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Va’ Pensiero: Don’t mix the sacred with the profane!
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Va’ Pensiero: Don’t mix the sacred with the profane!

Friday, 21 September 2018
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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4 min read

After Swatch Group’s decision to pull out of Baselworld, Franco Cologni responds to Nick Hayek’s declarations on the future of watch fairs, and specifically that of SIHH.

I was always on friendly terms with Nicolas Hayek. Every two months, I had the pleasure of being invited to join him for lunch. The last few times we met, he came with his son, Nick. As you can imagine, my very good friend always had plenty to say. But he also knew how to listen, whereas Nick never spoke a word. After Nicolas Hayek passed away, I had very little contact with Nick, other than the occasional letter or email.

Naturally, I follow developments at Swatch Group, steered by Nick and his sister, with interest but refrain from expressing the slightest opinion or giving any advice. I would never be so presumptuous. No longer having direct access to a press service, an interview given by Nick Hayek, published on July 28th, has only just come to my attention. I had no intention of responding to the article, except that two sentences caught my eye. Here they are, word for word:

  • Mr Hayek ruled out Swatch joining the SIHH, which was “even more old-fashioned than Basel. It is a close, elite club. It is boring for everybody”. But he suggested Swiss and foreign brands could launch a new show with a different format.
  • “This is just an idea: we could reunite Swatch Group, Richemont, Rolex, Chopard, Patek Philippe, LVMH brands.” The fair would have to take place somewhere other than Basel or Geneva, however. “Basel is over and there is no way of going back to Basel,” said Mr Hayek.
So, my dear Nick, try not to talk nonsense.
Franco Cologni

It’s my belief that Nick Hayek enjoys making grand declarations every now and then which, in my humble opinion, only have us waste time in pointless speculation – not unlike the fake news we hear so much about, and which monarchs great and small love to spread. As far as the first statement is concerned, I can’t help seeing this as a judgement of SIHH from a person who, like Nick Hayek, has never set foot there, despite having been invited to do so on numerous occasions. Who knows, perhaps he sent his spies instead? Contrary to what Nick Hayek may think, SIHH, which is organised by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, is an event that has succeeded in evolving and adapting to the major changes in a fast-moving world, so as to better “talk about” fine and beautiful watches. Anyone who needs convincing need only read what the media has to say, or simply ask the exhibitors for their opinion. So, my dear Nick, try not to talk nonsense.

The second statement puts me in mind of Baron Munchausen and his extraordinary adventures…. But the Baron has disappeared, and his flights of fancy with him. Nick Hayek’s idea isn’t so much to create, with big watch brands, a new event elsewhere than Basel or Geneva, but to extend his hold, like some new Napoleon. He’s forgetting, alas, that Napoleon had his Waterloo, and that his position as Emperor of Swatch Group doesn’t give him power over all Haute Horlogerie.

In a passage from I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), a classic of Italian literature, the High Chancellor, a Spaniard who governed Milan, tells his coachman, “Pedro, adelante, con juicio” (Go on, Pedro, but be careful). If Nick Hayek lacks sufficient judgement or caution, has he at least a coachman? If this seems like a provocative response, and I don’t deny it, it’s not because I’m considered some kind of spiritual father for the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie or SIHH; it’s because I’m a man of common sense who knows this particular world well, and who suggests we don’t scherza con i fanti, ma lascia stare i Santi, meaning don’t mix the sacred with the profane. If Nick Hayek has a score to settle with Baselworld, I suggest he does so directly, without detrimental and, ultimately, perfectly pointless asides.

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