The wolf turns into a sheep

March 2004

“I became a billionaire because I believed in my own judgment and not in that of the analysts. I don’t trust the judgment of analysts because they are financiers. And, financiers cannot judge the potential of an industrial product. Only entrepreneurs can do this.”
Who speaks in such a mannerı Who dares state that he does not believe in the judgment of analystsı A rebelı Well, he actually considers himself as one. The same man also declared, quite rightly, that “if you send a camel to Harvard, he will not become Henry Ford.” So who is this rebelı If you guessed Nicolas G. Hayek, you guessed right.
Recently, Hayek was accused of creating a monopoly in the production of balance springs with his enterprise Nivarox. On top of that, a general outcry was heard when he decided to no longer deliver movement kits to four or five companies specialized in the assembly and decoration of movements. He was accused of wanting to strangle these companies and endanger some 700 jobs.

To the first accusation concerning the monopoly on balance springs, Hayek was quick to answer that, in 1983, when his company was created, no one, but no one, wanted to hear of the watch industry, and that without him, the Swiss would now be reading time on their Japanese dials. No one else, except partially Rolex, was able to efficiently produce the famous balance springs at a reasonable industrial cost. To this explanation, the opposition fell rapidly silent, even somewhat embarrassed.
As to the second affair, of decreasing movement kit delivery to some enterprises, it is currently under examination by the Swiss Commission for Competition (COMCO). But here, too, Hayek simply explained that these companies were getting rich “off the back” of the Swatch Group since they made comfortable margins, never created anything, in any case, not any original movements, and that, moreover, the Swatch Group delivers "97% (sic) of the movements and blanks used in Swiss watchmaking.”
Let him take responsability for these figures (which ignore Rolex) and make the following observation. In the area of movements, the overall Swiss industry has relied upon ETA’s production for the last 20 years. Companies that have developed their own capabilities in this domain are very rare (but do include Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patek Philippe, among others). A few companies are also making notable efforts in creating movements such as Parmigiani-Vaucher, Chopard, etc. However, none of them are capable of competing with the giant Swatch Group.
A few weeks after Hayek’s comment, a news item shook the watch world. The enterprise Jaquet is one of the movement assemblers said to be ‘threatened’ by the Swatch Group’s decision to no longer deliver movement kits. As it turns out, the owner of the company Jean-Pierre Jaquet, nicknamed ‘The Pharaoh’, is currently in jail on charges of allegedly dealing in real-fake watches, counterfeiting, gold trafficking, and even ‘armed assault’. This has obviously cast a dark cloud on one of Hayek’s opponents.
Hardly had this news left the front pages when another affair erupted onto the watch landscape. It has all the ingredients of a real-life soap opera: drugs, sex, public insults, fierce battle for control, etc. The two main players are Franck Muller and his associate Vartan Sirmakes (equal partners in the Franck Muller brand) who are fighting for control of the enterprise but whose situation seems directly tied to the Jaquet affair, via real-fake watches and mysterious Russian movements found in Swiss watches.
Nicolas G. Hayek has not made any public comments about these events, but I would imagine, within his private halls in Bienne, he must feel vindicated. He, who is often characterized as the big bad wolf, now finds himself in a sheepskin as the ‘saviour’ of Swiss watchmaking. “See, I was right,” he might be saying to himself, “all that is just based on hot air.” But there is now an unpleasant wind blowing, a wind that is casting doubts in its path and that could very well discredit the entire Swiss watch industry, whose dials are not always as white as the snow that covers the beautiful mountains.
Analysts, what say thee nowı