Marc Hayek, who beads the prestige brands from the Swatch Group stable – Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz – speaks to Mitrajit Bhattacharya about designing a tribute to his late grandfather Nicolas G. Hayek and much more
How challenging is it following in the footsteps of Nicolas G. Hayek, your grandfather?
It was my grandfather’s wish that I follow in his footsteps. A few years back he told me, “One day when I am gone, you have to continue doing whatever I’m doing.” If Nicolas G. Hayek believed in something, he would walk that extra mile to make it happen. I’m just following his words and doing things the way he would have done, had he been alive.
If I get you right, he had a very clear plan that envisaged you managing all the prestige brands, including Breguet?
You can never prepare for that kind of a thing because it’s a huge responsibility. One learns along the way.
I have often asked your grandfather why Swatch Group has not launched a brand called Nicolas Hayek with the best offerings from the watch industry. And he has always told me, “My children are too shy. Maybe after I am gone, they’ll do something.” Do you have plans to come up with something to commemorate Hayek senior?
Yes, I do. It will be a perfect tribute to my grandfather Nicolas G. Hayek. In fact, it is his baby, since work on this watch started way back in 2003. I would like to call this the ‘Marie Antoinette of today’. We would be officially presenting it in 2013 since the watch is still evolving. We already have almost 26 patents on it. It has over 2,000 components and 46 complications, including the tourbillon, jumping minutes and a minute repeater. Then, we have an alarm, with different sounds for the A.M and P.M alarms and the Grande Sonnerie, which changes sound as day becomes night and vice versa.
So it’s going to be a one-of-its-kind masterpiece?
This watch has been constantly evolving since 2003. Now, it’s a lot different and evolved from what we set out to do. That’s why I am hoping that we deliver by 2013, because the vision becomes grander as you go along. We already have quite a bit in it with the moon phase, second time-zone, indication of the leap year, the day, the month, retrograde date, the equation of time, indication of zodiac signs, among others. One of the features we have here is that whichever function you want to address – the moon phase or the date, the calendar or the day and month – can be pre-selected on the crown.
Is the watch still going through a processof evolution or are you looking at a cut-off date and working backwards to launch it on time?
To me, it’s already the most complicated watch in the market. I would like to go ahead, keeping our deadline intact.
Since Nicolas G Hayek was around when the project started in 2003, how involved was he in the entire process?
He was always involved in it. A couple of days before he died, he called me and said, “The way it is now, it is not exceptional enough. You’ll have to work at making it the most exceptional watch ever and ensure that it’s a huge success.” His last words have stayed with me. I have to create the most exceptional piece ever, since it was his dream project.
Are you planning to launch it on his birthday?
We haven’t yet decided on the launch date. However, there will be only one piece a year.
You are now personally managing the top portfolio of the prestige brands. Do you see these brands as a portfolio or individual brands?
To me they all are really individual. And for me it is extremely important to keep them separate. That’s the only way it will work. They have such distinct DNAs. So we keep the production, research and development hundred per cent separate.
How do you ensure attention on each one of them since the Manufactures are in different places?
I am happy to say that I have a team that knows me well. We have been working together for almost ten years now. My team completely understands what I want. And I trust them totally. If my intervention is required on smaller issues, we talk it out over the phone.
You have spent a considerable amount of time at Blancpain. Does that make you a bit partial towards them?
The team at Blancpain is like my family. Even if I spend less time with them, it’s fine because they understand me really well. I don’t have to be physically present there because there’s a system in place which works really well.
Coming to Jaquet Droz, it is probably the smallest of the three brands that you head and it has had a little bit of chequered history in spite of having a legacy which dates back to the 18th century. What are your immediate plans for the brand?
To me, their watches are beautiful. They may not be artistically beautiful, but they are different. Jaquet Droz has always been doing things differently all the time. But then, you cannot build a brand by just doing limited series. We would definitely like to address that issue.
How do you feel about the Indian market?
India for me is the focus of a new evolving market. We are looking at further strengthening our brands there.