Three Questions for the Swatch Group’s Marc A. Hayek

“The smartwatch subject is an excuse,” claims Marc A. Hayek, head of the Swatch Group’s luxury brands Breguet, Blancpain and Jaquet Droz. In this brief interview with WatchTime’s Rüdiger Bucher, Hayek speaks on the watch industry’s future and his brands’ quests for luxury, desirability, and tradition.

Marc Hayek, Swatch Group
Marc A. Hayek

RB: Do you envision a change in buying behavior arising because of  younger clients with different values, or would it be more due to competition from smartwatches?

MH: Buying behavior basically has not changed. I notice this, amongst other things, in our boutiques. The subject of the smartwatch is, rather, an excuse — since it is easier for someone to hold the smartwatch responsible for current problems than to admit to making mistakes. In the nineties, when mobile phones began to spread, many “doom merchants” also prophesied that no one would need watches anymore because it was possible to read the time on a mobile [phone] and it could also be done more precisely that way. Today, this has intensified even more because we are surrounded by the time on screens and displays. Interestingly, though, the boom years for the mobile phone were by far the strongest years of growth for mechanical watches. Furthermore, we are talking about a luxury brand which manufactures a few tens of thousands of units per year. This is a completely different market from the smartwatch, which has its niche in the consumer electronics sector. To that extent, we do not expect that a change in consumer behavior, with smartwatches for instance, will have consequences on high-quality watches.

RB: A luxury watch lives on its nature as a coveted object. This mostly comes from a brand’s traditions and the craftsmanship with which its movements and watches are made. Will these values still be important in the future?

MH: Yes. These are important values which will continue to play a role. However, we also should not forget to develop technology further. We have to constantly improve the functionality of our watches. The client already has tradition when buying an individual watch, and that could even be a vintage model as well. For clients to buy more of them, the watches have to offer something extra. As a manufacturer, our task is to extend traditional craftsmanship around future-oriented technology and functions, as we are doing with Breguet for example, with the ongoing equation-of-time on the Marine Équation Marchante 5887. On the other hand, we do not have to embrace every new technology.

Breguet Equation-of-Time
Breguet’s Marine Équation Marchante 5887

RB: At the moment there is the impression that many brands are heavily relying on their own history: There are many models that are inspired by the past.

MH: I think that in the current situation, in which there is a degree of uncertainty for many people, it is particularly important for watch buyers that a brand has a rich tradition. A brand distinguished by a long history provides a certain security. [If a brand] makes watches for over 200 years, like Breguet, [it] is also trusted to exist for decades to come. For younger brands it is more difficult, even if they offer luxury watches exclusively. Perhaps that is the reason why many brands are particularly reliant on the “retro” trend at the moment. On the other hand, to some extent, I think that is exactly what it is: a trend, especially [at this level of] intensity — a trend that feeds off a certain aesthetic, similar to how we had oversized watches a few years ago. Retro is cool today, but how long that will last is something we do not know.


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  1. Randy Rogers

    Marc Hayek is lost in space, a prisoner of his own hubris and arrogance. The ‘perfect storm’ that challenged the Watch Industry was born of inflated pricing, over-distribution (Independent Brick & Mortar, Brand Boutiques, Brand Digital Boutiques, Department and Specialty, Grey and Manufacturer slippage that allows the Jomashops to sell off product at 70% Off! After MH attacked the American Retailer about 7 years ago and began his Boutiques in earnest, they became ‘Goldfish Bowls’ w/o customers and turnover, as if the product wasn’t exclusive to them, they couldn’t sell it. Despite having all but a monopoly on Manufacture, he made the same mistake his father did, when he was beginning to tie SMH into SWATCH, SWATCH, the Watch allowed the economy of scale to drive units at prices not seen before in Quartz, the genesis of which was Ernst Thomke, Max Imgruth and Jacques Irniger, who mysteriously all found their way to the door as the evolution continued. No, MH and SWATCH, missed the Smart Train, and because of their Industry Manufacture Dominance in CH, so too the rest of the industry, and the wrists of a generation of millennial’s, who did not want dad or mom’s Watch. Apple transcended this and became multi-generational and across all economic barriers, the ‘entry level’ to the affluent. With Samsung and the ever present Jean-Claude Biver at TAG-Heuer, they went to the mountain and Silicon Valley, and both make na exceptional SMART Watch that can Dials selected by the owner for different needs while performing functions that no longer require the I-PAD or Phone to be necessarily on their person. It’s taken Jacquet-Droz 15 years to begin to have a pulse in it’s resurrection from the Swiss toy box, Brequet, Blancpain, Glashutte are all stratospheric and for Captans of Industry and Collectors, they do not drive the Industry, they are the beneficiary of those who go before them, whether Certina, Hamiliton or Tissot, or any other that were not the latest and greatest that millenials chose in their place. Marc is wrong and he cannot grasp the reality of truth that falls on his desk!

    • alexandru ioancio

      Bravo, excellent point, it is almost impossible to inherit genetically business talent. If you are pursuing swatch group you can see that after the old guy Stephen pased away things were on downhill. Almost no improvement and they are posing in watch geniuses. My opinion is that if somebody want a revolution today he must search on service network and watchmaker schools. They must expand horizontally similar to automobile industry in the seventies. Cheers

  2. Farhan Aftab

    Perhaps I got unlucky. One Swatch I bought, due to its unique design, just couldnt give the correct time! Took it for service, and came back with the same fault!! who has the time to go to service centers for merely a watch!!! you see time is money. The model is “Swatch Irony automatic”. Swatch lovers, just keep away from this model, just sharing my experience!!

    • alexandru ioancio

      I am thinking that you are joking. First step in buying a swatch is that once you give away your money it is one way. No return. That”s part of the game. you must understand that. i have several swatches but without any complaints for more than a decade. Cheers

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