Accept it or not, believe or not, like it or not, Nayla Hayek today is the most powerful person in the world of horology. Speaking exclusively to International Watch Middle East, Nayla Hayek proves once again of her dedication to development, education and to the finest quality of time and jewelry pieces Manufacture.
Every two to three decades, the Swiss Fine Watchmaking industry explores and benefits from powerful, skilled and much talented personalities that, thanks to them, the innovation and the development of timepieces receive a refreshing boost with a global impact. There is no doubt that Nayla Hayek, with her vision and decisively confident instincts, inherited from her father, late Nicolas G. Hayek the savior of the Swiss Watchmaking industry back in the ‘80s, empowers the promise of progress and productivity of sheer high quality Swiss horology Manufacture. I have had the pleasure and am honored to know Nayla Hayek, a truly passionate personality who understands and appreciates her responsibilities with humility and distinguished self-confidence. Chairwoman of Swatchgroup and Chief Executive Officer of Harry Winston Nayla Hayek spoke to me recently and here’s our interesting face to face conversation.
VC: Being the CEO of Harry Winston, please tell us about the brand’s DNA and its future directions post the acquisition of Swatchgroup to the brand.
NH: The DNA of the brand should stay as it is. We are not planning to do any changes to the DNA as a brand. What would happen though there will be some changes in terms of the construction of the watches, from movement elements to cases that, in the past, had some issues. As for the Harry Winston watch-collection lines and designs, the brand DNA will remain unchanged in them.
VC: Would it be feasible to say that as a jewelry brand, Harry Winston would continue to face challenges being famous as a jeweler rather than a watchmaker, just like it is the case with other brands that belong to similar platforms?
NH: I think this is one the challenges that those kind of brands face being jewelers rather than watchmakers. First of all, Harry Winston is a jewelry brand. However, compared to kind of brands, Harry Winston does have a reputation as a watchmaker too, dominated with male watch collections. The female watches are in percentage a bit less since the main focus was on male watches, like the Histoire de Tourbillon, Opus, Project Z, Zalium.
VC: This leads me to the next question since as we all know late Nicolas G. Hayek was a great believer in investing on research and developments. Would you be following in the same steps investing on the development of the Harry Winston Haute Horlogerie?
NH: Yes for sure.
VC: Just a commercial overview on the brand, are you happy with the brand’s market share globally and what are your plans for this year and your 2016 projections?
NH: In terms of jewelry, the brand is very well positioned on the global market share charts. We are still opening up markets like in Italy and Germany where Harry Winston needs to be better known as a brand. We are also investing on the watches market in China where the brand is quite reputed as a jeweler. We are entering the Asian market with special sized female watches with small complications and we will be across the various markets in Asia. In Dubai, we already opened the Harry Winston Boutique in Dubai Mall and we are extremely happy with the response.
VC: Moving to Fine Watchmaking, the Metiers d’Art lines are receiving more and more investments from watch manufacturing brands; in fact, some are even dedicating workshops that include ateliers and museums. What is the Group and Harry Winston’s view and its current/future plans to promote this quite skillful watch line, knowing that Swatchgroup has brands with masterful history of Metiers d’Art timepieces?
NH: Blancpain and Jaquet Droz already have a lot of in-house production of Metiers d’Art’s several elements, with very skilled and fine quality craftsmen and artisans manufacturing some truly high end and complicated timepieces. All in-house. The watch dials with Metiers d’Art are very much part of each of our brand’s DNA and we see it as a completing part of the brand. We don’t necessarily have to separate it. At Harry Winston, setting diamonds on dials or dials with feathers or marquetry form part of the brand’s reputation and are very much part of its DNA. At Harry Winston we are thinking of doing concepts of exhibitions on the brand’s history but that would be more for the jewelry lines that are quite historic and rich.
VC: We launched WATCHOOGLE.com, a watches platform based on educational and informative concept. In today’s world, would you agree with me that there is a big lack of efforts and an absence of fine watchmaking educational projects?
NH: I don’t think if it’s a big lack. It also depends on which country and which culture you are addressing. I think that people are more and more educated to understand watchmaking and they are more equipped to know the meaning of watchmaking. Do you know that we already have a plan for a watchmaking school project in Dubai? We have more or less finalized its location and I think it is an important project for the region. Swatchgroup has watchmaking schools around the world as you know, and I think it is quite important to educate people. I also think WATCHOOGLE.com is quite important if you follow those objectives on your site, since it will benefit all those people who are interested to learn about the tourbillon and the various complicated watches. Also for women, if you can show them how to do dials for example, or how to work on a mother of pearl dial or how to engrave it. These will be quite interesting and important to learn.
VC: What is the story behind the Harry Winston perfume?
NH: During Baselworld this year, we had the Shindi theme across all the Harry Winston pavilion and Shindi was one of the biggest designers at Harry Winston. His designs were inspired from the Orient and Indian culture, therefore what goes together with the oriental culture, spices from India and jewelry designs was the perfume. So this was the prime inspiration and it will be interesting to have the perfume in our stores offered with our collections.
VC: Any change of mind on the Opus?
NH: There is no change of mind in the first place. First of all, Opus cannot be introduced every single year since, as you know, it needs a lot of investments on research and development. Also, we are still working on Opus 11 and 12 that had some problems and we are in contact with those parties who made them in order to fix those problems together with our people. We also thought not to launch Opus in Baselworld since Opus, the project, merits to have a launch event on its own. Opus 14 is planned to come out this year.
VC: With regards to Swatchgroup brands like Mido, Swatch, Tissot and the rest, are there any development projects going on with those brands?
NH: It would be better if you ask those brands directly. But I can tell you that there are a lot of developments with those brands, like Swatch Touch, Tissot… As you yourself know, with Swatchgroup development projects across all the brands are always and constantly ongoing.
VC: Though I keep telling everyone of its irrelevance, the rumor had it that the smart watch has the potential to cause a crisis to the watchmaking industry. Do you agree with me when I say it’s got nothing to do with it?
NH: The smart watch is a wrist device like the mobile phone is a hand device. For so many years, many people asked me if I am worried about the smart phones cutting off the watches market share, since they also show time. My answer is always No, because you do not use the smart phone as a watch. The smart phone shows the time, yes; but it is not a watch. The smart watch has got nothing to do with the timepiece; it also shows the time, yes, but this is not its main program. First of all, I am not even concerned at all. For sure there will be a market share for the smart watch, like any other digital item, but it cannot replace a mechanical timepiece that is always based on emotions. The wristwatch is emotional because of you, because of its meaning whether it represents a special occasion, or because you do appreciate the skillful manufacturing efforts behind it. The watch can never be compared to a device that is not only showing time but other functions too. There’s also the fact that people buy and wear watches that match their personality and show the character that represents them in a timepiece.