Swatch chief ticks off firms leaving Switzerland

Firms that relocate from Switzerland because of the strong Swiss franc are misguided, the head of the Swatch watchmaking giant Nick Hayek said in an interview to be published on Thursday.

Swatch chief ticks off firms leaving Switzerland
Photo: Swatch

Speaking to Zurich newspaper Handelszeitung, Hayek insisted that high productivity was more important than low labour rates because other countries could also see their running costs rise one day.

The Bienne-based giant's watches are still made in Switzerland and continue to sell for around 50 francs ($53) — the same price as in the 1980s — yet the firm still turns a tidy profit, Hayek said.

Around 90 percent of the company's profits came from abroad, Hayek said, while 95 percent of production was in Switzerland.

Conceding that the strong Swiss franc had affected margins, Hayek nonetheless supported the Swiss National Bank's decision to peg the currency at 1.20 francs to the euro given the "current catastrophic conditions".

Without the central bank stepping in to prevent the franc pushing past the current limit, Switzerland's manufacturing and tourism sectors would be doomed, Hayek said.

He added that the SNB's currency measure also served as an important reminder that manufacturing played a key role in the Swiss economy, amid continuing pressure by foreign governments on Swiss banks to release information about foreign nationals with accounts in Switzerland.

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Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple

A top Swiss court on Thursday handed the watchmaker Swatch victory in a trademark dispute with US technology giant Apple – the latest in a series of legal disputes between the two firms.

Swiss watchmaker Swatch wins latest trademark battle with Apple
Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek with the Zero One wristwatch in 2014. File photo: AFP

In the current case, Apple had alleged the Swiss company’s ‘Tick different’ slogan was too similar to the US company’s ‘Think different’ slogan of the 1990s.

Apple originally filed an objection with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, but that organisation turned down the complaint.

Read also: How luxury watchmakers are gearing up for Brexit

The US company then took the case to the St-Gallen based Federal Administrative Court.

To have a chance of winning its case against Swatch, Apple had to prove that the famous slogan – the related TV commercial won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial in 1998 – had more than 50 percent recognition in Switzerland.

However, the Federal Administrative Court ruled Apple had not provided sufficient evidence that this was the case and found in Swatch’s favour.

The evidence for awareness of the slogan in Switzerland consisted of just several articles on Apple in Swiss broadsheet NZZ.

This dispute was just the latest in a series of legal confrontations between the two companies.

In 2007, Swatch, which is headed up by charismatic businessman Nick Hayek, trademarked the term ‘iSwatch’ before Apple was able to register the term ‘iWatch. 

The Swiss watchmaker also trademarked the expression ‘One more thing’, which was made famous by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Apple has had other legal problems in Switzerland. In 2012, it reportedly paid 20 million Swiss francs (€17.8 million) to Swiss Federal Railways to avoid going to court over its use of the design of the Swiss railway clock in its i06 operating system.