Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep1 : Nicolas Hayek, Breguet Watches Swatch, [Sweden]
Interview with Nicolas Hayek
Eccentric Billionaire Industrialist credited with saving the Swiss Watch Industry.
NH: Breguet is an expression of beauty, beauty, beauty and European art from the 16th Century to
the next centuries that are coming.
NH: And Breguet, being beauty, beauty, beauty, and an object of art, European art was for
Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette and the Tsar of Russia, and all these important people
as well as head of states of modern times, but at the same time for big writers and thinkers like
Pruskin, Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, many British writers and Queen Victoria.
NH: I am nothing else than a guy who is on a small planet, enormously small planet, in a small sun
system in an enormous universe.
NH: When I made up my studies, I wanted to finish them with a facilitation in nuclear physics. I
was in Switzerland with my wife and I wanted to go and finish in the United States because
nuclear physics was at that time United States for the MIT in the United States or Harvard or one
of the big universities, and then in Switzerland my father-in-law got sick, he had a small factory
with 11 workers and a foundry and everybody in the family said please, we don’t have any man to
run this thing and why don’t you stay one year or two years. And I put my boots on and I went into
the factory where several peasants were as workers working down there and speaking only their
language. B___ is a patois of German and it’s a solid patois of savannah peasants here and I had to
learn it and in six months I learned the language and talked to them, and they learned to respect me
and love me because I was doing new things with them. And then I got immediately in love with
this kind of operation and when my father-in-law came back from hospital there was no room for
both of us because we were both entrepreneurs. And then I left and then I created my own
company without any money, everybody said you’re crazy.
NH: I’m the kind of a guy that believes in impossible things, I still believe in fairy tales
Fairy tales is …
NH: Fairy tales and I still believe in Santa Claus, and then I started a consulting company because
I couldn’t buy a producing company, I didn’t have any money and I was enormously successful
with it, telling people how to run in the industrial area and Germany was reconstructing and every
big company in Germany wanted to have me.
NH: I would come to a company and they wanted to build a new motor for Mercedes Benz, I
would just review with them if we can do the motor in another way develop the motor with them
and make the factory with them. So I had people with me, I didn’t do this alone, I had 350 guys
working for me at the end and every single big company in the seal and automotive industry in
Germany worked with me and I was famous in Germany, Sir Helmut Kalt took me in his strategic
committee for Germany, I was the only Swiss, I was Swiss citizen at the time, I was the only Swiss
down there and all the German big bosses and the union people were sitting around there and he
had to explain to them the first time why I was there, but they loved me and then after Germany,
the whole of Europe discovered me and Switzerland naturally. And in Switzerland I did every
difficult thing that the Swiss Government had, I had to review to reorganise.
NH: In about 1980, ’81, ’82, the Swiss Government gave me an assignment to decide whether we
should make a tank in Switzerland ourselves buying
NH: A tank, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and there was a big fight in Switzerland whether we
should make it ourselves for $12M or whether we should make it for, buy it for $3M. And the
unions and many of the industry went for the $12M and our Government wanted to spend less, so
they gave it to Hayek because I was considered at the guy who has the knowledge, the technology
and the honesty and I came back with a report showing that our industry was doing stupid things
that we shouldn’t. It was not going to cost $12M, it was going to cost $15M and at that time the
parliament was fighting like hell and finally they gave me right and they saved for Switzerland
millions, billions. At this time the banks who owned the biggest part of our watch industry about
90 factories and two big companies, and these 90 factories were delivering to every other watch
maker watches, wanted to close them.
NH: The Swiss and the United States have invented the electronic quartz watch, he was a Swiss,
but the Swiss management here didn’t want to accept it, so he went to Japan and sold it to the
Japanese and they pushed them out of the market. So the bank said ok, we cannot close it because
it’s a product of the Swiss people, we have to get a credible guy, an industrialist, who will tell us
banks you are right, we should close. So they brought me and sat down with me one evening in the
mountains up in secrecy because everybody in Switzerland knows me, they always, they know me
more than the President. And they say now we’ll give you three months to give us a report that we
should close and I said I’m not going to give you any report that you should close unless I am
convinced of it. It might happen that I tell you we shouldn’t close. They laughed, all of them, they
said you always have been an optimist and you continue to be an optimist. They know me all of
them. And then I started the study and I proved mathematically to everybody that there is a big
book about that that was prepared, that we could become number one again, and the banks said ok,
you believe in it, you are a rich man, why don’t you buy 51% of the shares. And I said no, because
I want to go in my house and c____ on the Mediterranean in France and write a book. They said
no, the people of Switzerland believe that you can save them, we don’t, go ahead.
