Nicolas G Hayek Sr. is the founder, the largest shareholder and chairman of the Swatch group as well as the CEO of Montres Breguet. We met the man who controls the watch market worldwide over an extended interview at his office at Biel, Switzerland in September 2006. A multifaceted personality- a Billionaire entrepreneur and a Mazart lover – continues to enthral you like a magician. But even though he is fascinated by A-L Breguet, Hayek is not rooted in the past. Unwilling to rest on Breguet’s past laurels, he is mapping his company’s growth in the future. In a freewheeling chat with Mitrajit Bhattacharya he reveals the plans for new launches till 2011 and his acquisitions of antique Breguet watches at the latest Satheby’s auctions of New York.
Mitrajit Bhattacharya (MB): Breguet’s antique watches.
NGH: Antique watches alone wouldn’t make a good interview. In fact, there is not much to say about antique watches because we have made more watches since 2000 than the Breguet Company made in its whole existence of 220 years, previously.
MB: OK, let’s talk about the present for now. What have been the novelties of 2006?
NGH: We have continued our good work on our super-successful launch of 2005 – The Tradition – by launching an automatic version. We have launched The Double Tourbillon (3 patents) and Classique Silicium (2 patents) and a new Breguet movement – 777. Similarly, 2005 was the year of The Tradition, Classique Extraplate 5.1 mm and double patented Grande Sonnerie & Tourbillon. In the last couple of years we have launched many new products.
MB: What goes into the launch of new products for a brand that has such a rich legacy?
NGH: We have created the Swatch Group with the 18 brands that we have here. For each one of these brands we have a specific message like what this watch means and what kind of message we want to convey. I promote the name Breguet but not only Breguet’s old watches. We did not copy old watches of Breguet; we just continued the spirit of making simple, very nice looking watches. The message is to have high beauty – European culture added to supreme technology. Breguet was a very great marketer, a good salesman, someone who had a group of people who did his bidding. What we did was to create a style that epitomizes a modern Breguet. We create newer, innovative products based on the style we inherited from Breguet. We created a new family which you don’t find it in the old Breguet.
MB: This is your movement right?
MB: Then why didn’t you call it by your name?
NGH: They wanted to call it by my name but I refused. It was called the Nicolas G Hayek movement and I said no. We named the ‘Tradition’. (He opens a drawer and shows the Tradition).
MB: That’s an outstanding watch!
NGH: Every time I get somewhere with a group of people working with me, I create the explosion of innovation. Let me explain why. I am completely convinced that all of us here are very creative people. We’re born creative. Remember when you were five years old? You played as a child and you believed in princesses and castles and all these things that you believed in. It is the society, the army, the school and all such things that kill the creativity in us. So we don’t dare anymore. Why don’t we do these things another way? We don’t dare to dream anymore when we become older; we’re busy doing other things. And I keep saying a successful entrepreneur can only be successful if he keeps the fantasy of his childhood. And my wife will tell you that I keep the fantasy of my six years even though I am much older. We were completely broke when I took over and I brought the people – the master watchmaker and others – and told them, “Look, we’re all very creative; each one of you has to put forward his ideas without fear of being ridiculed.” I did the same thing with Breguet. I got the best master watchmakers that you can find, sat down with them and said, “Under my direction, we are going to create very important new products” Our meetings yielded us eight new watches! We now have the pipeline filled with watches up to the year 2011. (Showing the blueprint to the interviewer) This is the product book that we’re doing. What kind of product are we going to do? How much do they cost, how do they look? This is for Basel 2006; and we also made one for Basel 2007. I didn’t want to show you, but.we have a tourbillon. (whispering, “Nobody knows it.”) that we’re maybe going to call the Mysterious Tourbillon. Then we have a grand complication tourbillon, a very special Reines de Naples, and the prototype of the Marie-Antoinette.