When it comes to inspirational women outside the City, Nayla Hayek, CEO of Harry Winston and chair of the board of the Swatch Group, the leading family-run watch company, is a powerhouse. As the only female CEO in the global timepiece and jewellery market, she is the most powerful woman in the whole industry. Swatch Group is today the world’s largest watchmaking group and supplies nearly all the components required for the watches sold by its 19 individual watch brands, which include Breguet, Omega, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz, Longines, Rado, Tissot, Hamilton – and Harry Winston.
Since the Swatch Group acquired Harry Winston some five years ago, Mrs Hayek – as she is known – has been helming the legendary company. ‘It’s a wonderful brand,’ she says. ‘Not only because of the exceptional jewellery and timepieces, but also because of its history. It reminds me very much of the history of the Swatch Group. There’s one person originally behind it, who believed in it, created it and who is always connected to the company. This is important. I think, for me, 50 per cent of the fascination of Harry Winston brand is its history.’ The man who created the Swatch Group was her father, the visionary Nicolas Hayek, who saved the Swiss watch industry during the quartz crisis of the 1980s. He knew he could find a way for the Swiss to regain dominance in watchmaking by mass-producing a plastic wristwatch with quartz movements – the Swatch. A marketing master who, among many other innovative business ideas, introduced the strategy of persuading purchasers to approach buying a watch as an ‘emotional’ purchase and in the process successfully revived Swiss watchmaking.
When Nayla Hayek joined Harry Winston, she saw the opportunity to expand on the expertise and high craftsmanship of the existing timepiece business, and broadened it, launching strong product categories to reach new customers without losing existing ones, reaching out while maintaining and developing the house’s codes and signature style. Many of Harry Winston’s men’s watches are considered benchmarks in haute horlogerie, and the women’s lines have been refreshed and added to. The high jewellery diamond timepieces continue to be stand-outs and new automatic movements have been introduced. At more entry-level, the wearable, stylishly elegant Emerald Collection was launched two years ago, with its practical quartz movement and its sleek design inspired by the brand’s logo – Harry Winston’s favourite cut of diamond – proving to be a very popular range. This year’s new collections include the latest iteration of the Emerald Collection, featuring a new power pink, diamonds and mother-of-pearl, addition with a chic double tour pink satin strap.
The highlight of the new pieces celebrates 20 years of the Ocean Collection, in which intricate watchmaking meets contemporary expression. Renowned for its technical sophistication and Harry Winston’s signature bold, excentred dial designs, the latest pieces include four colourful models for women. The figurehead of this fleet is the limited-edition Ocean 20th Anniversary Biretrograde Automatic 36mm, a sparkling high jewellery assembly featuring the aquatic beauty of neon-blue Paraiba tourmalines, diamonds and mother-of-pearl. Harry Winston is known for its signature baguette-cut gemstones, and a large number are used to great effect on the Ocean Waterfall Automatic 36mm. Some 404 diamonds and 43 pink sapphires are invisibly set on the dial, demonstrating the calibre of craftsmanship of the house’s gem setters. The two new Ocean Biretrograde Automatic 36mm models are the love-children of high mechanical and high jewellery prowess, with bright blue and burgundy mother-of-pearl faces. More skill is demonstrated by the Ocean Moon Phase 36mm model, which not only displays a moon phase complication on the dial veiled by a constellation of diamonds set directly on the sapphire crystal glass, but also features a hand-painted colour gradation dial.
The impressive new additions to Harry Winston haute horology are works of art that testify to the house’s successful union of their two great skillsets – technical and innovative expertise in watchmaking, and artistry in jewellery making. A marriage made in scintillating heaven.