NH: I gave them the report to the banks showing how we could come to a profit of $125M at that
time it was an enormous amount of money for them, making a profit, you know how much we
made last year? $1B, we have made 10 times more. And then they forced me to buy, finally they
told my accountant they said look you have given hope to everybody because you are on television
every evening saying that we can become number one and we have about 30,000 jobs down there.
Do you think they were setting you up at the time?
NH: They were, because two of the managers who convinced me became Vice President after this
very, very quick, after, they became more than Vice President and during the last discussion I had
with them for the contract, about buying the 51%, the Public Relation Manager of the bank was
there and I said what is he doing there, and they said oh nothing, he is only helping out today. In
fact, they were preparing a communiqué to the people of Switzerland saying Nick Hayek bought
yesterday 51% of this company then it’s a wonderful company we should buy too. They sold me
51% of the shares, it was a $300M capital but $151M and sold that 49% rest at $1B.
NH: I am doing exactly what I want.
NH: Yes, because I want to get things moving for everybody. I’m the kind of a guy if I have the
security for me and my family that I am not going to die from hunger, and that I have enough
money to live, then everything, every other kind of pounds that I have, or dollar, is an instrument, a
working instrument. With this, I am creating for example new companies with Deutschebank with
the Universities of Switzerland to create clean energy. In Switzerland the Government calls me for
very, very many important things, every Minister in Switzerland talks to me. There is the French
Government, the American the ___ Office ___ I have all the honours you need, it’s not the honours
that get me moving, it’s the fact that they talk with me when they need somebody to do something.
I create the talent myself.
But you’re more than that. You’re creating bigger challenges.
NH: Yes, but in this earth, see don’t forget we are on a very small earth, very small people, and a
small solar system, in a big universe. We have billions of challenges, we have to solve them. And
when somebody asks me, why the hell are you creating now Belenos, Belenos is a God of the
Celts, the Sun God of the Celts, why do you do it? I said look, I have the resources, I have the
possibility and I have the contacts and I have the money to do it and we are all sitting on a ship
that’s being destroyed by us human beings. If it’s destroyed then each one of us should move on it.
NH: The biggest fun of the world, I drink the life every day I amuse myself when they ask me
there is a book that has been written about me, he talks like this. How many hours do you work per
day Mr Hayek? And to answer, I have never worked one single minute my whole life, I always
amuse myself. See how you love yourself, that’s the same thing. All these people amass money. I
became rich by chance, not because I wanted to be rich. I wanted to have enough money, that’s it,
sure, but not to be billionaire and to be on Forbes Magazine number I don’t remember what.
NH: Each brand has a message and a very clear message and we explain the message of each one
of the brands and it’s a dynamic message and I give always a good example of what’s a dynamic
message, I guess an image that does more and when we understand the message there is no
problem. I was a man who launched Swatch and made out of it a huge world success, and nobody
believed that I could run Breguet. And Breguet today is a huge success, it’s number one and you
should understand the brand and its message and push it through and not even to people around it
and if you can explain to everybody that he is a genius, but that university and army and society
has cut down his innovation capability he should just push them out and do it.
NH: I do things that I love. I love jewels and I love watches. But I don’t love the very ___ walking
like this, ___ no I don’t get excited because it used to be, when the girls were still nice looking.
NH: We have 22,500 people. 164 factories. 6 billion sales. $1.1B profit after taxes, $1.5B cash
flow, big buildings in the centre of Tokyo, building everywhere in the world, a fantastic
development. What the hell do you want more, you cannot eat the world.
NH: Well you could have said this yesterday during the press conference. The minute I appeared
and I explained about the Marie Antoinette watch that we made, and that disappeared from the
museum in Jerusalem, it was a bath, I had to, the whole crew over me. A mass of people. I am one
of the most loved people in Switzerland, you walk with me on the streets of Zurich and people talk
to me. Last year a nice thing happened to me. A very small old lady stopped and she said oh, I see
you know, ___ in your real body, not on television, may I kiss you? And everybody stopped it was
in the centre of Zurich ___ and there was two nice looking girls down there, and I said I hope they
come too, and I kissed her and everybody was applauding, but the two girls didn’t come.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Nicolas Hayek, Breguet Watches, Sweden