SWATCH Group CEO Nicholas Hayek Jr on competition, Bulgari sale and future propspects

Swiss based SWATCH Group, the world’s largest watch group was founded by Nicholas Hayek, who later became an authority in the worldwide luxury watches industry. Following his death last year in June, his son Nicholas Hayek Jr took over as Chairman and CEO. Nicolas Hayek Jr first joined the group in 1994 when he assumed a marketing role and later, in 2003 he became CEO. A passionate of cinema and adventure flying, Hayek Jr was an MBA graduate of Saint Gal University in Switzerland. He won several prized for short films and created his own production company Sesame Films. When asked about 2010, Hayek Jr says it was a very difficult year, emotionally, due to the death of his father and the larger than life legacy which he left behind.

In a recent interview to Italian magazine Panorama, he spoke about various issues, including competition, pricing in luxury watches, perspectives and the sale of Bulgari to LVMH. When asked about the biggest challenges facing his group, he first mentioned the strong Swiss Franc, an issue which his father took to the National Bank, which he blamed for not having a coherent monetary policy. The strong Swiss Franc has had a direct impact on prices of Swiss Watches growing by up to 20% in the past ten months. The second major challenge faced by Swatch Group is the fact that it faces much higher demand than it can actually produce, given the limited specialized work force in Switzerland.

Last year, he launched a project which has been one of his dreams and that is creating an environment for young artists to work and create. He launched the Shanghai SAWTCH PEACE ART HOTEL which welcomes young artists. Hayek Jr insist he does not want to buy or sell the pieces the artists creates, insisting he is not an art collector, but rather an art lover.

Hayek Jr says that if his company were to be able to produce more, they could have had an extra half billion Francs in revenue. His solution is to continue investing on average 250 million Francs each year on expanding production facilities and improving distribution, as well as an increase in work force. Already in 2010, more than 1.600 new personnel was hired. On the sale of Bulgari, Hayek Jr says ”I would be glad to see LVMH invest at least 10% of the sale price in expanding production of Bvlgari. For us (Bvlgari) was never of interest due to its huge operational cost”.

Nicholas Hayek Jr, who most call Nick is among the top leaders in luxury, running an empire with a record profit of 1,43 billion Swiss Francs in 2010 and a huge potential for future growth. Unfortunately, his full time job has taken over his life and says he no longer has time for writing (short films or documentaries) but rather spends most of his time writing emails.