "The History of Swatch". Watch News. Retrieved 7 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Nick Hayek". Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  14. ^ "Nicolas G. Hayek 1928–2010".
  15. ^ "Message and Muscle: An Interview with Swatch Titan Nicolas Hayek". Harvard Business Review. March 1993. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  16. ^ "Time Bandit: Nicolas Hayek, CEO of Swatch Group". WSJ. Magazine. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  17. ^ "Nicolas Hayek". TSR. 12 July 1988. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
  18. ^ "CBC Venture Hayek Interview Part 1". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  19. ^ "CBC Venture Hayek Interview Part 2". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  20. ^ "ForumTalks: Nicolas G. Hayek et l'internationale des entrepreneurs". YouTube.[dead YouTube link]
  21. ^ "Nicolas Hayek". RTS. 27 September 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010.
  22. ^ "Décès de Nicolas Hayek: commentaires de Béatrice Jéquier". RTS. Archived from the original on 3 July 2010.