Founder of watchmaker Swatch Nicolas Hayek dies at 82

Swatch chairman Nicolas Hayek Nicolas Hayek is credited with saving the Swiss watchmaking industry

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The founder of the Swiss watchmaker Swatch has died at the age of 82, the company has announced.

Nicolas Hayek, who was still chairman of the company, died unexpectedly at work on Monday.

Mr Hayek has been widely credited with saving the Swiss watch industry when he founded Swatch in 1985.

It is now the world's biggest watchmaker and is expected to record sales of more than 6bn Swiss francs (£3.7bn; $5.5bn) this year.

"Nicolas Hayek's extraordinary vision enabled him to realise and ensure the sustainability of a strong watchmaking enterprise with high Swiss added value," the company said in a statement.

"He is rightly recognised as a leading entrepreneur in this country," the group said.

Swatch was formed from the merger of the Asuag and SSIH watch companies in 1985.

The cheaper plastic watches developed by the new group under the Swatch brand helped the industry to compete with the increase in cheap Japanese exports.

The watches' simple design and relatively low prices made them an international success, with an estimated 300 million sold worldwide.

Their popularity also drew attention to the luxury end of the Swiss watch industry.

Mr Hayek stepped down from the role of chief executive of the group in 2000, handing over to his son Nick.

He remained involved in running the company as chairman, however, and also became involved in a number of other projects including the design and development of the Smart car, owned by Daimler.

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