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s the Chair of the Board of Directors of Swatch Group –
the largest manufacturer of finished watches in the world
Mrs. Nayla Hayek is one of the most important people
in the Swiss watch industry. Yet while it’s nice to be important, it’s
more important to be nice – and Mrs. Hayek couldn’t be more so.
Her remit of responsibilities is expansive, and even in her spare
time her commitments spill over into her passion for horses and
she sits as a member of the World ArabianHorse Organization and
as international Arabian horse judge. A Swiss citizen who divides
her time between Switzerland and Dubai, Mrs. Hayek took time
out to meet with Jordana Lynch at the world’s biggest watch fair,
Baselworld 2013.
JL: How would you describe Swatch Group’s Mission?
NH: Swatch groups mission was clearly defined in the beginning
when my father had the order to look at the Swiss watch industry,
to save the watch industry; this was the beginning of the Swatch
Group. Now for sure we are trying to preserve the watch industry.
How would you describe the array of brands within the
Swatch Group portfolio?
All our luxury brands have a history behind them. We don't like to
have brands that have a name and no history. Look at Breguet, you
have a wonderful story behind the company. Then there’s
Blancpain and our newest baby, HarryWinston – a wonderful story
behind the jewellery brand. So I think if you look at Longines and
Tissot and Swatch for sure, it’s all in the story behind the brand
and you have to develop the story into the brand and then spread
it to the watch models. For instance, if you see Jacquet Droz this
year, it’s really going back to history of the brand because they were
very well known for creating automata and now you can see this
influence in the Bird Repeater watch they developed this year.
Watch making is an art form. Do you agree is it important
to make sure the watch makers pass on this legacy to
younger generations?
This is part of the mission and all countries have this. If you think
that carpet making is also something, if a country where carpets are
made doesn't have this mission to try to survive and to bring young
people into the art form again, then you will lose it. So I think every
country has a culture and a mission to protect it.
It is quite clear that Swatch is maintaining watch heritage
and this shows in the quality of the products.
Yes, this is very important and I think this is also the substance of
our brand. It's really the heritage of the brand. I don't know how
many watch brands you can find in the world but I think
everybody is doing watches now because it is such a big success
story. But I think a big difference between all watches is the brand’s
How important is the Middle Eastern market to Swatch
It was always an important market. Normally it is only the
Emirates, so it's the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, then you have a
smaller market in Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Bahrain is very
matured, Kuwait is going a little bit better, and then you have Syria
and Egypt. But of course these countries’ markets are really affected
by political situations.
Are you looking to increase the Swatch Group presence in
Abu Dhabi?
We tried but it is not so easy. We are a shareholder of the company
with the Rivoli group and we will have some multi-brand stores
with our brands and try to have mono-brand boutiques in new
developments coming up in Abu Dhabi.
Could you pick a highlight from the Swatch Brands at the 2013
Every brand has something spectacular I have to say. First of all, for
sure it’s the 30th anniversary for Swatch. It’s something of an homage
to our father because it is 30 years since the Swatch watch was
launched. So the exhibition is really very emotional for everybody who
has had Swatch watches. As you go through the exhibition you see
people saying, ‘oh this one was one of my first watches” and then ‘this
watch I wore to that occasion’, so it is really very emotional. Then for
sure the mechanical watches. The 51 watch, which will be launched
in October – its mechanical movement made out of 51 pieces – 51
pieces being the magic number, as the first Swatch watch was made
out of that many pieces. Every brand has something really spectacular,
as you see Jaquet Droz with the Bird Repeater, then you have a very
special tourbillon with the carousel fromBlancpain, then for sure with
Breguet you have different special pieces such as the women’s Reine
De Naples. I don’t think I could just pick out one.
What was your first ever watch?
I don’t remember when I got my first watch. Watches were not in the
middle of my life so I cannot remember. I can remember my first
horse but not my first watch!
Your passion for horses is well known and you are an
accomplished rider, breeder and judge. How do you find the
time for this passion with such an expansive company and
I have to say it is very difficult. I have less time than I had before
unfortunately, but mostly it’s at the weekends.
Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration whilst
you have driven the Swatch Group forward?
For sure my father, I think the strategy was clearly defined years and
years ago. First of all we support the industry’s place in Switzerland
and this is the most important thing – to really ensure that the industry
is growing in Switzerland and then that we support the heritage of the
brands and don’t compromise on anything.
Despite being the world’s biggest watchmaker, with your
brother and son involved, could you describe the Swatch
Group as a family business?
We all feel that the Swatch Group is a family business, everybody. It’s
wonderful to have my brother and my son involved, and even my
mother is always involved! She is not working, but for instance this
morning she called fromFrance to let me know it is raining and to ask
about the show – how the atmosphere is and about the retailers, how
are they doing?
So I think it is wonderful to have the Hayek Family in the business,
but it is also really a big family business, the big Swatch Group family.
Nowwe have Harry Winston in our family and at first I think it might
have been a little frightening for them to go into a group with 30,000
employees, but now they say its so nice because everyone is welcoming
and they feel the sense of family spirit within the business – it’s really
nice. We try our best to have this atmosphere and I think this is the
success and this is what my father made.
Lastly, what do you think of our Publication - Simply Abu
Wonderful. It’s really wonderful, congratulations. Really nice
publication, it looks nice, as most magazines in the Middle East look
nice, but it also has good content.