In Conversation With Marc A. Hayek, Swatch Group


Doug Gollan | May 30, 2013

Marc A. Hayek, CEO of Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz, confirms the explosion of Chinese tourists buying watches when traveling to Paris and Switzerland

Marc A. Hayek, CEO of Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz, confirms the explosion of Chinese tourists buying watches when traveling to Paris and Switzerland.

Marc A. Hayek oversees three of Swatch Group’s most legendary brands, Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz. An accomplished racer and successful restaurateur, his leadership has guided the watchmakers to impressive results.

At the close of Baselworld 2013, Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief, Douglas Gollan, caught up with the grandson of the late Swiss business legend Nicolas G. Hayek to get a closing report and talk about how the company continues to deliver impressive numbers, during a time of economic instability and chance.

On Baselworld

Baselworld looks very good again. We are happy with orders of the novelties for Breguet with some very strong references. We had a very good quantity of orders for Tourbillons, which are complicated to make, but it is a good problem to have. The overall collection for Blancpain worked very well.

“ There’s no reason to change Harry Winston, but we will help on the watch side, particularly the distribution ”

On China

Blancpain and Jaquet Droz had growth last year (in China), and Breguet was more or less flat. But what we have seen is an explosion in Chinese tourists buying watches when traveling, particularly Paris and Switzerland. Overall the market is growing and performing well.

Other brands have been hit harder, but I think it depends on how you have built your business. Fortunately for us while it’s not +30% or +50%, one month it might be down 10%, the next month flat or slightly up. Our brands are performing well in a difficult situation. It’s not down 30% or 40%.

On the Acquisition of Harry Winston

I haven’t even seen all of the watches yet. The deal was only concluded a few weeks ago so we are still analysing. From a group perspective, it’s where we had a hole in our portfolio with the jewellery business. The watches are very nice stories, and we have the distribution network and the development and production capacity in the group so that should help to further develop (Harry Winston watches).

Next week I am going to Geneva to analyse what has happened and what is planned. Right away of course there are small things, but we will take it step by step. We will keep the DNA of the brand. There’s no reason to change it, but adding and helping on the watch side, particularly the distribution. Changing Harry Winston is not at all the idea.

Breguet Classique 5277BR debuted at Baselworld 2013

On Jewellery

In terms of our watch brands adding jewellery offerings, it works for Breguet. We do okay, but it’s not our business roots, and it’s not something you do in a short time. It takes time to create an image as a jeweller. We want to profit from what we see as the ‘know how’ from Harry Winston, but it’s not that we see Harry Winston producing jewellery from the other (watch) brands.

LVMH (with its Bulgari acquisition) and Swatch Group left a lot of space for (Richemont’s) Cartier in the jewellery space, and it’s a playground we want to be involved in as well.

On Succession

The generational transition after your grandfather Nicolas G. Hayek passed away (in 2010) was incredibly smooth. How did it go so well?

We really never had the pressure to come into the business. My grandfather always said, ‘you have to do what you like to do.‘ The most important part is that it has always been our choice to be here. The Swatch Group philosophy is like a family business, but not only the family.

The (senior) people who are here all grew up inside the group. We have people here 25 and 30 years or more. So it’s not a big shock because you continue together. If we had people here only two years or five years, we wouldn’t have those relationships. (At Swatch Group) we do it together. Even when we had someone as charismatic as my grandfather, it was still, ‘we do it together.’

For more in our series of conversations with Luxury Leaders, please see our most recent editions as follows:

- In Conversation With Christopher Cowdray, CEO, Dorchester Collection
- In Conversation With Francesco Trapani, CEO, LVMH Watch & Jewellery
- In Conversation with Herve Humler, President, Ritz-Carlton Hotels

Jewellery | Travel | Watches