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Swatch founder Nicolas Hayek dies at 82

Emma Brown

Nicolas Hayek, 82, the businessman who saved Switzerland's watchmaking industry and gave us plastic Swatch wristwratches, died unexpectedly today of heart failure while he was at work.

Mr. Hayek was hired in the 1980s to give advice to two floundering Swiss watchmakers who found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy as they lost market share to Japanese companies producing inexpensive timepieces. He suggested the companies merge and create the colorful plastic Swatch -- they did, forming the company now known as Swatch Group AG.

Mr. Hayek had been the chief executive Swatch and was serving as its chairman when he died. More than 300 million Swatches have been sold, according to the Dow Jones news service.

He also is credited up with coming up with the idea for the ultra-tiny Smart car, which can squeeze into parking spots your average sedan can only dream of. He said a city car only needed "room for two big adults and a crate of beer."

By Emma Brown  |  June 28, 2010; 3:51 PM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown  | Tags: Nicolas Hayek swatch died, smart car, swatch, swatch founder died  
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