Baselworld 2014: Interview with Nick Hayek, President of the Executive Group Management Board and member of the Board of Directors of Swatch Group.

Not only here at Baselworld Nick Hayek is the most wanted and best interlocutor you can get. Today I can offer you a 53 minutes comprehensive and interesting interview. 

I met Nick Hayek this morning, the first thing I asked him was: When will he start to deliver the Swatch Sistem 51 to the world?

Get his answer and learn what it means to produce huge quantities of high quality Swiss made watches. Furthermore we talked about the driving force of innovation in the Swatch Group and some projects that are in the pipeline. Nick Hayek will also explain you that you can earn money with mass produced watches and that the challenge is not to be just expensive, but very innovative and still present affordable and attractive watches to the end consumer. We also discussed the fact that only very few brands in Switzerland want to invest in a real industrial structure and finally about Smart Watches.

This was my favourite part of our chat this morning, since it remembered me of the fact that the Swatch Group was the pioneer of Smart Watches.

Already in 1991 the group presented Swatch “The Peep”, a pager for the wrist, the story continued in 2004 with Swatch “Paparazzi” and in 2005 with the launch of Tissot “High-T”. These watches have been far ahead of time and when you realize that the Tissot “High-T” was operated like a modern smart phone today by moving your finger over the surface of its display and by touching it, you suddenly realize the amazing potential that the Swatch Group had and has.

On the pictures shown below and on the next side you will also see the first Swatch “Liquid Touch” made out of Liquidmetal that will be presented as a very limited series in the future with a very particular packaging.

Nick Hayek will also explain you that for the moment he intents to do nothing particular concerning the quest for the best Smart Watch. But he is ready with a punch of products to do so if he wishes…

As I was writing some lines above, guys this is a comprehensive and interesting interview. I know time is precious, but these 53 minutes offer real insights and the type of information I, the watch-insider, stand for.

Nick Hayek this morning in front of his office at the Swatch Group booth.


Nick Hayek, President of the Executive Group Management Board and member of the Board of Directors of Swatch Group.

Nick Hayek, President of the Executive Group Management Board and member of the Board of Directors of Swatch Group.





Now please have a look at these Smart Watches Nick Hayek showed me after our interview.

The story started in 1991 with Swatch “The Peep”, a pager for the wrist. It continued in 2004 with Swatch “Paparazzi” and in 2005 with the launch of Tissot “High-T”. On the pictures you will also see the first Swatch “Liquid Touch” made out of Liquidmetal that will be presented as a very limited series in the future with a very particular packaging.


Swatch "Liquid Touch" 2014, Swatch "Paparazzi" 2004 and Tissot "High-T" 2005

Swatch “Liquid Touch” 2014, Swatch “Paparazzi” 2004 and Tissot “High-T” 2005



Please do also discover the watches in detail on the following pages…



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  1. Rainer says:

    Smartphone versus watches: Ein schöner Beitrag zum Thema “Wozu braucht man Uhren” Quelle: Manager Tools Newsletter 22 Apr 2014:

    Word About Watches
    Maybe it’s just me (Dani), but I’ve noticed fewer people wearing watches. It makes me sad. At a recent conference, out of 20 people in the room, only about 5 were wearing a watch. Without fail, whenever I comment on this I get the same response: “I use my phone!”

    Yet when I ask, “When you’re talking to someone and they look at their phone, what do you think they’re doing?” everyone says email or texting. You see where this is going, right? 😉

    When you look at your phone, the person you’re talking to think you’re doing email or texts. And that hurts the relationship. It’s basically saying that whatever is on your phone is more important than the person in front of you. I know that’s not what you’re thinking. You’re just checking the time. But that’s what the other person is hearing. And, as we say at our conferences, communication is what the listener does.

  2. Dartagnan says:

    A terrific interview. Thank you.

  3. Rene says:

    Great interview – it is really worth to listen to 53 minutes – I like his view on smartwatches – thanks for this!

  4. Thomas says:

    Well done Alex, very interesting what he had to say about Smartwatches. Looking forward to see hopefully new System51 models. Hayek is one of those rare personalities who are very frank and open in his statements. I liked the remark about
    about the Americans. We should have more leadwrs like him.

  5. Amir says:

    His comments about Americans are funny and true (and I’m an American!)

  6. Guy says:

    Chapeau, Alexander!

    I did enjoy the interview. As others have said to learn the thinking of an industry leader is a special treat. The thoughtfulness that Mr. Hayek revealed in this interview is refreshing. The children are like their father. They learned well.

    I have a question though. Seiko makes a line of mechanical watches the Seiko 5 series sport watches. These are automatics and very reasonable; some are under 100 USD. If I say Seiko 5 is a competitor to Sistem 51 am I comparing apples to oranges?

    Your good work is appreciated here. Keep it up!

  7. Jeirci says:

    This kind of journalism, these kind of interviews deserve 100 Horological “Parker” Points. Thank you Alexander!

