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06/28/2010

Nicolas Hayek, Swatch founder, dies at 82

June 28, 2010 |  6:03 pm

Hayek Nicolas Hayek, chairman and former chief executive of the giant Swiss watch-manufacturing firm Swatch who is credited with reinventing Swiss watch-making in the 1980s, has died. He was 82.

Hayek died Monday of heart failure at his office in Biel, Switzerland, company officials said.

When Swiss banks asked Hayek's consulting firm for a report on the country's watch-making industry, the two main manufacturers were on the verge of bankruptcy. The banks thought Swiss watches could not compete with digital watches made in the Far East because the makers did not want to abandon their high prices.

Hayek maintained they could survive by making less expensive products and charging a premium for top-of-the-range timepieces 'Made in Switzerland' — the traditional home of precision timekeeping.

Guided by Hayek's firm, the watch-making companies merged to form SMH, in which Hayek bought a 51%t share in 1984. Hayek reasoned that a cheap watch could tell the time just as well as an expensive one and SMH started to produce a plastic wristwatch — the Swatch — which revolutionized the industry. SMH was renamed the Swatch Group in 1998.

More later at latimes.com/obituaries.

--Associated Press

Photo: Nicolas Hayek in 2001. Credit: Associated Press

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