Swiss businessmanNicolas Hayek

A business consultant in Switzerland, in the early 1980s Hayek’s firm was asked by the nation’s banks to help liquidate two bankrupt Swiss wristwatch manufacturers, which had collapsed thanks to cheap digital timepieces from Asia. Hayek was optimistic about the ability of Swiss firms to compete, if only they would offer low-cost alternatives in addition to pricy top-of-the-line watches. He joined the companies together into a conglomerate called “SMH Swiss Corporation for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries Ltd.”, and bought a controlling share. SMH’s new cheaper offering, called “Swatch” for “Swiss Watch”, was a hit, and rescued the Swiss watchmaking industry, including well-known Swatch-owned brands like Omega, Longines, Hamilton, and others. (The company was renamed “The Swatch Group Ltd.” in 1998.) Hayek also played a key role in developing the “Smart Car”, especially with the Swatch-derived concept of interchangeable body panels. He died June 28 from heart failure at 82.

From This is True for 27 June 2010