  8. Bernd Cresnar says:

    …picked up a sistem at geneva airport and leave all my iwcs, rolexes and other watches aside since… real great thing!

  9. jeff hutton says:

    Wow, what a fascinating and insightful interview. Mr. Hayek is one of those rare individuals
    who exudes intellectual prowess tempered with an passion which just keeps you wanting to hear more and more of his insight and knowledge. I shall be reviewing again tonight!
    Alexander, thank you for all these wonderful interviews. I have been listening to all of them.
    I found his insight on smart watches particularly interesting. Sometimes being on the bleeding edge of technology can be a dangerous and complicated affair.
    I found your comment regarding your daughter dropping and cracking her cell phone display quite in vogue as my daughter has done the same!
    Well done Mr Linz… You deserve a nice Negroni!

    • Jeff, thank you so much for your comment! There is one more day for me to come here in Basel… I hope I again can surprise you with an insight…

  10. Andreas says:

    Some pictures from the Paparazzi launch in NYC in 2004:

  11. An77n1 says:

    Being a simpleton looking into the watch industry, I cannot help but notice a trend of vintage re-interpretations across the entire watch industry. Long gone is the pre-financial crisis, pre-October 2008 era when more was more i.e. precious metals with more tourbillons than design-thought and ostentatiously big watches.

    Watch brands use words like heritage today to re-interpret simple 3 hand designs of their past with the most complicated watches having a date function. This allows them to re-align themselves with the reality of their customers’ current disposable income or search for value but ultimately what is “cool” today. Whether we buy a watch for the way it looks or the man-made mechanical machine with the tiniest parts that work together to move three hands that allow us to read the time to the nearest second, we buy watches because they are “cool”.

    People were buying vintage watches because it told people around them that they were “cool”. Cool, because vintage watches are no longer in production which makes them rare. It’s obviously more rare than a run of the mill watch you can buy at any mono-brand boutique today. It’s cool because this watch has a story to tell. It’s cool because you knew what it was amongst millions of other watches you could have bought. It’s cool because you knew enough to find it. Now you are cool because you are part of a small group of people that have such a piece and have this knowledge.

    What plays in favor of watch brands pursuing the vintage inspired watch trend is that mankind likes to look at the past with nostalgia. However vintage watches come with a price. They can be expensive in some cases, but one can additionally face the risk of having paid a lot of money for a doctored watch or franken-watch. They might not be in the best condition, run as well as current production watches or original parts might be hard to find in other cases. Therefore until the next boom, watch brands will milk the vintage three hand design. Hopefully they will not go back to making watches with 4 tourbillons but bring real innovation. Post 2009 we saw watch brands going back to making complicated ultra-thin watches. That is innovation. To make a complicated watch movement small enough to fit in a normally sized case.

    I am all for the return to simplicity, less cluttered designs and especially smaller sizes. What I appreciate more is value. I cannot define value as something universal. To each his own definition in his decision to buy a watch or another instead.

    If a re-interpreted watch has an innovative movement using a silicone balance wheel and the entire movement is antimagnetic then that is a useful clin d’oeil to the brand’s “heritage” i.e. Omega SM300 1957. The watch has a lot more innovation like liquid metal, ceramic bezel, etc…On the other hand a watch that I find esthetically very pleasing Omega Speedmaster 1962 “first omega in space” at 39.2mm and without crown guards made in 2012 as a limited edition, missed an opportunity to be great. They could have re-introduced a column-wheel instead of the use of a calibre 1861. There was absolutely no innovation in the calibre which was a let-down. This is just one example and a counter example that came to mind.

    I love that brands like Breguet and now Omega are doing NATO straps.

    • Rainer Fitz says:

      First a big compliment for Alexander to obtain one hour of time from Mr. Hayek. I do not know another source of learning about the thoughts of one of the big industrial leaders of these days. And I mean “industrial” and not “marketing something by spending a lot of money”.
      I am very pleased that brands come back with vintage designs (exactly those that I love) and new technolgies, but at what a price??? (3000 sfr and more)
      I went out to buy a Tudor Black Bay in Lausanne and came home with an original vintage Nivada Wanderer watch (Vulcain Cricket alarm movement) that I bought in a second hand shop for the price that probably a regular service of one of the modern watches would cost. Or, as J.C. Biver said: everything that costs more than a Swatch is linked to a dream.

    • Guy says:

      I agree I have several vintage Swiss and American watches that I wear regularly. And they are cool. I like ’em.

  12. Alexander Herzog says:

    One of the best invested hour imaginable. A great overview of the inside thinking of the Swatch Group and the complete Industry. Chapeau Alexander and Thank you !

  13. Watch Enthusiast says:

    Chapeau, Alexander.
    Mr. Nick Hayek speaks more openly than any other person in this industry. It’s always insightful to hear what he has to say. Much respect to you for this great interview.