Nicholas G. Hayek, Founder and Chairman of Swatch, stands on the banks of Lake Constance before the launch earlier this month of the 007 Villain series of Swatches at Bregenz, Austria. Hayek wears on his left wrist the first-ever Swatch made; the second one is the Quantum of Solace from the 007 Villain series. The third watch on his left wrist is a high-end Breguet. On his right wrist Hayek wears an analogue-digital Omega Seamaster he has been wearing since 1992. Also seen above are two of the 007 Villain watches – the one on the left is based on the forthcoming Bond thriller ‘Quantum of Solace’, and the other on ‘Dr. No’.
Nicholas G. Hayek, Founder and Chairman of Swatch Group, otherwise known as “Mr Swatch”, celebrated the 25th anniversary of Swatch, the world’s largest watch company with annual revenues of $6 billion in Bregenz, Austria, on Septemb er 9. For a long while Hayek was the hero of the Swiss watch Industry. Like the Secret Service agent James Bond, who comes in from the cold to save the world from catastrophe in his movies, Hayek arrived from nowhere and saved the Swiss watch industry from the onslaught of Japanese ‘villains’. Like a true James Bond he re-established the Swiss watch industry and has now made Swatch the leader of the worldwide horology industry. And now it is his turn to play villain!
Hayek, who is 82 years old, has the uncanny knack of making his customers express how they feel, which is the very philosophy of Swatch’s brand positioning. The Swatch has been elegant, attractive, spontaneous, provocative, seductive, but never villainous. With the launch of 22 watches as Swatch 007 Villain collection, Hayek has given his customers a chance to take away a slice of James Bond’s life as memorabilia. In the words of Nicholas Hayek, “It’s the art of the villain that interests us. In Ian Fleming’s novels and all the Bond films, the villains play a crucial role. And if Bond is alive and well today, it is thanks in no small part to the enduring power of his enemies.”
Indeed. The Swatch 007 Villain Collection, launched with fanfare and pizzazz at a picturesque venue on Lake Constance which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland, is a tribute to the Bond saga as a whole. It honours the art of infamy that Bond’s creators developed with perfidious cunning and cinematic flair through 22 thrilling adventures. Each model in the Villain collection evokes one or more wily evildoers. We know them all – armed to the teeth and dressed to kill: there’s Dr. No with his stylish suit and metal hands and Blofeld with his fluffy white cat purring under the sign of Spectre. Rosa Klebb has a nasty knuckle-duster, Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp with a black leather strap to match her killer thighs and deadly Red kiss. There’s a metal-mouthed monster of a man called “Jaws”, who was present at the launch as Richard Kiel, the over seven-foot actor who played the part in the movie, and scheming Soviets whose watches evoke the Empire’s glory days.
Fiendishly clever actors add lustre to the growing legend, the Villains pay tribute to outstanding performances: Christopher Walken’s malevolent Max Zorin deserves his stylish Retrograde; Richard Kiel’s menacing jaws gets a massive, polished steel Irony; Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb is given a pair of knuckle-dusters welded to an Irony Lady. And in homage to Casino Royale, poker-faced master of malice Mads Mikkelsen (alias Le Chiffre) nabs an Irony Big with an Ace of Spades. There are more to come, of course, as Swatch explores the dark side of the story.
More than forty-five years have passed since Dr. No debuted on the silver screen in 1962, but the fascination that has nourished the myth of 007 shows no signs of fading. If anything, it’s growing stronger – Quantum of Solace, Bond flick number twenty-two, premieres this year – and the 22nd Swatch watch in the new collection is a fitting tribute to Dominic Greene, the latest Bond villain we are sure to hate.
How much of imagination does it take for a designer to design a Swatch? And how does the designer arrive at an emotional connect with the customers? Here’s how the Dr. No model of the Villain collection was designed:
The first Bond film features the nefarious, ever elegant Dr. No, the ‘Spectre’ agent played by Julius Wiseman who dies sinking into the bubbling vat of a nuclear reactor. Dr. No and the reactor find a suitably elegant tribute in the form of this distinctive Skin Chrono: its textured white and pale beige synthetic fabric strap evokes Dr. No’s high-collared suit, and the dial recalls the reactor’s instrument panel.
Celebrating the latest dastardly villain to take up arms against James Bond, this darkly elegant Swatch Chrono Plastic presents the distinctive mark of Dominic Greene, the villain of the movie, on a black silicon strap with ivory silicon inserts leading up to the matt black plastic case, which has ivory chrono pushers and a matt black crown. The silicon loop features the famous 007 pistol logo and the words “Green Planet” appear in ivory on the 6 o’clock side of the strap.
The audience comprising worldwide media and Swatch retailers from across the world, received some enormous branding lessons from Hayek. For a start, every new product that is launched must be consistent with the branding philosophy. Then, products are not designed by designers in isolation. The designer needs to design based on a tight brief. Lastly, if a lifestyle brand fails to make an emotional connect with the customer, it damages the brand.
Hayek, who owns 80 per cent of this closely-held company, is also a ‘guru” on low cost promotion. He knows that if a product is written about in the media, it is far more valuable than the money you spend on advertising. In the first one week since the Swatch Villain Collection was launched, the event and the products were written about in the media in about a 100 countries. This is all before the first product advertisement had been released to the media!
Prior to the high-decibel launch of the Swatch villain series, in an exclusive interview to this writer, Hayek had outlined his vision for India by stating that he would like to see a Swatch watch on the hand of every fifth Indian and to achieve a revenue of one billion Swiss francs (about $900 million), both in the span of ten years. Swatch, which has a clutch of high-end brands in its portfolio such as Breguet, Omega, Rado, Tissot and Longines, has already made moves in this direction with intentions of establishing a dedicated distribution network in the Indian market and has finalised a joint venture with an Indian partner. And, Hayek has given his daughter, Nayla Hayek, the responsibility of growing the Indian market. As Swatch would say, its time has come.
(Pradipta Mohapatra writes a regular column on watches for Business Line Smartbuy. He was at the company’s anniversary celebrations at the invitation of Swatch)