Nicolas Hayek, Father of the Swatch Watch, Dead at 82

Nicolas Hayek
Nicolas Hayek

Nicolas Hayek, the father of the Swatch and the man widely credited with saving the Swiss watch industry, died yesterday at the age of 82.

Hayek, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, was hired in the 1980s as a business consultant to recommend how the Swiss watch industry could be liquidated, according to The New York Times. Changing consumer tastes and competition from the Japanese had severely undercut the centuries-old industry. Instead, Hayek merged two of the leading companies, Asuag and SSIH, to form Société Suisse de Microélectronique et d'Horlogerie. He then bought a majority stake in the new company.

In 1983, Hayek's company introduced the affordable, lightweight Swatch brand. The Swatch was an enormous success, and Hayek himself was known to appear in public wearing as many as eight at a time.

Hayek died Monday at the company's headquarters, according to a statement on the company website.

"Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek's greatest merit was his enormous contribution to the saving of the Swiss watch industry and the foundation and the commercial development of the Swatch Group," the statement said.